The head of the National Ecological Fund Office is Mrs. Ibukun Abimbola Odusote who is a Permanent Secretary. Hailed from Ikenne-Remo in Ogun State, she attended the University of Ife and University of Lagos where she obtained B.Sc degree in Computer Science/Economics and M.Sc degree in Computer Science respectively.
Her working experiences centred largely on Information Technology in the educational and Professional Sectors. Before her appointment in late 2009 as Permanent Secretary, she was the Director Information Technology Department, Federal Ministry of Information and Communications. In this interview granted to the Economic Confidential, Mrs. Odusote talks on the Ecological Fund. Excerpt:
What is the role of Ecological Fund?
The Ecological Fund is indeed an intervention facility established to address the multifarious ecological problems ravaging communities across the country.
In a nutshell what does the fund address?
The Ecological Fund was solely established with the principal objective of ensuring that adequate provision was made to address the serious ecological problems facing the nation be it flood, coastal soil erosion, desertification and drought as well as general pollution. It was realized that appreciable progress on daunting ecological problems can only be made if there is a pool of fund.
Since when has it been in existence?
The Fund was originally established in 1981 through the Federation Account Act (1981) based on the recommendation of the Okigbo Commission in order to have a pool of Fund that would be solely devoted to funding of ecological problems. The Act has subsequently been modified by Decrees 36 of 1984 and 106 of 1992 respectively; and further modified through the Allocation of Revenue/Federation Account etc (modification) order of 8th July 2002.
What is the percentage of revenue from the Federation Account to the fund?
The Fund which originally received 1% of the Federation Account was reviewed upwards to 2% of the Federation Account in 1992. From its inception in 1981, it has been a first line charge which provides handy resources for amelioration of ecological problems such as soil erosion, flood, drought, desertification, oil spillage, pollution, general environmental pollution, storm, tornadoes, bush fire, crop pest, landslide, earthquakes etc.
Who statutorily controls the fund?
The enabling statutes have over the years placed the Fund under the control of the Head of the federal government; to be disbursed and managed in accordance with such directives as may be issued from time to time. I might as well reiterate here that the usual Federal Grants given by Mr. President to States in dire needs as we have just witnessed in recent cases of Sokoto, Kebbi, Jigawa, Lagos and Ogun are disbursed from FG own share. Apart from this direct allocation, which is solely at the discretion of Mr. President, Government already has in place a structure through which requests for ecological projects are processed, approved and implemented in a manner that no section or states of the federation is left out.
Who constitutes membership of the Ecological Fund?
Let me take you back a bit. In 1985, the Federal Government established an Inter-Ministerial Committee known as the National Committee on Ecological problems (NCEP0 with the responsibility for advising the President on the disbursement and management of the Ecological Fund. In 1999, the Obasanjo administration re-organised and expanded the NCEP and conferred chairmanship of the new body on the Minister for Special Duties. Another exercise in re-organization in December 2006 brought slight modifications to the membership of NCEP due to re-alignment of federal ministries; as a result of which the Hon. Minister of Environment was made and has since remained the Chairman of the Committee.
So who are the members?
Mostly members are Permanent Secretaries from federal ministries of Agriculture, Environment, Finance, Industry, Petroleum Resources, Science & Technology, Solid Mineral Development, Water Resources, Works & Housing, National Planning Commission, and a Representative of the office of Vice President, Director-General National Emergency Management Agency NEMA and Ecological Fund Office that serves as the Secretariat of the committee.
With recurrent natural disasters all over the states what have you done tackle the menaces?
Well. Following the flooding experiences in parts of the country in recent times and the growing challenges of Erosion and Desert encroachment, the Ecological Fund Office has intensifies efforts at these strategic engagements. We have been liaising with the stakeholders and having meetings with appropriate authorities towards addressing the problem.
What could have been the problems of those natural phenomena?
Although increasing awareness is occurring on issues of climate change and the impacts in the country, the time has come for all hands to be on deck to rev up this awareness for the benefit of our people.
So what are you going to do minimise the impact?
The Fund on its part will commence national sensitization campaign to educate the public on the roles we all need to play in respect to adaptation and mitigation of the effects of climatic change in Nigeria. The campaign has become necessary in the wake of the heavy rainfall that was accompanied by flood devastation in parts of the country this year and also by the experience going on in our neighbouring country of Benin Republic.
So in essence are you saying that the problems are naturally-inflicted?
Although the Federal Government is still studying the reports of the various experts engaged on ways of finding effective solution to the flood problems, preliminary assessment indicates that the problem is compounded by man-made activities such as blocking of drainages, canals, obstruction of water ways as well as erection of residential and commercial buildings on and along flood plains without expert advice. The impacts of the floods have been huge and massive.
Were you able to assess the devastation of the recent incidence?
Following the impacts of the flood, Mr. President raised inspection teams made up of experts and technocrats from the National Committee on Ecological Problems (NCEP). During the visitation of the team raised by the Mr. President to Sokoto State, it was observed that the Sokoto Water Treatment Plant was not only undermined by flood but that pipe borne water supply to Sokoto town was also impaired. Also there was high level of destruction of farm lands and a number of villages that were cut off from other communities.
What about the incidences in Jigawa, Lagos and Ogun States?
The flood incident of Jigawa was discovered to have destabilized 12,412 families, submerged 368 villages and destroyed well over 90,000 hectares of land spread across the 16 Local Government Areas. Not only were thousands of farmland washed away, several villages were either submerged or cut off by flood. Massive destruction of vital infrastructures like roads, bridges, culverts, houses, water treatment plants and schools also took place. In Lagos and Ogun States, thousands of residents were displaced prompting the Lagos State Government to establish three (3) Relief Camps at Agbowa.
What has been the contribution of the government so far to help those communities?
Moved by the negative impact of the flood devastation, President Goodluck Jonathan announced financial reliefs to the tune of N3.8 Billion to the States that are worse hit. The States are Sokoto, Kebbi, Jigawa, Lagos and Ogun State.
Could the release of funds provide final solutions to the problems?
You are aware that while he was speaking after inspecting affected flood sites in Lagos, Mr. President made it clear that collaboration with the State Governments and the Stakeholders would help to evolve permanent solution to flood and erosion problems in the country. The Federal Government is committed to harnessing all plausible options on adaptation and mitigation of the flooding effects. This was why the government recently organized the National Workshop on the Use of Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for Forestry Management at the Space Application and Environmental Science Laboratory, (SPAEL) of the Obafemi Awolowo University OAU, Ife in collaboration with the Ecological Fund Office. Nigeria as the most populous country in Africa can no longer wait to harness science-based knowledge from appropriate Research Institutes to cope with climate change problems especially in the areas of desertification, deforestation, flood and erosion as well as shoreline recession.
What about other projects of your agency?
As I am talking to you, there are on-going ecological projects at varying stages of completion across the country while the Stakeholders Forum of the National Committee on Ecological Problems will soon meet to collate, discuss and recommend new projects to the President for approval.
How will you ensure openness and transparency in projects to address ecological problems?
We are initiating a process in this office where all Federal Government approved contracts on Ecological projects are to be signed openly and presented publicly. This will enable members of the public to know and be conversant with steps being taken by the Government in finding solutions to their ecological problems; and enable them monitor the performance of Contractors concerned. This approach, which is in line with Federal Government’s commitment to philosophy of openness and transparency in the conduct of Government business, has come to stay in the Ecological Fund Office. Through our monitoring activities we are poised to ensure that all relevant stakeholders adhere strictly to the terms in the contract agreement, in order to get value for money.