THE National Economic Council (NEC) must have intended to impress Nigerians with news that former President Olusegun Obasanjo squandered N200 billion of the Ecological Fund.
So what is next? If someone is known to have, squandered public funds, no matter what the funds were for, are there no sanctions? Is the law silent on what to do in this matter? Were these the only funds misused during eight years of Obasanjo?
Two years after the present government discovered the abuses of the fund, it adopted a one-time solution â€” it stopped disbursing the funds. Nigerians are therefore suffering double jeopardy, mismanagement of the fund and its non-utilisation.
While those who allegedly mismanaged this fund enjoy unfettered freedom, little fries, some of who stole a minor fraction of N200 billion, are hounded, all to sustain the impression there is a war against corruption. It would seem their principal sin is the size of their loot.
Nigerians are tired of reading about how political leaders frittered away national resources under all manners of subterfuge. Obviously, national interests, and the sustenance of Nigeria, are never in consideration.
At the height of his trial for corruption, five years ago, former Governor of Plateau State, Joshua Chibi Dariye said he gave part of the stateâ€™s Ecological Fund to the Obasanjo Campaign. Neither the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) that prosecuted Dariye, nor other security agencies saw the point in exploring how Plateau State money became funds for the Obasanjo Campaign.
The Ecological Fund is at best a slush fund, at the disposal of governments for interests that are at best illegal. It is no longer enough to condemn the abuses, but something must be done about them.
Laws on the use of the Ecological Fund, one of the legacies of the military, are lax. The Presidency administers the fund, without recourse to anyone. Erosion may be wiping out many portions of Nigeria, the deserts may be encroaching ferociously, but our political leaders are more interested in how they can deploy the billions of Naira to their own purposes.
Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State, whose state is one of the most ravaged by erosion presented this tepid explanation, â€œThe committee deliberated and observed that Ecological Fund in the past was not properly managed.
â€œThe deliberation has agreed with what the present government is doing which looks transparent to manage the fund efficiently and ensure states are made aware of projects and make a buy in before these projects are executed.â€
Mr. Obi sounded as if the issue was unimportant. Is N200 billion such a minuscule sum that NEC should not be outraged about its mismanagement?
Governments protect themselves from outsiders like ordinary Nigerians. The Ecological Fund is at the disposal of the President, who dispenses it to states at his pleasures. With two governors as the Presidentâ€™s son-in-laws, nepotism cannot be ruled out in this matter.
The Ecological Fund is overdue for better scrutiny of the National Assembly.