November 27, 2020

Reps move to strip President of powers over Ecological Funds


…As SGF Kicks

By Tordue Salem, Abuja

The House of Representatives is working on a law to bar the President from the control of the Ecological Fund.

The instrument, entitled :”A Bill to Establish the regulation of Ecological Funds, 2020”, states in its Part 2, section 7, that a proposed council, “Shall take custody and monitor the ecological fund for the purposes of addressing any of the following challenges: erosion, landslide, desertification, floods, oil spillage, draught and any other environmental challenges that may arise in the application of the fund”.

But the proposal to strip the president of such power, was however, rejected by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha on wednesday.

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The SGF opposed the legislation, at a public hearing, organised by the committee on the legislative instrument.

Mr. Clinton Igwe, Director of Pollution Control in the office of the SGF, who represented Mr. Mustapha at the occasion, kicked against the provisions of the Bill on behalf of his office.

He maintained that if passed into law, the Act, would breach the president’s powers and slow the functions of the Ecological Fund.

He also rejected a proposal to create more units to manage the fund, stressing that it will bog down the administration of the fund, and create additional bottlenecks.

His words: “ After a careful review of the document, I wish to respectfully bring to the attention of the Hon. Chairman and members of the Committee on Ecological Fund, the observations of the Oftice of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF), on the proposed bill as follows:

“The establishment of a Governing Council in the Bill is a replication of the erstwhile bogus National Council on Ecological Problems (NCEP), the large number of membership makes the project selection, procurement and execution of projects cumbersome and problematic.

“ The Bill as proposed, will replace the emergency/ interventionist posture of the Ecological Fund Office as presently constituted. This will by implication slow down the quick response in dealing with erosion problems in Nigeria.

“ Over the years, the Ecological Fund have consistently been placed under the control of the President and disbursed through the EFO under the supervision of the SGF. The proposed bill will therefore negate the nature and original design of the Ecological Fund Office.

“The Ecological Fund as presently constituted is not subject to the process of appropriation by the National Assembly. This gives the President the much needed flexibility to effectively and timeously respond to ecological emergencies the fund is created to address. If the bill is passed into law as proposed, it will impede on Mr. President’s power to use the Fund for emergencies if it has to revert to the National Assembly for appropriation and approvals. It is not always feasible to predict emergencies, hence the inability to appropriate or budget for such disasters or ecological emergencies.

“ As the EFO is presently constituted, salaries and allowances of staff are not paid from the Fund. Officers deployed to EFO are mainstream civil Servants who draw their emoluments from the Federal treasury. it is advisable to sustain less emphasis on recruitment of officers and payment of board members that could be a drain whittling down the impact of the fund on ecological interventions, by increasing Government’s overhead cost”.

He also disclosed to the committee, the percentages of the fund shared to the three tiers of government, as he warned against setting up a governing council administer the fund, instead of the President.

“Derivation and Ecology Fund is shared monthly among the three tiers of Government, with States and Local Governments receiving 0.72% and 0.60% respectively, while the Federal Government receives 1%. The 1% FGN Share of the Ecology Fund is exclusively for the Federal Government and at the mandate of Mr. President. Therefore, the issue of appointing Governing Council members from each of the six geo-political zones of Nigeria, does not apply.

“ The Bill as presented will negatively politicize the operations of the Ecological Fund Office such as what has been the bane of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC)”, he said.

He also warned that “ The creation of an independent agency as the bill is seeking to do, will run contrary to the proposals of the Oransanye Committee on rationalization of Government Ministries and Extra Ministerial Departments as it would further add to the cost of governance.

He also advised that “The Bill as proposed, will be interfering with the mandates of other Federal Government Establishments such as, National Emergency Management Agency, National oil Spill Detection and Response Agency and National Environmental Standards and Regulation Enforcement Agency as duplication of function”.

Vanguard News Nigeria