By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA—THE National Economic Council, NEC, yesterday, received the Governor Nasir el-Rufai-led Ad-hoc Committee of the Council on Ecological Fund, which has recommended a stringent disbursement criteria to sanitise the management of the fund.
NEC also approved that the nation’s budget circle be returned to its initial previous status that starts from January to December, just as it stated that despite the relative economic growth, the global economic circle will impact negatively on the country’s economic growth till 2020.
This is even as the Accountant-General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, disclosed at NEC that the Excess Crude Account, ECA, which had been static for about six months at $2.25 billion had increased to $2.303 billion, while the Ecological Fund was N27.466 billion.
Briefing State House correspondents after the monthly NEC meeting at the Council Chamber of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State said the El-Rufai-led committee on Ecological Fund recommended that disbursement of the fund should be based on physical visitation by the Ecological office team and on-the-spot assessment and verification of ecological disaster.
Governor Ikpeazu said: “The El-Rufai-led ad-hoc committee of the Council on Ecological Fund set up by the NEC April 20, 2017, submitted its report to Council, recommending among other things a robust governance structure and a stringent disbursement criteria to sanitize the management of the fund.”
The committee also recommended that there should be technical evaluation of disaster by experts, community involvement, evidence of advocacy prior to the disaster, and evidence of existing prompt, emergency response mechanism in place before the disaster.
The committee further recommended: “Monitoring and evaluation framework must be build into the application of Ecological Fund as a road map for measuring performance of the fund.
“A feedback team that will review the reports of the disbursement must be in place. Adequate publicity of ecological disaster to create awareness and consciousness in the citizenry to avoid future occurrence is necessary.
“Evidence of cost estimate must be attached to application. Adequate justification for the project must be given. Due process in vendor engagement must be followed.”
The final report said at all times, 50 per cent of Federal Government share or N20 billion must be reserved for emergencies at the discretion of the President.
Governor Ikpeazu said the Accountant-General of the Federation briefed council on the balances of the Excess Crude Account, which stood at USD 2.303 billion, Ecological Fund Account, at N27.466 billion, Stabilization Account, N2.553 billion and Development of Natural Resources Account, which was N77.922 billion as at July 19.
He said his counterpart from Gombe State, Ibrahim Dankwambo, presented a report to the Council on Forensic Audit of Revenue Accrued from Revenue Generating Agencies (RGAs) into Federation Account (FA), Excess Crude Account (ECA) and Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF).
He said: “The Acting President welcomed the Interim Report and noted that Council will await the outcome of the final report and then discuss the report.”
Also briefing journalists, the Minister of State for Budget and Economic Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, who gave highlights of the 2018-2020 Medium Term Expenditure Framework, informed Council of the overriding need to return the budget cycle to the January – December calendar year.
She said that the 2018 – 2020 MTEF was anchored on the ERGP, adding, “The current Global Economic outlook posited that the country is expecting growth, though there are still some challenges that may impact negatively on growth from now till 2020.”
The Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udo Udoma, listed policy changes in the US and Britain’s exit from EU, the climate change issue, oil price fluctuations as some of the uncertainties.
Udoma assured that the country was already getting out of recession, even as oil prices were still sliding, adding that the non-oil sector was growing.
He said recoveries were being recorded in Manufacturing, Agriculture and Services, while efforts made at achieving peace in Niger Delta were yielding fruits.
On his part, the Minister of Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah made a presentation to Council on ease of doing business and reforming Nigeria at the Subnational level, emphasizing the need to bring enabling business environment reforms to all tiers of Government and indeed to all Nigeria.
He informed Council that there was a strong correlation between ease of doing businesses, ranking and economic prosperity.
He said the critical areas on the ease of doing business was on the removal of critical bottlenecks and bureaucratic constraints to doing businesses in Nigeria which he said was aimed at moving the country upwards in global businesses ranking.
“Areas of focus in removing the bottlenecks include; starting a business, entry and exit of people, getting electricity, registering property, getting credit, paying taxes, trading across borders and the ease of getting construction permits.”
He also informed that the 4th subnational Doing Business rankings for Nigeria was scheduled for 2018, with the 1st, 2nd and 3rd having taken place in 2008, 2010 and 2014 respectively.