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Of Ecological Fund, South East Projects And Delay
In view of the coming dry season, this week’s Environmental Watch takes a look at the delay in mobilisation for the control of soil erosion and floods in the South-East, despite the projects’ kick-off in September.
In July while in Lagos on an on-the-spot-assessment trip, President Goodluck Jonathan was reported to have directed the Ecological Fund Office in the Presidency to work out modalities for the release of ecological fund to the Lagos State government, with a view to finding quick solutions to the floods that hasve continued to ravage the former federal capital.
This followed the devastation which persistent flooding has visited on residents of some areas in Lagos since the rains came calling this year.
Permanent Secretary, Ecological Fund Office in the Presidency, Mrs. Ibukun Odusote, was the one who led a delegation of the Federal Government officials along with the state commissioners for environment, Mr. Tunji Bello and Special Duties, Dr. Wale Ahmed, on an assessment tour of the worst hit areas in the state, during which they registered the readiness of the Federal Government to collaborate with the Lagos State government as part of its intervention measures to forestall future flood disasters.
Some of the areas visited by the delegation included: Elere channel and Oko-Oba channel, both by old Abattoir, Abeokuta Expressway, Agege; Casso Bus-stop, along Lagos-Abeokuta expressway; Down Stream, Oko-Oba/Aboru channels at Pleasure, Iyana-Ipaja; Arigbanla channel, Oke-Koto by Alfa Nla Street as well as some beaches in Lekki where the Atlantic Ocean has eroded several metres of land.
But even as Lagos State is beginning to relish the presidential intervention, the same cannot be said of the South-East geopolitical zone where erosion and flooding activities have reduced some towns and villages to an endangered zone.
Environment Watch was reliably informed that projects were approved by the presidency some months ago for the region and the bidding was carried out in February. The source said that the much-awaited letters were not released until about six months after (August). It added that while the kick-off only took place on September 7, mobilisation to site has been put on hold since then, even when it is obvious that the rains are receding, the dry season approaching when works on the sites should begin.
“Imagine, South-East geopolitical zone is under the grip of erosion and floods. The projects for the control of the ecological problems started with the bidding which took place in February. Letters were awarded six months after (August) while the kick-off came up September 7 and since then, no mobilisation and the dry season,the period of work, is here,” the source, who spoke from Abuja lamented.
EW recalls that only in October, it was reported that N36 billion was received by the Ecological Fund Office for 2011 to address ecological problems in the country.
The permanent secretary of the body, Dr. MacJohn Nwaobiala, in an address, said that N3 billion, which is domiciled in an account at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), was released monthly for ecological problems.
He stressed that EFO was in the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), adding that the power to approve projects rested with the presidency.
“In terms of accruals to the Ecological Fund, what we get is about N3 billion monthly. And it is in such a way that the funds are domiciled with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and when projects are approved, the CBN will release the funds into a project account,” Nwaobiala stated.
Amid the billions of naira being released to tackle ecological problems in various parts of the country, experts are still of the opinion that little is being done by various governments in this regard due to mismanagement.
Recently in Lagos at the 8th S.L Edu Memorial Lecture, which was organised by the Nigerian Conservation Foundation in memory of environmental icon and founder of the organisation, late Chief Shafi Lawal Edu, Dr. Newton Jibunoh, in a lecture entitled “The Vanishing Planet,” said Nigeria had been fighting environmental rot uniquely with some of the measures succeeding, while others were failing as a result of poor definition and lack of focus.
According to Jibunoh, “It is apparent that we have basic sound initiatives on what to do to fight environmental degradation; what we need to develop are good blueprints on the way to go, the political will to implement the blueprints and an economic plan that must respect the blueprints.”
Similarly, Chief Philip Asiodu bemoaned the mismanagement of ecological funds in the country. He stated that since the government was unable to effectively use the ecological funds to fix issues of the environment, non-governmental organisations, as regards the environment, should be mandated to manage the funds to ensure that results were achieved.
The Federal Government, through Chairman, Senate Committee on Environment and Ecology, Mrs Grace Bent, and EFO permanent secretary, Mrs Odusote, has said in July, last year, during an Eco-Fair in Abuja that it would carry out a comprehensive review of the modalities for the disbursement and management of the Ecological Fund, for it to address ecological problems across the country.
The fund, which was one per cent of the Federation Account at its inception in 1981, was reviewed upwards to two per cent in 1992 and thereafter, one per cent of the derivation allocation was added, thereby bringing it to three per cent.
Of this amount, 48.5 per cent goes to the Federal Government, while 24 per cent and 20 per cent go to the states and local governments respectively. It is believed that From 2008 to date, about N3 billion has been disbursed from the fund.
The reason for the planned upward review, according to Bent, is to look into the modalities for the disbursement and management of the fund because it had not successfully served the purpose of addressing the increasing ecological problems the country is currently enmeshed in.
On this, the presidency, minister of environment and the Ecological Fund Office would have to sit up and stop paying lip service to serious issues such as this that has a direct bearing on the ordinary citizenry.
States, which have also benefitted from the fund so far, should be monitored to ensure the funds are spent on the right projects on which they have been given.
With the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Anyim Pius Anyim, under whose jurisdiction the EFO falls, the South-East should have a better bargain in the area of environmental degradation as anything less will be unacceptable to the zone.Share