The House of Representatives has exonerated the National Agency for the Great Green Wall (NAGGW) over alleged N81.2 billion mismanagement of the Ecological Fund released to the agency.
The agency was cleared in a report of the 15-man Ad Hoc Committee set up by the Green Chamber to investigate alleged financial sleaze by the agency.
The Ad hoc committee, chaired by Hon. Ismaila Dabo, was set up in July following a motion moved at the plenary by Hon. Ali Shettima on “the need to investigate the utilization of ecological funds released to the Great Green Wall by the international organisations from 2015 to date; and all federal allocations to the National Agency for the Great Green Wall as well as all contract awarded to various contractors for the project from 2019 to date.”
At the inaugural sitting of the Ad hoc committee, it was alleged that the agency had spent the sum of N81.2 billion on the planting of 21 million trees across 11 frontline states.
The states are: Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina, Kano, Jigawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Adamawa, Yobe and Borno.
But the Director-General of the agency, Dr. Yusuf Bukar, had during his presentation before the Committee last September explained that the sum of N53,425,423,874.34 was the amount released to the agency from inception to July 2023, as against the sum of N81.2 billion which the agency was alleged to have spent.
Bukar, who assumed office in April 2022, maintained that the agency has acted within its mandate in the implementation of the programme.
He clarified that not all of the N53,425,423,874.34 received were used directly on planting activities.
Bukar pointed out that the NAGGW cost of planting, from inception in 2015 to July 2023, was N5,145,735,470.15.
He added that the approximate sum of N7.2 billion balance in the agency’s account is liabilities already committed to ongoing contracts that have already been awarded.
According to him, all unutilised funds from capital appropriation are refunded to the Federal Government TSA account at the end of the financial year where applicable.
The Committee, in its report, faulted the claim of N81.2 billion to the agency, saying evidence from the hearing indicated that the NAGGW received a total sum of N53,425,423,874.34 only from inception in 2015 to July 2023.
It discovered in its investigation that the agency did not receive a budgetary allocation for 2015, while ecological funds were not released to the agency until 2019.
The committee revealed that the percentage of ecological funding going to the agency was reduced from 15 per cent provided for by the Act to just five per cent with effect from January 2020 to date.
The committee frowned at a unilateral reduction in the statutory allocation to the agency by fiat and urged the government, as a matter of urgency, to revert the Ecological Fund releases to the agency back to 15 per cent as provided for by the NAGGW Act.
It said: “That the total sum of N20,168,363,662.18 only being the shortfall of the reduction from Ecological Fund for January, 2020 to date, be immediately released to the Agency to fund its activities.”
The committee recommended, among others, that the “Ecological Fund office should calculate remit to the NAGGW the total sums due to the agency from the Ecological Fund from 2015 to 2018.
“Urge the National Agency for the Great Green Wall to as a matter of urgency include frontline states of Adamawa, Bauchi and Gombe States in the fourth phase of the
afforestation projects which are to commence soon.”