by Usman Alabi
It has become imperative to beam a searchlight on the ecological funds, a fund that a large section of the population knows nothing about. Perhaps the residents of the south east states plagued by erosion does not know that there is a provision for such natural occurrence, neither does those in the northern states experiencing erosion and desertification realize that there is a fund set aside to cater for such ecological problems. Some of us that are lettered are not even aware of it not to talk of demanding for accountability. This is not new in our clime where the deeds and workings of government are justifiably shrouded in secrecy, ours is a system that rebel against transparency. But the present realities perhaps justify this issue, especially as the factor of climate change have begun to bit hard on us, from earth tremors heard in Kaduna and some parts of Oyo state before now to erosion in virtually all parts of the country caused by rain that has passed its season to desertification, pests, drought amongst others, it has become imperative to question the essence of the ecological funds and the logic behind the intervention.
A visit to the ecological fund office website would bring to light the conception of the fund as an intervention facility established to address the multifarious ecological problems ravaging communities in the country, the ecological funds was solely established with the principal objective of ensuring that adequate provision was made to address the serious ecological problems facing the nation be it flood, coastal soil erosion, desertification, drought as well as general pollution. The fund was originally established in 1981 through the federation Account Act (1981) based on the recommendation of the Okigbo Commission. It was initially meant to be 1% of the federation account, but it was later increased to 2% of the federation account. It was placed on a first line charge and only released with the approval of the President gotten through the National Committee on Ecological Problems (NCEP).
It advises the President on disbursement and management of the funds. It is shared among the three tiers of government as follows, Federal government gets 48.5% of the funds, state government gets 24.5% while local government gets 20%. The question is what has happened to this fund over the years? There had been allegation of misappropriation of the funds by state governments and other politicians involved. Info graphics gotten from premium times recorded that 43,283,794,803 was paid into the fund, in 2007, 33,394,704,121 was paid, in 2009, 39,023,357,672 was paid into the fund, in 2010, 27,313,049,002 was paid; in 2011, 58,810,709,955 was paid; in 2012, 61,706,112,132 was paid; in 2013, 67,895,971,956 was paid, in 2014, 57,308,688,430 was paid; in 2015, 43,766,078,450 was paid into the fund. Information has it that about N432.5billion was paid into the ecological funds account between 2007 and 2015, and about 48,055,829,613 were paid into the account yearly. But there seem to be incongruence between these funds and the state of the ecological devastation that has become a continual occurrence year in year out, some communities have been deserted as a result of the damage caused by flooding, many have lost their lives due to these natural phenomenon and communities especially in the northeast and south east are reeling at the damage done to their landscape and road as a result of erosion, so also those in the Niger Delta who are victims of the devastation done to their communities as a result of oil exploration.
The unending rains in some part of the countries have led to loss of properties and have rendered a lot homeless, yet the question is what happened to the funds set aside to cater for these challenges, how are they accounted for, what exactly are they spent for, are they visible, how transparent is the process of disbursement of this fund and its execution. Recently there are allegations that the Ekiti state government misappropriated 2billion naira ecological funds, and that the EFCC wants to probe some governors for the alleged embezzlement of 432,502.466, 521 ecological funds paid into their account between 2007 and 2015. It is high time we began to look into the execution of these fund if we are to witness the intention of those that initiated it in first place. There is no better time for this than now because of the factor of climate change which does not leave any part of the world untouched, as a matter of fact if these funds have been judiciously spent over the years, the effect might not have been this much.