The federal government has kicked against the bill for an act to establish the regulation of ecological funds that it would impede on the President’s power to use the Fund for emergencies if it has to revert to the National Assembly for appropriation and approval.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha who was represented by Igwe Clinton, Director of Pollution Control, made this known on Wednesday at a public hearing on a Bill for an Act To Establish The Regulation Of Ecological Funds To Address Nigeria’s Ecological Challenges And For Related Matters (HB 739), organized by the House Committee on Ecological Funds.
The SGF who discredited the bill while presenting its findings and recommendations to the committee, explained that the bill will be interfering with the mandates of other federal government establishments such as, National Emergency Management Agency, National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency and National Environmental Standards and Regulation Enforcement Agency as duplication of function.
According to him, the establishment of a Governing Council in the Bill is a replication of the erstwhile bogus National Council on Ecological Problems (NCEP), the large number of membership makes the project selection, procurement and execution of projects cumbersome and problematic.
He said the bill as proposed will replace the emergency and interventionist posture of the Ecological Fund Office as presently constituted adding that by implication slow down the quick response in dealing with erosion problems in Nigeria, noting that over the years, the Ecological Fund have consistently been placed under the control of the President and disbursed through the EFO under the supervision of the SGF.
“The ecological fund as presently constituted is not subject to the
process of appropriation by the National Assembly. This gives the
president the much needed flexibility to effectively and timeously
respond to ecological emergencies the fund is created to address.
“If the bill is passed into law as proposed, it will impede on Mr.
President’s power to use the fund for emergencies if it has to revert
to the National Assembly for appropriation and approvals. It is not
always feasible to predict emergencies, hence the inability to
appropriate or budget for such disasters or ecological emergencies.
“The bill as presented will negatively politicize the operations of
the Ecological Fund Office, such as what has been the bane of the
Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC),” he said.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives Committee on Ecological Funds
threatened to use legislative powers to prevent the National Emergency
Management Agency (NEMA) and the North East Development Commission
(NEDC) from accessing Ecological Funds over failure to appear before
the committee to give account of their respective shares from the
Chairman of the committee, Hon. Ibrahim Ayokunle Isiaka during the
public hearing, explained that the Ecological Fund is an intervention
Fund set up by the Federal Government of Nigeria to address the
multifarious ecological challenges across the country.
He said that the special Fund was established in 1981 through the
Federal Account Act, 1981 on the recommendation of the Okigbo
Commission, that the fund has gone through modifications by Decree 36
of 1984 and 106, OF 1992, allocation of Federation Account
Modification Order of 2002 to further modify the Act in 2014.
“The federal government granted 2% of its share of revenue allocation
to States. Therefore the 1.46% FGN share of Ecology and Derivation was
adjusted to 1% till date. The implication of the adjustment as
approved by the then Mr. President is that States and Local
Governments are to intervene by utilizing their share of the Fund on
ecological problems in their respective domains,” he added.
He further said the federal government is to play a coordinating role
to address deserving, critical and urgent ecological problems across
the six geo political zones of Nigeria.
“Curiously enough, Agencies like NEMA and NEDC have refused till date,
to respond to several appeals by the Committee requesting for account
of their respective shares from the Ecological Fund.
“Let them make no mistake that if by December 31st 2020 the two
Agencies still declined to comply, the Committee shall not only have
the option of invoking the necessary Constitutional Provision, but
proceed forthwith, to suspend the Agencies from assessing any Fund
from the Ecological Funds.
“The total outflows distributed to Federal, States, FCT, 774 Local
Government Areas and the Agencies of ‘government from Ecological Fund
from January to September 2020 is N54,819,713,400.08,” he said.
The chairman said other agencies accessing the fund were invited but
most did not attend the public hearing, that the Committee will apply
the same sanctions on organisations who refused to give account of
what they have been collecting from the fund.