The House of Representatives has ignited an inquiry into a potentially massive ecological fraud involving the Great Green Wall Agency, as it seeks answers regarding the alleged misappropriation of an N81 billion fund designated for tree planting across eleven states.
The states implicated in the investigation are Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina, Kano, Jigawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Adamawa, Yobe, and Borno.
The inaugural investigative hearing, conducted by the House Ad-hoc Committee on Utilisation of Ecological Funds and other intervention funds into the Great Green Wall Project, has spotlighted questionable expenditures by the agency.
Notably, N697.17 million was purportedly spent on office accommodation renovation, while N11.28 billion was allocated to capital projects.
The committee further raised concerns about the Great Green Wall Agency’s assertion of ownership over certain projects executed by legislators under constituency interventions.
Hon. Dabo Ismaila Haruna, the chairman of the panel, clarified that the investigation was not intended as a witch hunt but rather as an effort to recommend vital measures for the country’s progress.
The Committee summoned key 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 state governments, to provide insights into fund utilization.
The Committee disclosed that it had solicited pertinent documents from these stakeholders to facilitate its assessment, including staff nominal rolls, annual audited account statements, capital project operations accounts, bank records, and other relevant documents.
Shedding light on the discrepancies, it was revealed that the Great Green Wall Agency had allegedly disbursed over N81 billion for tree planting in the northern states of the North-East and North-West geopolitical zones.
To verify these claims, the Committee announced its intention to conduct an on-the-spot assessment of the executed projects.
Haruna emphasized that the Committee’s objective was to ensure transparent and appropriate utilization of public funds, with the ultimate goal of national progress.
The Committee additionally questioned the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) regarding seven accounts associated with the agency, one of which is domiciled in a foreign currency account.
Infractions also included the N697.17 million spent on office renovation, N11.28 billion allocated to capital projects, and the agency’s declaration of ownership over projects executed by lawmakers under constituency initiatives.
Dr. Yusuf Maina Bukar, Director-General of the agency, defended its actions, stating that the Great Green Wall initiative was established to address environmental challenges in Nigeria’s arid regions.
He highlighted the agency’s reliance on 15% of Ecological Funds and Federal Allocation for funding, while outlining the planting of over 21 million trees to counteract desertification.
A presentation by the Accountant-General of the Federation, Oluwatoyin Madein, disclosed that the agency had received a total of N19,377,726,506.95.
A document submitted by the CBN indicated that N9,465,960,382.57 was held in the agency’s account from 2015 to the present.
The committee’s Chairman concluded by announcing that the agencies invited would reconvene on Tuesday, September 2, 2023, at 11 am for further investigation.
The inquiry aims to uncover the truth behind the alleged ecological fraud and ensure accountability in the utilization of public funds.
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