The poor funding and capital budget implementation in the environment sector has serious implications for food security, health and a liveable environment that will facilitate our pursuit of development. A degraded environment deepens poverty. It also has implications for security, law and order. Clearly, the perennial farmer herdsmen clashes can be linked to environmental degradation and habitats that no longer support herdsmen and their animals. This pattern of budgeting cannot support sustainable development.
The budget of the Federal Ministry of Environment is suffused with so many small erosion and flood control projects amounting to over N1.488bn across the federation. This is about one third of the overall capital allocation. Many of them have votes in the neighbourhood of N20m to N50m. They seem to be small projects which ordinarily should have been handled by states and local governments. States should be able to implement these projects using resources from the Ecological Fund. It is not clear whether these projects are constituency projects of legislators. Ideally, the Federal Government should be more concerned with policy and big ticket environmental projects and not these mini interventions.
It is interesting that the budget made provisions for a special remediation project affecting contaminated lead mining sites. It is for: “Delineation and characterisation for the affected communities, remediation of lead contaminated site project management, supervision, awareness raising, sensitisation, campaigns, training and education, etc”. But this shows the preponderance of illegal mining activities in the solid minerals sector and the fact that the law and policy on the establishment of a Remediation Fund under the Polluter Pays Principle, which is one of the pillars of the National Policy on Environment is not fully developed. And if such a law is in place, it is not properly enforced. The FMoE should champion a Remediation Fund Bill in the National Assembly. This will seek to set up remediation funds in all extractive industries and other relevant sectors of the economy. The Fund will receive a part of the income or profits of the firms working in the sector and will be used to remediate the environment. It is wrong for the treasury to use its meagre resources to fund remediation when the National Policy on Environment declares the polluter pays principle to be one of its founding pillars.
Combating desertification through reforestation for climate change mitigation and sustainable land management in the shelterbelt got a meager allocation of N105m whilst the National Agency for the Great Green Wall (which also works on desertification) had a vote of N70.5m only, and it is just for overheads. It did not get a capital vote. Considering the rate of desertification and deforestation, the votes to mitigate these challenges should have been higher than these paltry allocations. Even if the Great Green Wall project is donor funded, nothing stops government from augmenting its capital funds to ensure its success.
Again, the procurement of clean cook stoves to prevent deforestation in six geopolitical zones (Yobe, Lagos, Anambra, Rivers, Kwara, Katsina) in the sum of N46.250m is too low and needs to be beefed up. It should be a project across the whole federation and not merely the six pilot states. The focus should be on building capacity for local fabrication of these stoves. On the other hand, it is good that the 2016 budget made provision for the development of a national action plan/framework for the implementation of Nigeria’s Intended Nationally Determined Contributions. This should be vigorously pursued.
There is no special project in Service Wide Votes on the environment. However, there are provisions for the Sustainable Development Goals as follows: Transition to SDGs in the sum of N609,037,225; Provision for SDG Programmes in the sum of N3,378,044,922; SDG Monitoring and Evaluation in the sum of N581,777,918; and Communication and Advocacy (SDG) in the sum of N427,080,038. The environment comes up in 6 out of the 17 SDGs and as such, ought to attract some funding from these un-disaggregated votes in the SWVs. These sums in SWVs amount to N4.99billion. It is the expectation, that not less than 1.67 billion, being one third of this sum should be dedicated to environment protecting interventions.
Some recommendations have become imperative. The Federal Government should consider ring-fencing the capital budget for the environment and other sectors. The poor implementation of capital expenditure in the sector is not acceptable. The target should be to ensure that no more than five per cent variation exists between appropriated and utilised funds. In this regard, greater fiscal discipline in budget formulation and implementation and the ring-fencing of capital votes by the fiscal authorities may be necessary. The Ecological Fund that is shared between the the Federal Government, States and Local Governments should be strictly monitored by legislatures, the anti-corruption agencies and civil society. A situation where after so many years of expending the funds, mini flooding, erosion and other environmental challenges are still funded by the federal budget raises concerns about where the funds have been invested and the value for money derived from such investments.
In accordance with the Fiscal Responsibility Act, the 2017 appropriation process should properly start with the preparation of Medium Term Expenditure Framework and its underlying Medium Term Sector Strategies. This should be done by a properly constituted sector team including all relevant stakeholders. The sector team apart from the personnel of the Ministry should include organised labour and private sector, civil society organisations, professional associations, the committee with oversight in the National Assembly, etc. Constituency projects of legislators in the sector should be harmonised with high level national plans and policies to guarantee their coherence. This should be done during the MTSS preparation stage. Never should any project be allowed into the budget after it had passed through the defence mechanisms of the Ministry, Budget Office of the Federation and the Federal Executive Council.
Service Wide Votes should be disaggregated in the budget and the votes appropriated for the use of the specific MDAs that have jurisdiction over the sector. This will enhance transparency and accountability of operations. The current lump sum statements give no clue as to what specifically the votes are meant for. This reform is most urgently needed in votes to the SDGs. The budget of the FMoE needs to focus more on priority projects including combating deforestation and desertification, protection of biodiversity, restoring degraded lands and waters, etc as these challenges need more funding to remediate the threats they pose to Nigeria’s economic and social life. The emphasis should be on building local capacities for these interventions.
Finally, the allocation to the FMoE should be increased starting from the 2017 financial year, at least, to not less than 1.5 per cent of the overall budget. The current vote cannot pay for urgent and very important interventions needed in the sector.