Reps Angry over N81bn Spent on 21m Tree Planting in North

The House of Representatives has expressed dissatisfaction with the performance of the Great Green Wall Agency, which spent N81 billion on tree planting in 11 states without significant outcomes.

The states are: Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina, Kano, Jigawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Adamawa, Yobe and Borno.

The House Ad-hoc Committee on Utilisation of Ecological Funds and other intervention funds into the Great Green Wall Project conveyed its displeasure at an investigative hearing on Wednesday.

The committee also questioned the agency over N697.17 million used for office renovation, N11.28 billion for capital projects and the claim of ownership of some projects executed by lawmakers as constituency interventions.

The chairman of the panel, Hon. Dabo Ismaila Haruna said the aim of the probe was not to witch-hunt anyone but to investigate and recommend urgent measures for the country’s progress.

He said the committee had invited relevant stakeholders including the National Agency for the Great Green Wall, the Federal Ministry of Environment, the Ecological Funds Office, the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation and some state governments to provide information on the use of the funds of the Great Green Wall Project.

He added that the committee had requested documents such as staff nominal roll, annual audited accounts, capital project operations account, bank details and others from the stakeholders to enable them to make factual recommendations.
It was uncovered from the documents submitted to it that over N81 billion had been spent by the lead agency in tree planting in eleven frontline states of the North-East and North-West geo-political zones being covered by the agency.

“After this hearing, we shall embark on an on-the-spot assessment tour to all the projects executed under this scheme to ascertain the claims. The Ad-hoc committee is resolute in undertaking this assignment in the interest of all Nigerians.

“We are not here to scandalise any individual or organisation but only to ensure that public funds are utilised for the purpose they are meant for. We will not shy away from pointing fingers where necessary, not out of personal animosity but simply in the national interest of our nation,” the Chairman said.

The probe panel questioned the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) about seven accounts that the agency opened and maintained with the bank, and observed that one of the agency’s project funds is in foreign currency accounts.

The committee also found other irregularities in the Great Green Wall agency’s operations, such as N697.17 million spent on refurbishing office space, N11.28 billion on capital projects, and claiming credit for some projects that were executed by lawmakers under constituency project as its own projects. The panel also noted that three states were left out of the tree planting exercise.

The agency’s director-general, Dr. Yusuf Maina Bukar, explained that the flagship project was initiated by the Federal Ministry of Environment to tackle drought, deforestation, and other environmental issues in the arid zones of Nigeria.

He said that the agency’s main sources of funding were 15% of Ecological Funds and Federal Allocation, and added that over 21 million trees had been planted in the selected northern states to combat desertification.

The Accountant-General of the Federation, Oluwatoyin Madein, who was represented by deputy director, Irene Nwangwu, told the House Committee that the agency had received a total of N19, 377, 726,506.95

According to a 6-page document with Reference No: BKS/CSO/CON/NASS/005/082 dated 22nd August, 2023 submitted by Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the agency had N9,465,960,382.57 in its account from 2015 to date.

The committee’s chairman ruled that the agencies that were invited by the Committee must reappear on Tuesday, September 2, 2023 at 11am for further investigation.

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