The imperative of flood fund

The recent call by Senator Stella Oduah (PDP Anambra North) for the provision of an intervention fund to prevent the trend of perennial flood and mitigation of climate change in the country is quite germane and timely. The advocacy is necessary in view of the devastating effect of perennial flooding across the country, which requires special attention outside the extant ecological fund.

She made the call having cited order 43 of the Senate standing rules, which calls for personal explanation. Oduah, in her submission, noted that there had been a horrible experience of flooding by citizens in the South-east geo-political zone and other parts of the country. She said: “My zone has had horrible experience and that experience is flood, this flood came to its worst in 2012.”

According to her, there is an urgent need to establish an intervention fund for flood prevention and victims relief to mitigate the devastating effect of climate change, rising sea and water level in coastal and flood prone areas of Nigeria. Oduah said a motion on intervention on flood was brought to the floor of the Senate recently. She, however, said her current motion was hinged on the need to prevent flood in Nigeria.

“In 2012 there was a study conducted by United Nations (UN). The study clearly stated that there is need to have preventive measures. In regard to this, the UN invested 1.4 million dollars for the study and came out with several measures, if put in place will stop the flood to a reasonable measure,” Oduah said.

She said her motion was aimed at addressing the need to have preventive measures, noting that the preventive measures requires intervention fund. She said the provision of the intervention fund would help take care of the victims and prevent the flood itself. “This motion has a bill that is very encompassing and so the detail, I intend to submit”.

In his remark, the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, thanked Oduah for presenting the motion. Lawan said the motion which was not open to debate was designed to inform the authority. “Let me at this point say that, I agree with you that we need to have resources to not only try to prevent but to undertake studies because, we even need to have scientific supported approaches rather than just reacting in fire brigade approaches.

“We should identify those flood prone areas and, while they get flooded and how we can mitigate the flooding and that requires some fund. I believe, this is a worthwhile venture and it is something that government should do to ensure that this perennial flooding is minimised or controlled completely,” Lawan said.

While the rest of the world celebrated the World Environment Day with the theme ‘Time for Nature’ on June 5, many communities in Nigeria were counting their losses to ecological problems like erosion, deforestation and desertification that have remained unsolved for decades. Many have lost their sources of livelihoods to these environmental problems and have turned to other trades to eke out a living. Others have been forced out of their ancestral homes and are now living in strange lands, having nothing to do with such places again than to rue their losses whenever their minds recall what life used to be there.

Given this scenario, the Senate recently summoned the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha, to explain how N596 billion that accrued to the Ecological Fund Account from 1999 to 2015 was expended. The Chairman of Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Senator Matthew Urhoghide, said the government scribe is being invited to appear before the committee to shed more light on the financial details of the Ecological Fund Account in 16 years.

The committee chairman, who spoke when the heads of government departments and agencies came to defend their 2015 audited accounts before the committee, emphasised that “the SGF is being invited to come and brief us on the statement of account of the Ecological Fund.” Earlier, the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, and the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF), Mr. Ahmed Idris, failed to explain to the committee how the fund was expended.

Lawan had decried the alleged diversion of resources from the Ecological Fund Office (EFO) for other purposes, charging his colleagues to transform the establishment through legislation to be more responsive. Lawan, who spoke while the upper legislative chamber considered a bill seeking to establish the Erosion Control and Prevention Commission, with a special focus on the South-east, sponsored by Senator Ifeanyi Ubah (YPP, Anambra South), harped on the urgency of the matter.

It is worrisome that the Ecological Fund, which was established in 1981 through the Federation Account Act (1981) as an intervention facility to address serious ecological problems across the country and has passed through three stages of modifications in 1984, 1992 and 2002, has become a slush fund. While we are in sync with Oduah on the need to set up erosion intervention fund, we hasten to urge that necessary checks should be put in place against its abuse.

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