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Ecological Fund: Only collective public tracking can check diversion – Environmentalists

 Some environmental experts and stakeholders in the North West have stressed the need for Nigerians to endeavour to monitor and track how the National Ecological Fund disbursed to states are being expended.

A News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) survey on the utilisation of Ecological Funds by state governments showed that the stakeholders want citizens to be encouraged to be tracking and verifying projects established from the proceeds of the fund.

According to them, such interest by members of the public is desirable to check misappropriation of the fund or its diversion to other personal or political gains.

They observed that, while the Federal Government was doing its best in releasing the fund timely, some state governors attached no significance to ecological issues but instead gave priority to personal political interests.

One of the experts, Dr Mahmud Musa, an academician and environmentalist, said the call for monitoring the usage of the fund was long over-due as people appeared to display high degree of complacency over the matter.

“There is need for Nigerians to wake up from their sleep and demand for their rights by holding state governors accountable for the money being released by the Federal Government to take care of ecological challenges in their respective states.

“This money is not meant for governors to loot; it is purposely meant to take care of ecological problems; the cumulative amount being released run into billions, if not trillions of Naira,” Musa, who is a lecturer with Federal University, Birnin Kebbi, said.

On his part, Malam Ibrahim Garba of Waziri Umaru, the Federal Polytechnic, Birnin Kebbi, said all states of the federation were faced with one ecological problem or the other.

He enumerated some of the problems to include gully and wind erosion as well as flooding, among others, but lamented that the ecological funds were not properly utilised for what they were meant for.

Speaking in the same vein, Mr Ibrahim Tudun-Doki, the Executive Officer of Community Centre for Development (CCD), an NGO in Sokoto State, called for increased public awareness on the existence of the National Eecological Fund office and its activities.

Tudun-Doki said that creating awareness would sensitise people on the need for them to track and monitor projects being implemented through the use of ecological fund.

He observed that absence of proactive NGOs and community groups that would monitor the activities of executioners of projects, had been responsible for the floating of facilities of minimal impact on communities.

He said that people only complained when flood ravaged theirs farmlands and other surroundings without being aware of measures they could take over environmental degradation.

Dr Bashir Achida, an economists and senior lecturer at the Usmanu Fanfodio University Sokoto (UDUS) also called for the enlightenment of people on the provisions made in the budget for the tackling of ecological challenges.

According to him, this will enable people pick interest in tracking development on ecological projects, thereby, raising questions where need be.

Achida said poor public knowledge led to improper implementation of budgetary provisions as well as the non-tracking of allocated funds resulting in diversion of resources for personal gains.

On his part, Alhaji Sagir Bafarawa, the Sokoto State Commissioner for Environment said state government embarked on N3 billion Mabera Water Storm project to check the threat of gully erosion.

Bafarawa said the project consisted of 18.5 km enlarged drain system across Mabera Jelani, Mabera Iddi, Nakasarin Barebari, Nakasarin Nagaji, Salame and Trade Fair areas in Sokoto town.

He said the project was being executed under the World Bank-assisted Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP), in partnership with the state government.

“The state government has settled its counterpart funding share of N1.4 billion since 2017 and some procedures have delayed the completion of the project,’’ he said.

Bafarawa explained that the project was aimed at reducing the vulnerability of the land to soil erosion, floods and other complex environmental challenges bedevilling the state.

In Kaduna, another environmentalist, Danjuma Dangwa, called for transparency and accountability in the use of the ecological fund, saying environmental degradation had remained a major challenge in the state.

According to him, there is need for transparency as the quarterly budget performance does not indicate projects are being executed with the fund disbursed to the state.

However, he said the state government was doing well on refuse collection but observed that there was no indication that the environmental challenges of the people were being mitigated.

“The ecological funds should be people-driven, targeted directly at where people can see that their exposures to environmental hazards are being properly mitigated,” he said.

But Mr Yusuf Muazu, a director with Kaduna State Ministry for Environment, said the state had identified no fewer than 147 locations affected by erosion.

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According to him, 18 critical sites have been designed with bill of quantity carried out for the projects to commence.

He said that surveys had been conducted by the ministry for which the information was used in planning programmes to reduce the level of erosion in the state.

Muazu said that with the state’s Urban Renewal Project, a lot of trees were cut down, which opened the soil leading to erosion.

He said the state government received over a million seedlings from the Federal Government, which were planted to control erosion and climate change.

In Katsina State, residents of Inwala area within Katsina metropolis decried the menace of gully erosion in their area.

Spokesman of the community, Alhaji Abdullahi Garba, told NAN that erosion had been wreaking havoc in the area.

“During rainy seasons, our houses, farms and the access road that link us to places are washed away.

“Our domestic animals and farm produce that we do keep at home are also washed away,” he said.

The spokesman appealed to the state and Federal Government to come to their aid.

Meanwhile, the Coordinator of an NGO in Katsina State “Save Katsina People” Comrade Hamza Saulawa, has appealed to the state government to save Inwala and other people facing erosion challenges in the state.

He noted that people in the area needed quick intervention from government in view of the devastating effects of erosion.

Meanwhile, the Public Relations Officer in charge of Kano Ministry of Environment, Alhaji Sanusi Abdullahi, said funds received by the state government from the Ecological Fund Office, was being utilised judiciously.

“A number of projects were executed within Kano metropolis and other local government areas in the state,’’ he said.

He revealed plans by the ministry, in collaboration with the Ecological Fund Office, to establish an Integrated Industrial Waste Management Facility at Challawa, Sharada and Bompai industrial estates.

Abdullahi said the project would assist the government to have an effective waste management system in the state, adding that hectares of lands had been reserved for that purpose.

The spokesperson said measures were also being taken to check the menace of gully erosion in Rarin-Karas and Danguguwa in Dawakin-Tofa Local Government Area of the state, just as government intended establishing shelter belts to address desert encroachment.

He said that the Pollution Control Department of the ministry had commenced ‘Air Quality’ monitoring exercise in the state aimed at controlling air pollution resulting from industrial activities in the commercial nerve centre. (NAN)

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