Environment Watch by Ambrose Inusa Sule, MNES
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The newly appointed Federal Minister of Environment, Madam Lawrencia Labaran Mallam, has barely spent one week in office before smelling the odious that has been the lot of her ministry.
The misuse of N1.4 billion allocated to the ministry for the execution of various constituency projects in 2013 budget is likely to rattle her. Not that she was around when the said fund was used for bogus projects.
The Senate Committee on Environment and Ecology need to be commended for revealing the poor disbursement and ineffective utilisation of the N1.4 billion allocated to the ministry of environment for the execution of various constituency projects in 2013 budget.
The most contentious aspect of the constituency projects is the so-called Bama road construction as well as drainage work and erosion control. Bama is in Borno State, a volatile area where there have been deadly invasion by the insurgents.
The claim by none other than the permanent secretary of the ministry, Mr. Taiye Haruna that a contractor has executed the project in the area should be fully investigated, knowing how inaccessible the area is during the period in view. The contractor was said to have been paid N21 million after claiming that he had fully executed projects awarded to him in Bama.
To any yearning observer, it was impossible for any contractor, for instance, to have executed any project in that volatile area of Bama in Borno State, between July 2013 and March 2014 in view of the deadly invasion of the area by Boko Haram insurgents. It would be a miracle that a place that the military could not enter, a contractor has the capacity to go and work there.
The committee did no find it funny and it said so in clear terms over Haruna’s presentation before it, and threatened to recommend zero allocation to the ministry if its officials failed to convince the committee that money appropriated to it in the out-gone year had been effectively utilized.
The committee revealed that the documents presented by the permanent secretary to the committee as completed projects were different from the reality on ground at various project sites.
This was not the first time the Senate Committee on Environment has threatened to give zero budgetary allocation to the ministry, for what it considered as an unsatisfactory budget implementation of its capital projects in 2013.
The Committee need to be commended on the issue of the presentation by the environment ministry to justify its 2013 budget performance provided the committee is not playing an ‘oversight’ game with the budget issues.
Last year, the House committee on environment queried the ministry over the ecological projects that were advertised about six years ago, after which they were alleged to be awaiting ministerial approval, only to recently found their way to the Office of the SGF and the Minister of Environment for signing, preparatory for execution?
This is the question; the House Committee had asked the Office of the SGF, FMEV and EFO to provide an answer. This was the outcome of the adoption of a motion on the ecological projects sponsored by Hon. Sekonte Davies (PDP-Rivers).
The committee is claiming that these procurement processes have been time barred, having been moribund for those numbers of years, because ecological problems are time related and progress with years and weather.
It then directed the SGF and the Federal Ministry of Environment and the Ecological Fund Office to suspend action saying, “The projects, if allowed to commence, would be deficient in current status of the extent of the ecological problem and will, therefore, add to the number of abandoned projects in the country.”
In their wisdom, the projects in six states should be re-advertised in compliance with the Procurement Act of 2007.
The projects in question are those located in Akwa-Ibom (N1.31 billion); Zamfara (N412 million); Lagos (N258.46 million); Gombe (N383.75 million); Borno (N289.76 million); Delta (N308.49 million).
The House Committee on Environment was also mandated to ensure compliance and evaluate the state of these environmental problems in line with the current realities and report back to the House in four weeks.
It is sad that 17 Ecological Fund Office projects for which procurement processes started in 2006/2007 are still undergoing various processes of procurement as late as year 2013 contrary to provisions of the Procurement Act of 2007.
The House should not fail to unravel the abracadabra behind these projects.
It has been explained that what has been responsible for the seeming slow implementation of budgets was the fact that some projects had no planning and design prior to their approval release of resources.
Today, most parts of our country have been under siege by flood waters. The tidal waves are reminiscent of the flood that engulfed the ancients of Noah’s time in biblical literature. Victims of this gawky overflow have been humans and livestock, farmlands and property. To say this deluge is one of monumental proportions and a national disaster is to remark mildly.
There was a time, when the Federal Ministry of Environment ran near zero capital budgets for close to 8 years during former President Olusegun Obasanjo administration.
But it’s on record that the same Obasanjo created the federal ministry of environment as the apex institution on environmental matters in Nigeria. Besides what was considered as a laudable step, core environmental problems were not tackled. For years, the federal ministry of environment was running a near zero capital budget as major environmental problems remain unsolved.
In developing country like Nigeria, economic growth without environmental concern has always produced horrific consequences, which we are seeing today. Economic and environmental policies which do not improve the lives of the poor majority of our people are not socially or politically sustainable.
The overarching goals of alleviation of poverty in our economic development can only be met if we ensure good environmental policies and projects implementation.