Nigeria approves stringent disbursement criteria for Ecological Fund

Cyril Okonkwo, Abuja

Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo.

The Committee set up in April by the National Economic Council, NEC; to look into Nigeria’s Ecological Fund has submitted its report to the council, recommending a robust governance structure and stringent disbursement criteria in the management of the fund.

The committee, chaired by Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State, North West Nigeria, submitted its report at Thursday’s meeting of the NEC, presided over by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, at the Council Chambers of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State, South East Nigeria, who briefed State House Correspondents on the outcome of the meeting as it concerns the Ecological Fund, said the committee also made other far-reaching recommendations concerning the fund and on disaster management.

According to Ikpeazu, the committee 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 the ecological disaster.

He said:“There was need, according to their recommendation, for community involvement in the entire process.  Prior to the disaster, they recommended need for advocacy and evidence to prove that the disaster occurred.”

Other recommendations of the committee were the technical evaluation of the disaster by experts; evidence of existing prompt, emergency response mechanism in place before the disaster as well as monitoring and evaluation framework which must be built into the application of Ecological Fund as a road map for measuring performance of the fund.

Henceforth, there would also be a feedback team that will review the reports of the disbursement, adequate publicity of ecological disaster to create awareness and consciousness in the citizenry to avoid future occurrence; evidence of cost estimates that must be attached to application; adequate justification for the project and due process in vendor engagement.

“At all times 50% of the federal government share or N20 billion must be reserved for emergencies at the discretion of the president,” Ikpeazu stated.

Excess Crude

Governor Ikpeazu said that the Accountant General of the Federation briefed Council on the balances in the following accounts as at 19th July, 2017.

He said the balance in the Excess Crude Account, ECA, was $ 2.303 billion while Ecological Fund Account had N27.466 billion.

The Stabilization Account and the Development of the Natural Resources Fund had N2.553 billion and N77.922 billion respectively.

Medium term framework

The Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, said her ministry presented the Medium Term Expenditure Framework, MTEF, 2018 –2020 to the NEC for consultative purposes.

She said inputs on the MTEF has been taken which would form part of the basis of the work towards getting the framework approved by the Federal Executive Council before presenting it to the National Assembly.

Mrs. Ahmed said the 2018-2020 MTEF was anchored on the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, ERGP, of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.

NEC Retreat Report

Mrs. Ahmed said the report of the committee set up after the NEC Retreat which held in march 2016 was also was presented to the NEC meeting.

She said the findings of the committee showed that the states were doing well in agriculture.

“There has been significant impact that is achieved in targeted crop production, especially in rice, wheat, cassava and tomato,” she said, but pointed out that the financial services were not doing enough to help the growth of small businesses.

She said the committee recommendations included the need to complete and update the work plan of states to reflect projects and programmes implemented by them for effective planning, result tracking and performance evaluation.

The committee also reported that there was need for increased cooperation among states to achieve economy of scale and maximize comparative advantage.

Others who spoke at the briefing were the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah and his counterpart in the Ministry of Communication, Adebayo Shittu.

Enelama said he briefed NEC on the federal government’s policy on ease of doing business, urging them to replicate it in their states, while Shittu said he briefed the council on the need to harmonize the digging of trenches for the laying of fibre optic cables by the telecommunication companies.