By Alao Abiodun 

 

The floods are here again, wreaking havoc across the country. Every year, the surging waters sweep across Nigeria, affecting mostly states where the Niger and Benue Rivers converge. Farmlands and houses in states are submerged following heavy rainfall, which threatens people’s means of livelihood.

The country is experiencing its worst flooding in over 40 years, because of heavy rainfall across the country for some days.

Also, the Lagdo Dam in Northern Cameroon used for electricity generation, and irrigation, released its excess water, but the Federal Government clarified that the dam was not fully responsible for the heavy flooding.

When the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouq, reeled out the grim and horrendous statistics of victims, properties, farmland affected by devastating floodings across the country so far, it raised questions about the status of the country’s Ecological Fund.

This is an immediate response fund established to provide handy resources for the amelioration of environmental problems such as soil erosion, flood, drought and general environmental pollution.

It was created in 1981 through the Federation Account Act. At inception, one per cent of revenues in the Federation Account was set aside for the fund. In 1992, the allocation was increased upward to two percent of earnings and is only released with the approval of the president.

Consequent on the directive of former President Olusegun Obasanjo in July 2002 for a review of the Modification Order of May 2002, the two percent Ecological Fund and one percent derivation hitherto under special funds were shared among the three tiers of government along existing revenue sharing formula as follows: federal government (1.46 percent), state governments (0.72 percent) and local governments (0.60 percent).

Many observers have been asking what happens to the funds? Are they being used to address relevant concerns and if so, why then do floods always wreak havoc? All of these strong posers have become more strident in the light of the death of hundreds and displacement of over one million people by the disaster.

There seems to be incongruence between these funds and the state of the ecological devastation that has become recurrent decimal. Many communities have been deserted as a result of the damage caused by flooding.

What happened to the funds set aside to cater for these challenges? How are they accounted for? What exactly are they spent on? How transparent is the process of disbursement of this fund and its execution?

All these are questions which state governors who superintend the fund should be providing answers. But such answers haven’t been forthcoming. Instead, it has only been tales of woe and cries for help from many states. In some cases nothing is even being said or done.

According to NEMA, Kogi and Anambra were among 13 Nigerian states predicted to be overrun by “the combined waters of rivers Niger and Benue”. Many communities in Kogi, Kwara, Edo, Jigawa, Kano, Benue, Niger, Nasarawa, Taraba, and Borno amongst others are now underwater.

Findings from data collated from the monthly Federation Account Allocation Committee reports showed that between 2012 and 2021, Nigeria set aside a total of N548 billion for the derivation and ecological fund account for the 36 states in the country.

But the presidency had challenged states to give an account of how they spent amounts in excess of one trillion naira, allocated to them from the Ecological Fund to tackle floods and other ecological problems.

It warned state governors to rise to the responsibilities of their office by responding to the needs of their citizens in the face of growing floods and other ecologically-related disasters.

In 2018, 2.2 per cent of the estimated of N9.120 trillion budget, amounting to N198 billion was set aside for the Ecological Fund; in 2019, the 2.2 per cent amount of the budget of N132 billion was allocated for the Fund, while in 2023, 2.2 per cent of the N21 trillion budget indicated N462 billion allocation for Ecological Fund.

The House of Representatives had since June this year, launched a probe into the utilisation of the fund for the past 10 years.

Specifically, the House mandated the committee to, among other things, “investigate the total consolidated mandatory accruals into the Ecological Fund from 2010 to March 2022,” noting that the committee should equally “evaluate the disbursement of the Ecological Fund in line with the provision of the 1999 Constitution from 2010 to March 2022.”

The recurrent destructive effects of floods across the country appears to be enough evidence that ecological funds were being diverted by state governors.

A former security adviser to the Bayelsa State Government, Perekeme Kpodoh, called on Buhari to compel the EFCC and the ICPC to probe these governors and the diversion of funds allocated to them to solve ecological problems like flood.”

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