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N81bn tree planting scandal: House panel clears NAGGW of fraud allegation

The House of Representatives ad hoc committee probing the utilisation of the Ecological Fund released to the National Agency for the Great Green Wall (NAGGW)…

The House of Representatives ad hoc committee probing the utilisation of the Ecological Fund released to the National Agency for the Great Green Wall (NAGGW) has cleared the agency of the N81bn tree planting fraud levelled against its management.

The panel, led by Ismaila Dabo, was set up in July following a motion by Ali Lawan Shettima, who asked the Green Chamber to investigate the utilisation of ecological funds released to the agency from 2015 to date.

The NAGGW was alleged to have spent N81.2 billion on the planting of 21 million trees across 11 frontline states of Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina, Kano, Jigawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Adamawa, Yobe and Borno.

The Director General/CEO of NAGGW, Dr. Yusuf Maina Bukar, told the lawmakers during their hearing in September that N53.4 billion was released to the agency from inception to July 2023, as against N81.2 billion.

He explained that out of the N53.4 billion, only N5.1 billion was used for tree planting from 2015 to July 2023.

He said N7.2 billion was committed to ongoing contracts that had already been awarded while all unutilised funds from capital appropriation were refunded to the federation account at the end of the financial year where applicable.

The 15-man House committee, in its report released after its investigative hearing, said findings showed that the agency received N53.4 billion from inception in 2015 to July 2023 as claimed by its management.

The panel said it discovered 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 house committee also acknowledged the paucity and untimely release of funds, inability to access foreign assistance and the absence of a governing board as some of the factors hindering the performance of the agency.

The lawmakers equally frowned at the unilateral reduction in the statutory allocation to the agency, and urged the government, as a matter of urgency, to revert the Ecological Fund releases to the agency back to 15% as provided for by the NAGGW Act.

The committee also urged the federal government to constitute a governing board for the agency for optimal performance.

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