The House of Representatives Adhoc Committee set up by the Green Chamber to investigate the utilisation of Ecological Fund released to the National Agency for the Great Green Wall (NAGGW) has absolved the management of the Agency of alleged financial sleaze.
The ad-hoc committee led by Hon. Ismaila Dabo, was set up in July, sequel to a motion by Hon. Ali Lawan Shettima on “the need to investigate the utilization of Ecological Funds released to the Great Green Wall by the international organizations from 2015 to date; and all federal allocations to the National Agency for the Great Green Wall as well as all contract awarded to various contractors for the project from 2019 to Date.”
The agency at the inaugural sitting of the Adhoc Committee was alleged to have spent the sum of ₦81.2 billion on the planting of 21 million trees across 11 frontline states.
The States are: Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina, Kano, Jigawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Adamawa, Yobe and Borno.
The 15-man committee also queried some of the expenditures under review.
Checks, however revealed that the Director General/CEO of NAGGW, Dr. Yusuf Maina Bukar, in his presentation before the committee last September offered clarification on budgetary allocation to the agency.
According to the DG, who assumed office in April 2022, the sum of ₦53,425,423,874.34 was the amount released to the Agency from inception to July 2023, as against the sum of N81.2 billion which the Agency was alleged to have spent.
The DG of the NAGGW who dismissed the bogus amount mentioned and reported by the Media, maintained that the Agency has not acted outside its mandate in the implementation of the Great Green Wall Programme.
According to him, not all of the ₦53,425,423,874.34 received were used directly on planting activities.
“The NAGGW cost of planting, from inception in 2015 to July 2023 is ₦5,145,735,470.15.
“That the approximate sum of ₦7.2 billion balance in the Agency’s account are liabilities already committed to ongoing contracts that have already been awarded.
“All unutilised funds from capital appropriation are refunded to Federal Government TSA account at the end of the financial year where applicable.”
The Honourable Dabo fifteen-man Committee in its report also faulted the claim of ₦81.2 billion to the Agency as it disclosed that “Evidence from the Hearing indicates that the NAGGW received a total sum of ₦53,425,423,874.34 (Fifty-three Billion, Four Hundred and Twenty-five Million, Four Hundred and Twenty-three Thousand, Eight Hundred- and Seventy-four-naira, Thirty-four Kobo) only from inception in 2015 to July, 2023.”
The Committee also stumbled on certain startling revelations as discovered in its investigation that the Agency did not receive budgetary allocation for 2015; that ecological funding was not released to the agency until 2019.
To its disappointment, the investigating committee discovered that “the percentage of ecological funding going to the Agency was reduced from 15% provided for by the Act to just 5% with effect from January 2020 to date.”
The House Committee in its report acknowledged paucity and untimely release of funds, inability to access foreign assistance and absence of a Governing Board as some of the factors hindering the performance of the agency.
The lawmakers equally frowned at unilateral reduction in the statutory allocation to the agency by fiat, and urged government, as a matter of urgency to revert the Ecological Fund releases to the agency back to 15% as provided for by the NAGGW Act.
“That the total sum of ₦20,168,363,662.18 (Twenty Billion, One Hundred and Sixty-Eight Million, Three Hundred and Sixty-Three Thousand, Six Hundred- And Sixty-Two-Naira, Eighteen Kobo) only being the shortfall of the reduction from Ecological Fund for January, 2020 to date, be immediately released to the Agency to fund its activities.”
Other recommendations of the Committee read in part: “Similarly, the Ecological fund office should calculate remit to the NAGGW the total sums due to the agency from the Ecological Fund from 2015 to 2018.
“Urge the National Agency for the Great Green Wall to as a matter of urgency include the frontline states of Adamawa, Bauchi and Gombe States in the fourth phase of the afforestation projects which is to commence soon.
“There is urgent need for the agency to undertake recruitment of staff, especially for its offices at the front line states.
“Need for a greater collaboration and synergy between the NAGGW and the Federal Ministry of Environment.
“Urge the Federal Government to constitute a Governing Board for the National Agency for the Great Green Wall.
“Need for extensive enlightenment of the general public on the sustainable use of the forest for preservation.”
Apart from submissions by the Federal Ministry of Environment, the Central Bank of Nigeria, Office of the Accountant General of the Federation and the Ecological Project Office, the Committee also undertook on-the-spot assessment visit to projects sites in some of the frontline states, namely; Kano, Jigawa and Sokoto State.