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Alleged ₦81.2bn Tree Planting Scandal: House Committee Exonerates NAGGW

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The House of Representatives Adhoc Committee set up to investigate the utilisation of Ecological Fund released to the National Agency for the Great Green Wall (NAGGW), has absolved the Agency’s management of allegations of fraud allegations leveled against it.

The Honorable Ismaila Dabo-led Adhoc committee was set up in July, to investigate allegations of mismanagement of funds released to the agency from the Ecological Fund.

This followed a motion titled: “The Need to Investigate the Utilization of Ecological Funds Released to the Great Green Wall by the International Organizations from 2015 to Date; and All Federal Allocations to the National Agency for the Great Green Wall as well as all Contract Awarded to Various Contractors for the Project from 2019 to Date.” which was sponsored by Honourable Ali Lawan Shettima.

The House panel, in a report obtained by Vanguard, on Sunday, revealed that it reached the conclusion after considering oral evidence and reviewing documents made available to it by those who testified before the 15 member committee.

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At the inaugural sitting of the Adhoc Committee, the management team of the agency was invited to shed light on allegations that it spent ₦81.2 billion on the planting of 21 million trees across 11 frontline states.

The States listed were:  Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina, Kano, Jigawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Adamawa, Yobe and Borno.

The House Committee equally queried the agency over discrepancies in some of its expenditures.

Director General/CEO of National Agency for the Great Green Wall (NAGGW), Dr. Yusuf Maina Bukar, in his presentation before the Committee in September,  denied the allegation while making clarifications on budgetary allocations to the agency.

He informed the committee that he assumed office in April 2022, and that berifiable records show that the sum of ₦53,425,423,874.34 was the amount released to the Agency from inception to July 2023,  as against the sum of N81.2 bn which the Agency was alleged to have spent.

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Bukar insisted the Agency has not acted outside its mandate in the implementation of its mandate.

According to him, not all of the ₦53,425,423,874.34 received were directly spent for tree planting activities as some uninformed persons would want Nigerians to believe.

He said, “The NAGGW cost of planting, from inception in 2015 to July 2023 is ₦5,145,735,470.15

“That the approximate sum of ₦7.2 billion balance in the Agency’s account are liabilities already committed to ongoing contracts that have already been awarded.

“All unutilized funds from capital appropriation are refunded to Federal Government TSA account at the end of the financial year where applicable.”

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The Honourable Dabo fifteen-man Committee in its report also faulted the claim that the agency received the sum of ₦81.2 bn noting that, “Evidence from the Hearing indicates that the NAGGW received a total sum of ₦53,425,423,874.34 (Fifty-three Billion, Four Hundred and Twenty-five Million, Four Hundred and Twenty-three Thousand, Eight Hundred- and Seventy-four-naira, Thirty-four Kobo) only from inception in 2015 to July, 2023.”

In the course of its investigations, the Committee also discovered that the Agency didn’t receive budgetary allocation for 2015; and that ecological funding was not released to the agency until 2019.

The House panel also discovered that, “the percentage of ecological funding going to the Agency was reduced from 15% provided for by the Act to just 5% with effect from January 2020 to date.”

The report acknowledged the paucity and untimely release of funds, inability to access foreign assistance and absence of a Governing Board as some of the factors hindering the performance of the agency.

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

The report further read in part, “That the total sum of ₦20,168,363,662.18 (Twenty Billion, One Hundred and Sixty- Eight Million, Three Hundred and Sixty-Three Thousand, Six Hundred- And Sixty-Two-Naira, Eighteen Kobo) only being the shortfall of the reduction from Ecological Fund for January, 2020 to date, be immediately released to the Agency to fund its activities;”

Other recommendations contained in the report read : “Similarly, the Ecological fund office should calculate remit to the NAGGW the total sums due to the agency from the Ecological Fund from 2015 to 2018;

“Urge the National Agency for the Great Green Wall to as a matter of urgency include the frontline states of Adamawa, Bauchi and Gombe States in the fourth phase of the a forestation projects which is to commence soon.

