by Usman Alabi
Ecological Fund is an intervention facility established to address the various ecological challenges ravaging communities in the state. The fund was solely established with the principal objective of ensuring that adequate provision was made to address the serious ecological problems facing the nation such as flood, desertification, drought, erosion, general pollution, oil spillage. The fund is two percent of the federation account and it is placed on a first line charge.
The enabling statutes have over the years placed the fund under the control of the federal government to be disbursed and managed in accordance with such directives as may be issued from time to time.
But in recent times, there had been doubts on the use of the funds. Several amount of money has been disbursed from the fund over the years yet the rate of ecological problem experienced in most of the states especially those in the south east and north has not shown that the funds were exactly used for what they were meant for.
There had been questions of corruption and the fact that most of the state governors have diverted the fund for other use. The president recently mentioned that he realized that there had not been transparency in the use of the funds and even the EFCC had once hinted that she would investigate the governors on the issue of the funds.
Yet so far, since the beginning of this year, the issue of the fund has continually been on the front burner, as there is hardly a month that there is no mention of the fund or that the governors does not ask for its disbursement to cater for ecological problem. The question is: could this be a result of the recession which is biting hard on the finances of most of the states especially those usually faced with serious ecological challenges? Is this an indication that the governors are suddenly becoming genuinely interested in the ecological problems of the state or for other ulterior motives?
The chairman of the Nigerian Governor’s Forum, Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara on behalf of his colleagues called for the immediate disbursement of the ecological funds.
“We are concerned seriously about the environment. The desertification in the North, oil and gas spills in the South-South and erosion in the South-east.
“And we have a lot of funds in the ecological stabilization funds. Those funds are not being discussed at National Economic Council.
“What we discuss at NEC is usually briefing on excess crude account and the federation account. But this fund is not being discussed at that platform.
“We will like to have this fund available every month because those funds are federation funds and we are having so many problems. We need the money,” he said
Despite the governors ‘obsession with the fund in recent times, one also wonders why the federal government is also finding it difficult to release the funds in spite of the President’s recent order that the funds should be disbursed, it is either the federal government is also guilty of what I think the original intention of the governors are or it doubt the governors would use the fund for what it is exactly meant for. But this is a federal system even when we know that we are not close to the mark enough, hence the federal government should stop playing the role of an all powerful centre suspicious or cynical about everything, it should disburse the fund.
As much as we all doubt the sincerity of the governors in the use of the funds, withholding it would not solve the problem, it would amount to turning blind eyes to those who are genuinely affected by the ecological challenges.
The best the federal government can do is to monitor the funds through the ecological fund office and make sure that it is used for the exact purpose it was disbursed for. We should not wait for governors to divert the funds and then begin to cry foul, rather we should ensure that they are not able to do so, because they know that they are being watched from all corners. We should not only wait for accountability and transparency from our governors when it comes to issues such as this but we should enforce it on them through proper engagement and monitoring.
This is not only referring to the FG, but especially the citizens who bear the direct brunt. If we don’t do this, we can as well continue to ponder on the reason why the governors are incessantly demanding for the release of the funds, with the deep impression that it could be diverted elsewhere.
The main issue here is that of accountability and transparency which could be realized through proper engagement and monitoring both on the part of the FG who disburses the funds and the citizens who are the direct beneficiary if the funds.