NEC Accuses Jonathan of Bias over Disbursement of N34bn Ecological Fund

0
  •  Accuses him of marginalising opposition states
  •  To reduce cost of land titles
  •  Puts ECA balance at $2.4bn

Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja

The National Economic Council (NEC) Thursday accused former President Goodluck Jonathan of discrimination in the distribution of ecological fund, saying he disbursed N34 billion to 17 states controlled by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Labour Party (LP), to the exclusion of opposition parties.

Governor of Kaduna State, Malam Nasir el-Rufai, disclosed this while briefing journalists at the end of the NEC meeting at the State House, Abuja.

He explained that an 11-man Ecological Fund Committee constituted by NEC to make recommendations on the management of the fund, discovered that the former president gave N2 billion each to the 17 states and side-tracked 19 states controlled by opposition All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) at the time.

According to him, NEC considered the action to be discriminatory and consequently, resolved that the 19 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) that were denied the fund should be given N2 billion each too.

However, el-Rufai who said the balance in the ecological fund account currently stood at N33.6 billion, disclosed that the amount was not enough to pay the affected states in view of the stipulation that at least N20 billion must be left in the account at every given time.

He said the council resolved that N13 billion part payment of the sum should be made to the states pending the time more funds would accrue into the account.

The governor further disclosed that in accordance with the recommendation of the committee, the sharing formula for the ecological fund had been modified to include: one per cent for the federal government, 0.72 per cent for states and 0.60 per cent for local government areas, adding that the states and local governments had currently taken their own share of the funds, leaving only the federal government’s share in the account.

According to him, “The report gave details of how the entire ecological fund had been utilised and noted that there is need to establish a clear criterion for sharing the 65 per cent of the federal government’s share among states of the federation. The committee informed Council that 19 States plus Abuja are yet to benefit from the 1 per cent share of the ecological fund.

“These are Adamawa, Akwa-lbom, Borno, Edo, Ekiti, lmo, Jigawa, Kano, Kwara, Lagos, Nasarawa, Niger, Ogun, Osun, Oyo, Rivers, Sokoto, Yobe, Zamfara, and FCT. N13 billion is available for sharing to states since N20 billion must be left in the account for unknown national emergencies.”

Bauchi State Governor, Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar, said an ad hoc committee set up by NEC to review the report of the Presidential Technical Committee on Land Use Act submitted its report.

He listed highlights of the committee report as presented to include: the need to introduce systematic titling and land registration throughout Nigeria; radically increase the existing dismal volume of land registration in Nigeria; substantially reduce the cost of securing land titles in Nigeria; set out standard guidelines and processes for land titling and registration in Nigeria and optimise the socio-economic benefits of land to both the government and the people.

Imo State Governor, Chief Rochas Okorocha, said the council reviewed monetary matters as they affect the nation and equally received a briefing from the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, with information that the balance in excess crude account as at May 24, 2017 stood at $2.3 billion.

He said: “As regards the loan support that is called the budget support facility for states, which is supposed to come to an end by the end of this month, Council was concerned about the fact that we are gradually coming out of recession and if this budgetary support ceases at the end of May, it might create some lapses in our bid to stabilise the economy. So, Council resolved that the budgetary support be extended to enable states catch up with the economy challenges of the moment.”

Also briefing the press, the Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbe, said the cost of local rice in Nigeria was higher than imported rice because governments of countries such as Thailand, China and United States subsidised the cost of production heavily for their farmers because they have incentives which are not available in Nigeria.

However, he said the federal government would do all within its reach to bring the price of local rice down and simultaneously ensure that smuggling of rice into the country was stopped.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) rose from its meeting on Wednesday night in Abuja with a communique, stating that the World Bank Country Director, Mr. Rachid Benmessaoud, briefed the Forum on the progress of the implementation of the bank’s portfolio partnerships with Nigerian states.

The communique added that members of NGF pledged to strengthen coordination mechanism and consensus on replicating and exchanging reviews across the states, resolve implementation challenges and achieve project development objectives.

It also said the Forum received an update from the acting Deputy Comptroller-General of Customs, Mr. Dangaladima Alhaji, which it said represented the Comptroller General, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd.), on the prohibition of smuggling of contraband goods into the country. “Members commended the service for the renewed effort at strengthening anti-smuggling activities, and pledged to collaborate with the Customs Service,” the communique stated.