Vanguard (Lagos)

21 November 2012

Nigeria: N396 Billion Ecological Funds Shortfall - Reps Ask Jonathan to Sack Minister

Just as the House ofReps walked out the Science and Technology minister, the lawmakers also asked President Jonathan to sack his Environment Minister, Hajiya Hadiza Mailafia over her failure to appear before the Uche Lillian Ekwunife-led House Committee on Environment.

The committee was investigating shortfalls of almost N400 billion in the Ecological Funds deductions and summoned the minister to appear before it to offer explanation. The minister's absence, however, stalled the probe and the committee had to postpone the hearing.

Environment Minister, Hajiya Hadiza Mailafia and Minister of Science and Technology, Professor Ita Okon Bassey-Ewa

Irked by the minister's absence, members of the committee tongue-lashed her, accusing her of not having passion for the work and that there was an apparent disconnect between her and her duties.

A member of the committee, Mohammed Abdulahi Shamsidin (Kaduna), who first made the suggestion, was supported by all the committee members at the session.

He said: "The president has appointed these people to work with him in the interest of the country. The Minister of Environment has no passion for the environment and there is a disconnect between her and the work she has been chosen for. I would suggest that she should try her luck elsewhere. We should call on the President to find someone else who is not only interested in the job, but has the competence as well as the love for Nigeria."

The committee also expressed displeasure at the absence of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Anyim Pius Anyim at the investigative session which, according to Ekwunife was to enable the committee conclude its work which it started since November 2011.

Yesterday's investigative session was as a result of an interim report by the committee which exposed almost N400b shortfall in the deductions of the Ecological Fund.

According to the report there were illegal transfers and loans from the Ecological Fund without Appropriation from the National Assembly as prescribed by the Financial Act setting up the fund.

The report reads: " the Statement of Affairs presented by the Accountant General indicates that 1.46 percent was used in calculating inflows into the fund from January 2003 to December 2003. This according to the statement was later reviewed downward to 1 percent from January 2004 to June 2012, in complete violation of the provision of the Federation Account Act which provides for 2 percent.

"For instance, the total inflows into the Ecological Fund account between January 2003 to February 2012 amounted to the sum of Three Hundred and Teenty-Two Billion, One Hundred and Sixty-Five Million, Three Hundred and Twenty-Two Thousand and Seventy Naira, Eighty-Six Kobo (N322, 165, 322,070.86) after the deduction of the sum of a Twenty Billion, One a hundred and Thirteen Million, and Eighty-Four Thousand, Eight Hundred and Fifty-Eight Naira, Three Kobo (N20,123,084,858.03) for debt servicing.

"This one percent used by the Accountant General of the Federation for the computation of the inflows into the Ecological Fund from January 2004 to June 2012 was contrary to the two (2) percent specified in the Act.

"This therefore resulted in the understatement of the figure accrued to the tune of Three Hundred and Two Billion, Three Hundred and Fifty-Eight Million, Three Hundred and Eighty-Eight Thousand, Three Hundred and Seventeen Naira, Eighty-One Kobo (302,358,388,317.81).

The report also notes that : "An amount totaling Ninety-Three Billion, Seven Hundred and Sixty-Eight Million, Nine Hundred and Fifty-One Thousand, One a hundred and Sixty-Four Naira, Twenty-Two Kobo (N93, 768,951,164.22) was transferred from the Ecological Fund Account to Consolidated Revenue Fund (CFR) and Federation Account."

According to the report, the transfers were said " to have funded the acceleration of capital budget advances to states and local governments to meet shortfalls and funding of 2009 as well as Third Quarter Development Funds Warrant etc."

The House report said of the amount, only N50 billion was paid back leaving a shortfall of N43.7 billion unpaid.

It further states: "the submissions under review also indicated that a total loan of Sixty Billion, Seven Hundred and Fifty Million Naira (N60,750,000,000.00) was taken from the Ecological Fund Account by both the Federal and State Governments for purposes not related to Ecological problems."

Of this loan, only N30.5 billion was repaid, the report states.

The report by the Environment Committee also observed that: " some direct payments were made to Ministries Agencies. There were also deductions of Twenty Billion, One Hundred and Thirteen Million, Eighty-Four Thousand, Eight Hundred and Fifty-Eight Naira, Three Kobo ( N20, 123,084,858.03) for debt servicing."

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