The House of Representatives has berated the Great Green Wall Agency for huge expenditures without commensurate results, particularly the N81 billion claimed to have been spent on planting trees in 11 states.
The states are: Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina, Kano, Jigawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Adamawa, Yobe and Borno.
The House Ad-hoc Committee on Utilisation of Ecological Funds and other intervention funds into the Great Green Wall Project made its feelings known at an inaugural
investigative hearing on Wednesday.
The committee also grilled the agency over N697.17 million spent on renovation of office accommodation, N11.28 billion on capital projects as well as claiming ownership of some projects carried out by lawmakers under constituency interventions.
The chairman of the panel, Hon. Dabo Ismaila Haruna had stated that his probe panel was not to witch-hunt anybody or public servants but to investigate and recommend to the government certain urgent measures for the country to move forward.
He explained that relevant stakeholders including the National Agency for the Great Green Wall, the Federal Ministry of Environment, the Ecological Funds Office, the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation as well as some state governments had been invited to shed light on the utilisation of the funds of the Great Green Wall Project.
Haruna said his Committee had requested from critical stakeholders relevant documents on the nominal roll of staff of the agencies, the annual audited account statements, capital project operations account, bank details and other relevant documents which will enable them to state facts when making recommendations.
It was uncovered from the documents submitted to it that over N81 billion had been spent by the lead agency in tree planting in eleven frontline states of the North-East and North-West geo-political zones being covered by the agency.
“After this hearing, we shall embark on an on-the-spot assessment tour to all the projects executed under this scheme to ascertain the claims. The Ad-hoc committee is resolute in undertaking this assignment in the interest of all Nigerians.
“We are not here to scandalise any individual or organisation but only to ensure that public funds are utilised for the purpose they are meant for. We will not shy away from pointing fingers where necessary, not out of personal animosity but simply in the national interest of our nation,” the Chairman said.
The committee also quizzed the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) over seven accounts opened by the agency and domiciled with it but noted that one of the agency’s project funds is in domiciliary accounts.
Other infractions committed by the Great Green Wall agency as queried by the probe panel include N697.17 million spent on renovation of office accommodation, N11.28 billion on capital projects as well as claiming ownership of some projects carried out by lawmakers under constituency project as its project and exclusion of three states in the tree planting exercise.
The director-general of the agency, Dr. Yusuf Maina Bukar, said the flagship project and brainchild of the Federal Ministry of Environment was set up to address drought, deforestation, and some other environmental challenges in the arid zones of Nigeria.
He said that the agency’s main source of funding is from 15% of Ecological Funds and Federal Allocation, adding that over 21 million trees had been planted in the chosen northern states to forestall desert encroachment.
In another presentation before the House Committee, the Accountant-General of the Federation, Oluwatoyin Madein, represented by deputy director, Irene Nwangwu, said that the agency had received a total of N19, 377, 726,506.95
According to the 6-page document with Reference No: BKS/CSO/CON/NASS/005/082 dated 22nd August, 2023 submitted by Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), a total sum of N9,465,960,382.57 was domiciled in the Agency’s account from 2015 to date.
The committee’s chairman in his ruling said the agencies that were invited by the Committee must reappear on Tuesday, September 2, 2023 at 11am for the continuation of the probe.