States, LGs lack infrastructure to manage Ecological Fund, shun queries – Perm Sec

The 36 states of the federation and the 774 local government councils have no structure in place to manage the Ecological Fund.

The declaration was made in Abuja on Thursday by the Permanent Secretary, Ecological Project Office, Shehu Ibrahim.

Ibrahim made the declaration at an interactive session with the House Representatives Committee on Ecological Fund.

He said since states and local governments began to share the fund with the Federal Government, they had not been able to put structures in place to manage their share.

The Ecological Fund is an intervention fund by the Federal Government to address the multifarious ecological challenges in various communities in the country.

Ibrahim told the House Committee that the sharing of the fund between the three tiers of government followed a court decision.

He said governors and local council chairmen never welcomed queries about how they deployed the ecological funds.

“It is a ;no-go’ area,” he quipped, adding: “They don’t want to see officials of the Ecological Project Office near them.

“So we cannot ask them how they spend the money.”

Ibrahim said also all motions by the National Assembly regarding intervention on ecological project matters had been treated.

He said: “The Ecological Project Office acts expeditiously on documents sent to it to solve problems; it looks at some of the gaps within the motion and tries to fill the gaps, and we have had more than five of such motions.

“The Ecological Project Office does not handle funds; it only appraises projects and makes recommendations to the president.”

The Permanent Secretary explained that it is the Ministry of Finance that manages the fund and the projects.

Ibrahim stressed that it was a misconception that the Ecological Project Office is in charge of funds and at liberty to decide on where projects would be sited with the money in its coffers.

He said whenever there were interventions, the Ecological Project Office informed affected communities and went with the contractor to hand over the projects to the community.

This is to enable the community to take ownership of the intervention and communicate their observations to the project office.

Responding, Rep. Sani Jaji (APC-Kaura Namoda/Birnin Magaji), Chairman of the committee, said there should always be stakeholders engagement before embarking on ecological fund intervention projects.

He noted that the projects were stakeholders’ projects and failure to include the stakeholders would always lead to security breach.

Haji said: “So many things happened with UNICEF’s polio vaccine rejection, but when it included stakeholders, people began to accept the vaccine.

“It is critical to involve stakeholders and ensure equity. 

“Security cannot be the reason why you won’t execute projects in certain parts of the country.

“The perception about your office is that there is money out there.

“So you need to change that perception and let people know that you have limitations about the execution of projects.”

Jaji challenged the Ecological Fund Project Office to provide the needed advice to the president to enable him to take the correct steps.

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