By Dotun Akintomide
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has confirmed to Nigerian NewsDirect secret investigation of 5 governors and 10 ex-governors following several petitions received from the general public for the alleged mismanagement of N432.5billion disbursed to their states between 2007 and 2015. The amount was approved by the National Assembly to ameliorate multifarious ecological problems ravaging the country and worsened by the damning effects of climate change.
Nigerian NewsDirect gathered that some of the states whose past and current governors are being investigated secretly include Ekiti, Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Kogi, Enugu, Delta, Cross River, Plateau, Benue, Jigawa, Ondo, Sokoto and Abia.
It was alleged that many of them diverted the accrued money from the funds within the period under review for the award of over-priced projects to cliques and cronies, payment of salaries to cover for the drop in revenue allocation occasioned by the dwindling oil fortunes, diversion to personal projects and acquisition of luxury properties in choice highbrow locations, as well as the funding of the 2015 campaigns and elections.
Recently, there were allegations that Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose misappropriated N2 billion of the ecological funds approved for his state. Similarly, a former Governor of Plateau State, now a Senator, Joshua Dariye is currently being prosecuted by the EFCC for allegedly mismanaging N1.2 billion ecological funds allocated to his state while in office as Principal officer to address the sundry environmental issues caused by tin mining and other factors on the Plateau.
The spokesman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Wilson Uwujaren disclosed to Nigerian NewsDirect in a chat that although the commission had received petitions from various quarters to look into the ecological funds’ spending and administration, but the only case that the commission has almost pursued to a logical end is the one involving Dariye. “Presently, the only case that I know which I can share with the public is that of Joshua Dariye and we are almost getting to the conclusion of that case.”
When quizzed further to know the locus stand of other cases yet to go to court, Uwujaren said considering the statutes that set up the commission “ EFCC will only go public when needs be with concrete evidence.” On the amount recovered from Dariye and others involved, he said “I may not be able to disclose whether any amount has been recovered from him (Dariye) since the case is still in court.”
According to Investigation, the sum of N43,283,794,803 was paid into the fund, in 2007; N33,394,704, N121 in 2008; N39,023,357,672 in 2009; N27,313,049,002 in 2010; N58,810,709,955 in 2011; N61,706,112,132 in 2012; N 67,895,971,956 in 2013; N57,308,688,430 in 2014; and in 2015, 43,766,078,450 was paid into the fund. The overall figure indicates about N432,502.466,521 was paid into the ecological funds account between 2007 and 2015, and about N48,055,829,613 were paid into the account yearly.
The fund which was originally established in 1981 through the Federation Account Act (1981) was initially meant to be 1% of the federation account, but it was later increased to 2% of the federation account. Presently, the fund was domiciled in the Ecological Funds Office under the office of the Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF) and only released with the approval of the President going through the National Committee on Ecological Problems (NCEP).
Heightened by the increasing climate change phenomenon, the core issues that characterized the nation’s environment such as: desertification and drought in the north as a result of the downward march of the Sahara; Coastal flooding and ocean surge in Southwest; Soil erosion in Southeast and decades of oil spillage and exploration activities which has degraded the entire south-south landscape would have been largely addressed, save the funds hadn’t been plundered.
In a swift reaction to condemn the mal-administration of the funds, the spokesperson for the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, Philip Jakpor said “It is obvious that across all the states of the federation, the ecological funds were never used for their intended purposes. Imagine the debilitating nature of the flood that occurred in 2012 and the flood waters taking over virtually every community in the country this year, with the rains not receding on time. If there had been a proper use of the funds the ensuing disasters would have been largely curtailed.”
He challenged EFCC to swing into action and investigate the usage of the funds saying, “the civil society groups will be ready to lend a voice to any investigative effort instigated by the EFCC to prosecute those involved to the letter.” He also canvassed for the funds’ administration to be moved from the office of SGF to that of the Ministry of Environment for effective control and monitoring. “The Secretary to the Government of the Federation should have other important matters to attend, rather than administering the ecological funds,” says Jakpor.
It appears, it now dawned on the nation, as the effects of climate change bites further with earth tremors rocking Kaduna and parts of Oyo states and experts warning of impending earthquake in the south before 2020. Also, this year alone, scores of lives were lost with thousands rendered homeless as a result of the devastating floods caused by the prolonged rains. Yet, there had been no relief in sight for victims and those who may likely be affected in the future, judging by the way this supposedly emergency funds had been woefully administered in the past, with many ecological projects either remaining abandoned or they simply never begun, after money had been appropriated for same and contractors paid huge sums.
However, President Muhammadu Buhari, about a fortnight ago, approved the disbursement of fresh ecological funds to 11 states of the federation to combat environmental problems, but Nigerians are already wary, whether the funds would ever be channelled for appropriate use.
The Chairman of the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL) Debo Adeniran while stressing the need to probe the allegedly embezzled funds told NewsDirect, “ordinarily, we are aware of the ecological funds mismanagement and we understand petitions have been written and submitted to EFCC in that regard. The only reason we have not written our petition is because those persons that have incriminating evidences are not willing to release them. But, we have also made public statements that no matter whose ox is gored, the anti-corruption agencies should not spare its rod.
Mismanagement of funds has put Nigerians in jeopardy, especially when you look at the number of communities that have been completely wiped out due to ecological disasters.”