Nigerian Senate probes Presidency’s abuse of N358.8 billion Ecological Fund

By Henry UMORU
ABUJA- THE Senate has expressed its reservations over the management of the Ecological Funds by the Presidency, just as it commenced an investigation into what it described as several abuses of the Fund since 2002.
The Senate also disclosed that with records available to it, a total of N358.8billion had accrued to the account which is solely operated by the Federal Government since June 2002.
Speaking yesterday when officials of the Ministry of Finance and the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation appeared before his Committee, Chairman, Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Senator Ahmed Lawan, ANPP, Yobe North, who expressed disgust in the way and manner the fund was being abused by the Presidency, however warned that the National Assembly will not accept the practice of expending the accruals on other matters outside issues relating to the environment.
According to him, “For anybody to sit in the Presidency and use the funds for loans and other issues that are not related to ecology and the environment is not acceptable. The National Assembly will not take this.
“The fund is not even sufficient to deal with the ecological problems facing the country right now. We have established here that the fund has been subjected to abuse. The abuse increased steadily from 2002 up
till 2012. This must stop.”
Also speaking at the meeting, a member of the Committee and Deputy Senate Leader, Senator Abdul Ningi, who stressed that some of the expenditures for which the ecological fund was used was not captured in the annual budgets, however raised alarm that headings from the ecological fund was a duplication and outrageous.
Ningi therefore called on the committee to investigate further and come up with information on how the funds were approved and released as well as ascertain whether they actually met their targets.
The Committee however in its findings observed several expenditures from the account on issues not related to ecology and the environment, just as it charged the Ministry of Finance, the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Accountant General of the Federation to furnish it with documents relating to the approvals and the repayments for the loans taken by states.
But officials of the Ministry of Finance and the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation who appeared before the Committee told the Senators that all the expenditures were approved by the President.
Though the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance, Mr. Danladi Caephas could not explain the expenditures between 2002 and 2010, stressing that he was only appointed Permanent Secretary at the Ministry
of Finance at the end of 2010.
According to him, since 2002, the Fund was no longer a joint account one between the three tiers of government since 2002 against the backdrop that  states and local governments were no longer meeting their obligations to the fund.
He said, “the Ecological Fund is not a fund for the three tiers of government, it is a fund for the Federal Government along. It ceased to be a joint fund since 2002. It is used based on the discretion of the President and the definition of what constitutes issues of ecology and environment.”

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