…NEC to review Land Use Act
The National Economic Council (NEC) next month may approve payment of N2 billion each from the Ecological Funds to 19 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Briefing State House correspondents at the end of the NEC meeting chaired by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai, said that the disbursement is part of recommendations of his committee’s interim report submitted to NEC on Thursday.
According to him, his 11-man committee, which comprised of governors, Minister of Finance and some permanent secretaries, will submit the final report during NEC meeting in June, where NEC will decide on the recommendation.
The committee, he said, was asked to look at the operations and management of the one per cent which the Federal Government shares.
He said “The committee established beyond all doubts that in 2013, the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan gave N2 billion to certain states of the federation but excluded other states.
“The states that got it were all PDP states and states of other parties that were sympathetic to the PDP like Labour Party in Ondo and APGA in Anambra State. 19 states and the FCT did not get the N2 billion from the Ecological Fund.
“These states are Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Borno, Edo, Ekiti, Imo, Jigawa, Kano, Kwara and Lagos.
“Others are Nassarawa, Niger, Ogun, Osun, Oyo, Rivers, Sokoto, Yobe, Zamfara and the Federal Capital Territory
“So essentially what President Goodluck Jonathan did was to take N2 billion each from the Ecological fund and give to some PDP states. Any PDP state that was not his friend like Kano and Kwara didn’t get. And all the other opposition party, like no ACN state got anything, no ANPP state got anything.
“This, the committee of the council consider discriminatory and recommended that the 19 states and the FCT that did not get the N2 billion in 2013 be given N2 billion each to level the playing field.
“Thereafter very clear criteria for accessing the fund will be recommended to the council for the consideration of the federal government,” he said.
According to him, there is a Presidential directive that the Ecological Fund office must maintain a balance of N20 billion out of the present N33.6 billion in the Ecological Fund.
This, he said, is to cater for any emergency or any natural disaster requiring intervention.
From the total money in the fund, he said that the balance of about N13 billion will be available for distribution to the states that were discriminated against.
“As I said, 19 states and the FCT making it 20, so it isn’t enough to give them N2 billion each.” he added
He went on “So what we did was to give an interim report on how the entire ecological fund has been utilized from May 2010 till date. And we realize that a lot of the deployment of the funds was based on discretion of the President and there is need to establish very clear criteria for the use of the 65 per cent of the federal government share among the states of the federation.
“But the committee recommended to make partial payment to these states that were discriminated against by President Jonathan. Council defied decision on that until we submit out final report which will be submitted to NEC in the meeting of June.
“The council appreciated the enormous work the committee did and particularly appreciated the permanent secretary of the Ecological Fund office for providing detailed information about the operations of the Fund.” he stated
He pointed out that the N2 billion each given to the states by the former President was purely on discretionary basis and not on any identified Ecological problem or any project request.
According to him, it was given to favoured states not based on criteria or any request based on emergency.
“It was just a handout to favoured states and other states that were not so favoured were discriminated against.
“So our committee recommended that to level the playing field every state be treated equally, the federal government should give those states that did not get.
“My state got because my state was governed by the PDP and was very friendly with Jonathan. In my state the amount was used to do some Ecological projects but in some states the money simply vanished. But in my state, it didn’t vanish. The projects were done, we are looking into those projects because the prices did not look right, the quality in one or two cases is not the best but some projects were done.
“So we are saying in fairness the other states that did not get this N2 billion on discretionary basis should be done. This is why President Buhari is here to right the wrongs of the past,” he said.
Bauchi Governor, Mohammed Abubakar said that the Council received the report of an Ad-Hoc committee set up by NEC to study the report of the Presidential Technical Committee of the Land Use Act regulations.
He said “The presidential committee submitted its report on 26th of September last year. As a result of that the Nigeria Governors Forum set up its own committee comprising Surveyor General of the states of the federation of Nigeria to study that report of the presidential technical committee and come up with recommendations.
“So when NEC received the report of the committee, an adhoc committee of six was set up with myself as chairman to study both the report of the technical committee and report of the Forum of Surveyor general of the federation and then compare the two reports and make recommendations to council.
“The reason for setting up the technical committee at the onset was because of the encumbrances being faced in the interpretations given in the Land use Act over time from the time of promulgation in 1978 to date.
“So the adhoc committee studied the two reports and made recommendations to council.
“The main basis of the recommendation was the observance of true federalism. You know despite the various interpretations and comments made about the Land Use Act as a unitary law, actually the Land Use Act for the first time is one Act of the federal government that has made a categorical statement with respect to federalism by conferring control over land in the governors of the states and not a unitary system where the federal government will now control land. So this was what the adhoc committee had in mind when it was making its recommendations along with the presidential committee.
“So at the end of the day all the recommendations that tended to temper with the powers of the governors over control of lands in the state were expunged from the report of the presidential technical committee.
“Council finally received the report of the adhoc committee favourablly, in fact Council gave another assignment to that ad committee with a view to looking at areas of conflict in the Land Use Act and the minerals Act. There are situations whereby companies will come to Abuja to the Mining Casdastal and obtain license to prospect for minerals in the state. And the go and immediately commence prospecting without minding the fact that it been granted to some other people by governors who have control over land with certificates of occupancy. So this led to a lot of conflicts. So council has extended the life of this adhoc committee to look into this with a view to making recommendations.
Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha said that the Council also reviewed many money issues as it affects the nation.
He said “We were made to understand from the office of the Accountant General that the excess crude account as at May 24th stands at $2.3 billion. Council also reviewed the discrepancies in figures and we have said that the Accountant General will go to look at it and at the next meeting he will brief the council appropriately.
“As regards the loan support what is called the budget support facility for states which is suppose to come to an end by the end of this month, council was concerned about the fact that we are gradually coming out of recession and if this budgetary support ceases at the end of May, it might create some lapses in our bid to stabilize the economy. So council resolved that the budgetary support be extended to enable states catch up with the economy challenges of the moment.
“The good news is that we have been reliably informed that crude production at Forcados terminal will soon commence and this will in any small way help the economy and the stabilization of the economy and for us to get out of recession as quickly as possible.
“But the highlight of the whole discussion today’s was a special commendation that the Council made on the Acting President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, who we have all resolved to call a systems stabilizer given the fact that Mr. President is on medical vacation, the system is still as smooth as it has always been. So, we commended the Acting President for a job well done.”
He maintained that the Paris Club refund was not a free money, but money owed state governments.