“There is urgent need for the agency to undertake recruitment of staff, especially for its offices at the front line states;

“Need for a greater collaboration and synergy between the NAGGW and the Federal Ministry of Environment;”

“Urge the Federal Government to constitute a Governing Board for the National Agency for the Great Green Wall;

“Need for extensive enlightenment of the general public on the sustainable use of the forest for preservation.”

Aside from submissions by the Federal Ministry of Environment, the Central Bank of Nigeria, Office of the Accountant General of the Federation and the Ecological Project Office, the Committee also undertook on-the-spot assessment visit to projects sites in some of the frontline states, namely; Kano, Jigawa and Sokoto State.

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Wike Lists His Priorities As FCT Minister To British High Commission

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Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Nyesom Wike, has told the British High Commission in Abuja that security, agriculture and job creation are among the top priorities of the FCT Administration.

The minister made this statement when he received a delegation from the British High Commission in Nigeria led by the British High Commissioner, Richard Montgomery, on a courtesy visit to the FCT Administration on Tuesday.

The British High Commissioner had sought to understand the priorities of the FCT Administration for the development of the FCT in order to improve bilateral relations.

Responding, Wike said the creation of jobs, especially in the agricultural sector, is being prioritized to ensure that the teeming youth in the FCT are provided with a source of livelihood. He added that the FCT Administration, in line with the Renewed Hope Agenda of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has also provided the necessary support to the security agencies to address the security challenges in the FCT.

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He said the ongoing provision of infrastructure in the Abuja city center and the Area Councils, apart from accelerating the development of the FCT, are also avenues for job creation for the youths who would be engaged during the course of the projects.

According to the Minister, “When you say priority, creation of jobs is key. If you are not able to create jobs, of course, you know what that will mean for the teeming youths. So, we believe that the creation of jobs is not only in the white-collar sector. Through these activities, many of the youths are employed.

“If you go to the area councils today, there are lots of jobs going on that have created opportunities for the youths to be employed. So, the creation of jobs is a priority for this administration.”

Stressing that the FCT has vast arable lands for agriculture, the FCT Minister also expressed the readiness of the FCT Administration to collaborate with investors in the agricultural sector to create employment for youths and promote food security.

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We have to remove the youths from the streets. So, we believe that in partnering with investors in the area of agriculture, that will also create jobs. So, that, in fact, to us, is a major priority. We will be interested if we can see partners in these areas,” the minister stressed.

Wike also added that the FCT is open to investments and collaborations in the tourism sector to make the city a major tourist attraction.

Speaking further on the security challenges in the FCT, the Minister stated that remarkable improvements have been achieved in the last few months due to the level of support and commitment of the security agencies.

The FCT Minister, who blamed the heightened insecurity in the FCT in the recent past on the activities of kidnappers and bandits, from the states sharing borders with the FCT, noted that the security agencies have done quite well to tame the activities of the bandits and other criminal elements.

He expressed confidence that the improved security in the FCT will also increase investors’ confidence in the nation’s capital.

We cannot say that we have been able to solve all the problems, but it is important to know that we are making progress, particularly on the issue of security, which has been a source of concern, not only to residents but the diplomatic community,” Wike said.

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Alleged Diversion Of Palliatives: Sacked Kogi Council Boss, Atawodi Breaks Silence

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Hassan Atawodi, the sacked Transition Chairman of Ofu Local Government Area, has opened up on why he was removed.

The Secretary to Kogi State Government, Folashade Arike Ayoade, had on Monday announced the sack of Atawodi in a statement by Governor Ahmed Usman Ododo, for allegedly diverting palliatives meant for his local government.

Speaking to journalists on Tuesday, Atawodi said he was removed from office courtesy of some political leaders who do not like him.

He added that the palliative meant for Ofu LGA was not handed over to him, saying, “How can I divert what was not given to me?”

While noting that it was a gang-up against him, as there was no time he diverted any palliatives meant for his people, Atawodi stressed that he was denied the clearance letter that would have allowed him to collect the palliative.

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“My travails began from the first day I was appointed, possibly because I was not the choice of some alleged power brokers in my local government. After signing for the palliative for Ofu, the next day I could not get the clearance letter because of orders from above.

“Upon assumption of office, I appointed my five aides and six special advisers. Later, they reported me to the powers that be that I made the appointments without consulting them.

