Worried by the depletion of the ecological funds, the National Economic Council (NEC) yesterday set up a committee to audit the funds.

The council also approved the decentralisation of the natural and ecological funds between the states and local governments.

This was one of the resolutions reached at the NEC meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and attended by governors of the 36 states of the federation at the presidential villa..

Speaking to State House correspondents after the meeting, Anambra State governor, Willy Obiano, who was joined by his Plateau counterpart, Simon Lalong and the National Security Adviser, Babagana Munguno, said membership of the committee include governors of Oyo, Borno, Imo, Akwa Ibom, Kaduna, Anambra as well as the ministers of Finance and Environment.

He said, “At the 76th meeting of NEC held today, the following resolutions were arrived at. First on the natural resource funds at ecological fund, the Accountant-General of the federation briefed the council on the natural resource  and ecological funds as follows:

“Natural resource funds balanced as at 31 March 2017 was N70.9 billion. Ecological balance ast that date was N33.6 billion. States and Local governments now keep their share of resource and ecological funds for use as the need arises in their respective jurisdictions.

“Council decided that an audit of ecological funds be carried. Adhoc committee comprising of Oyo, Borno, Imo, Kaduna, Anambra, Akwa Ibom, Benue and Ministers of Finance and Environments have been set up to do the audit and come up with recommendations on how all the funds shall be managed”

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On why the ecological probe committee was set up, he said, “The actual word isn’t to audit it but to reestablish that the balance is the correct balance because it has been standing like that for a couple of months. We will address that and the committee will brief NEC at the next meeting”.

On the Paris Club refunds, Obiano explained that the  minister of Finance, Kemi Adesoun, gave an update on the disbursement of Paris fund and preparation for the next round of payments to the state after the first disbursement.

According to him, governors expressed appreciation to the president for the previous disbursement of the funds and noted their expectation for the next round of refund from the federal government to the states.

He also disclosed that the minister told the council that the balance in the Excess Crude account as at April 26, 2017 stood at $2.2billion.

He said, “Operation of the Efficiency unit under federal ministry of finance made presentation to council on the operations of the Efficiency unit in the Ministry of finance. She informed Council that the Unit have been able to save the federal government a whopping sum of N17 billion since it was established.

“The council appreciated and urged States to also establish efficiency units in order to emhance systems that will improve efficiency to discuss and bloc leakages in line with the physical sustenablity plan”.

On his part, Governor Lalong said the Vice president updated council on the progress of four of the Social Investment Plan of the administration.

They are the N-Power, Conditional cash transfer, Home grown school feeding programme and the government economic and empowerment programme for micro credit.

He further stated that council was also briefed on certain impediments and programme implementation delays noticed in the federal government or state government collaboration and resolve to end such obstacles.

He also dismissed assumptions that the Paris Club Refunds was a favour done to the states, pointing out that these are monies that belong to the states which was illegally taken.

He noted: “Talking about salaries and the Paris club, I don’t think those were really the reasons given to the governors for the delays in payment of the Paris club. We understand the President has approved the payment of the Paris club.

“The first tranche came. We are waiting for the second tranche before the president went out for medical treatment. What we are complaining is the delay that we have not received the second tranche after the application. Let it not be seen as if the Paris club is a favour done to state.

“These are money belonging to states. So, what we are saying is that it is illegally taken about 12 years ago. So, we are only asking that the money be refunded to us. When the first tranche was given, that’s why we are getting out of the recession today. That’s what made some states to pay salaries. We thank the president for doing that.

“So, let it not be seen as if governors are rushing for it. Political opponents, I am sure, they are the ones talking about it. Some people will not want governors to receive the Paris club refunds at this time because they believe that if we take it, we will all pay salaries, go on with projects and then you are talking of second or third term. I don’t think that is the reason. For us governors, what we want is the judicious use of the Paris club as we did for the bailout funds”.