Flooding is one of the most devastating and dreaded forms of natural disasters that man must contend with. In most cases, it is caused by heavy rainfall or when rivers overflow their banks due to excess volume of water.
Flooding can also be precipitated by human activities such as blockage of water channels with illegal structures and refuse, as well as periodic release of water from an over filled dam.
The flooding of towns and villages across the country this year was generally blamed on heavy rainfall and the impact of Climate Change. This generated arguments from many quarters; that ecological challenges such as flooding can be mitigated with proper planning and proactive actions.
The Derivation Ecology, otherwise known as Ecological Fund is the 2.3 percent of monthly accruals that is derived from the Federation Account. This Fund was established through the Federation Account Act of 1981, based on the recommendation of the Okigbo Commission. Subsequently, it was modified through Decree 36 of 1984 and Decree 106 of 1992 as well as the Allocation of Federation Account modification order of 2002. The prime objective of this initiative was to have a pool of funds that will be solely devoted to funding emergency ecological challenges in the country.
Presently, the Fund is shared between the Federal Government, States and Local Governments including the Federal Capital Territory Area Councils. Out of 2.3 percent, the Federal Government takes 1 percent, the state governments take 0.72 percent while the Local Governments take 0.60 percent.
It is instructive that four federal agencies take the chunk of the 45 percent accruing to the Federal Government from the Derivation Ecology Fund. These are the National Emergency Management Agency with 20 percent, the National Agency for the Great Green Wall with 5 percent, the North-East Development Commission with 10 percent and the National Agriculture and Land Development Authority with 10 percent, thereby leaving the Ecological Project Office, EPO, with the remaining 55 percent.
It is necessary to recall that at the federal level, the management of the Ecological Fund was initially handled by the National Committee on Ecological Project which was bedevilled by numerous challenges before it was moved to the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation to advice the President on the disbursement and management of the funds.
Indeed, there is a general misconception on the management of the fund. Recently, a non-governmental organisation, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, wrote an open letter to the President to question the disbursement of the fund. Among several allegations and insinuations, SERAP claimed that although ecological funds are shared across the three tiers of government contrary to records that the fund is domiciled and disbursed by the Federal Ministry of Finance.
It is on record that the Federal Government in 2021 renamed the coordinating office the Ecological Project Office in line with its functions; and ensuring that State and Local Governments get their share directly from the Federal Ministry of Finance to facilitate quality, timely and efficient approval of projects across the country.
There is no doubt that an effective management of the Ecological Project Office will drive the federal government’s policy on ecological intervention and sustainability to mitigate the ecological challenges in many communities across the country.
Now with a new management at the Ecological Project Office, there is no doubt that the Federal Government is determined to strengthen and reposition the office for effective service delivery, especially in mitigating incessant flood in Nigeria. However, State and Local Governments must brace up to work in synergy with the national policy being pursued by the Federal Government. This will help to establish a workable national strategy that will facilitate quick response and intervention in ecological challenges across the country.
The completion of over 260 ecological projects across the six geo-political zones by the Buhari Administration is a testimony to the judicious use of the funds accruing to the Ecological project Office in recent times. Moreover, the setting up of a Presidential Committee for the Development of a Comprehensive Plan of Action for the Prevention of Flood Disasters in Nigeria will no doubt provide a durable platform to plan ahead for future emergencies.
For the country to meet the desired expectations in the control and quick intervention during disasters such as flooding, sub-national governments must be proactive and apply their resources judiciously in line with national emergency policies.
● Kareem is a media consultant in Abuja.