Senate revealed yesterday that for 15 years, the federal and state governments have diverted about N500 billion ecological funds meant to tackle environmental problems of communities in the country.
This revelation was made during a public hearing on a Bill seeking to prohibit the abuse of the Ecological Fund of the Federation organised by the Senate Joint Committee on Ecology and Environment.
LEADERSHIP reports that Ecological Fund is a special intervention allocation of two percent of the consolidated revenue of the federation and one percent of the derivation allocation set aside to address ecological problems across the states of the federation, such as erosion, landslide, desertification, flood, oil spillage and draught, among others.
The sponsor of the Bill, Senator Mohammed Hassan, said that the Senate’s resolution to enact a legislation to establish and regulate the operations of the Fund and other similar funds became imperative due to the fact that over the years, the ecological funds was operated like’slush’ money and rather utilised for varying unrelated purposes, at the liberty of the incumbent.
“Successive governments have been serially accused of diverting and enriching themselves from the ecological funds. The operation of the funds had been largely discretionary, with zero guidelines on the disbursement and utilisation of the monies,” Senator Hassan said.
Yesterday, it was established that there was massive diversion and misappropriation of N154.9 billion on projects not related to environment which the Senate Committee on Public Account discovered in 2013.
A document on the report of the ecological fund, which was exclusively obtained by LEADERSHIP yesterday, revealed that in 2009, N93.7 billion was “illegally transferred from the ecology fund to the consolidated revenue fund to fund the acceleration of capital budget advances to state and local governments to meet revenue shortfall and third quarter development fund warrant.
“In December 2009, the National Economic Council reported that about N200 billion belonging to the ecological fund had been spent on questionable projects that were either non-existent or had no relations to the fight against ecological disasters.”
The document revealed that the House of Representatives had, in 2010, raised queries over curious withdrawals and loans to agencies and individuals totalling N146.5billion, mainly for matters irrelevant to the objectives of the fund.
It further said: “In December 2011, there was also an illegal deduction totalling N20.1 billion from ecological fund for debt servicing, in addition to the donation of N2 billion in 2013 by former President Goodluck Jonathan to certain states of the federation without any criteria, in which some states did not benefit.
“In 2013, N22 billion was withdrawn and shared out to some states and local governments, while N2.078 billion was withdrawn towards the building of the second Niger Bridge.
“In 2002, the ecological fund gave a grant of N728 million to the Presidential Research and Communication Unit and disbursed N928 million for non-ecological projects, while in 2003, N1.9 billion was disbursed for non-ecological programmes out of which N800 million was given to the Ministry of Aviation for the renovation of the Aminu Kano Airport and N150 million to Kaduna State government to manage sectarian crisis in the state.