“They went to the extent of sending pictures of somebody I appointed to say he was a member of an opposition party.

“I was asked to meet with the Leader of the local government in the company of the House of Assembly member, the local government, and the zonal party chairmen, which I did and asked that they should please forgive me, following their report, with a call on them to please join me so that we can work together.

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“Following my appeal to those who reported me over the appointment, I was asked to dissolve the aides I appointed, which I did by going on air as promised and dissolved all the SSAs.”

The former Transition Chairman said he is innocent of the allegations of diversion of palliatives leveled against him, calling on the State Governor of Kogi State to look into the matter critically, as the said palliative was never handed over to him.

Continuing, he said, “I was not given a palliative to share. On hearing about the palliative, I went to the Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs, who said there is an instruction for me not to be given the palliative.

“The ommissioner asked me to put a call across to the Deputy Governor before it could be released. I called from the morning through till about 4:00 pm on the said day, without my calls being picked.

“I later went back to the Commissioner, who said the Deputy Governor is yet to call. I had to leave to return the following day.

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“The next day, upon arrival at the Government House, I saw the DLG, SLG, and the APC Chairman for my local government. The commissioner said he has been directed to release the palliative to them.

“I was asked by the Commissioner to remain calm, particularly that with the several leaders I have in my local government, he doesn’t think I should bother myself with how the palliative would be shared.

“After they moved the palliative from the Muhammadu Buhari Civic Centre, I called the DLG to ask about the whereabouts of the palliative, that is the 1200 bags of rice. He said it was off-loaded at the residence of the Zonal Chairman in Ejule. I asked if it was safe there, as I would have guaranteed that if brought to the Local Government Secretariat, it would be safer and would reach the intended beneficiaries.

“I was at the Governorship Tribunal in Abuja yesterday when somebody called me to inform me that a letter of replacement was being typed to replace me, after which I was later told that I had been replaced.”

While the former Transition Chairman said he has taken the power play against him as the will of God, he lamented that he was surprised to read on social media that his sack was connected with the alleged diversion of palliatives that were never given or handed over to him.

“My hands are clean, and I know that my God will fight for me. Since my assumption, it’s been one battle to another. The DSS are all aware of my travails.”

The former Transition Chairman called on Gov. Ahmed Usman Ododo to constitute an investigation into the reason behind his removal, pointing out that it could not have been over a palliative that was not handed over to him.

 

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FX Crisis: Dollar May Exchange For N4000 By End Of 2024 — Ozekhome Warns

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Human rights activist, Mike Ozekhome, says the Dollar may exchange for N4000 by the end of 2024 should the Naira keep falling against the Dollar at its current rate.

Ozekhome stated this in an interview on Channels Television on Tuesday.

The senior lawyer said there are no visible signs that the Naira won’t fall any further.

He said, “Just today, we paid out another $400 million that was so identified. In terms of the reserves, it has gone up to $34 billion.

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“If we are not careful we will get to the situation in Ghana, where they were carrying cedis in baskets to the market to go and buy things and put in their pockets.”

”Why have BDCssit under the trees and tables control our economy.”

Ozekhome stated that the government needs to do everything in its power to alleviate the suffering by going back to the drawing board.

He expressed surprise at the current administration blaming its predecessors for the economic state of the nation

”But to me, it is most embarrassing when I see officials of this government blaming the Jonathan government that left office in 2015, nearly 10 years ago.

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”Ironically blaming his own predecessor whom they took over from in the APC government. I think everything has gone wrong,” he said

Ozekhome noted that the current administration’s slogan of renewed hope translates to poverty.

This is not renewed hope, this is renewed poverty.”

Recall that recently, the scarcity and demand for dollars have led to a significant decline in the Naira. The problem according to analysts has been compounded by persistent foreign exchange supply challenges and a significant demand backlog.

But, the CBN governor, Olayemi Cardoso, in his MPC meeting announcement on Tuesday said he ”will do what it takes” to address the monetary issue equally promising to generate more liquidity for the forex market.

”Before the end of this year, if we are not careful, the Naira may exchange for N4000 to the dollar because e there is nothing in place,” he added.

 

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