For 50-years-old butcher, Muhammadu Kabiru Zakari Y’au, the effect of corruption in Nigeria and embezzlement of the Ecological Fund translates to the loss of his entire household.
Y’au, also known as Usama narrating his life-wrenching ordeal in a documentary; Ecological Funds and the Cost of Corruption in Nigeria, virtually screened on Monday, January 25, by the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) in collaboration with Action Aid Nigeria and Centre for Communication and Social Impact (CCSI), supported by Foreign Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO), said he had gone to the mosque to preach when it started raining.
“They tried calling me to no avail, I went home from the mosque and on getting to my neighbourhood, I saw the mishap caused by the rain,” Y’au said.
According to him, he had met a neighbour who told him that his wife and four kids had been washed away by the flood.
“On approaching my house, I noticed there was no house there anymore, just bare land. I was walking inside the water and the water was up to my chest level. I was going around looking for my family,” Y’au said.
Y’au said upon arrival, some of his brothers came to meet him. They started crying and he joined them in crying, still confused as they walked the community in search of his loved ones.
“We walked to the river all the way to a place near the road that leads to Bauchi. It was there we found the corpse of my daughter, later I got a call that they’ve found my wife’s body too somewhere behind the University of Jos,” he said.
The following day, more bodies were found and Y’au was called to confirm if they were his children.
He got there and recognized his children among the bodies laying on the ground. “I never found the corpse of my last child but some organisation said they found his corpse and buried him.”
“A day later, I got another call saying they found the dead bodies of my two children. When I lifted the wrapper, I recognized the bodies of Abdulamid and Hauwa’u (his two children),” an obviously broken Y’au narrates.
The story goes on and all and is the same for Francis Eriki, a retired Kogi State civil servant who used a major part of his salary and loan to build a three-bedroom apartment.
Eriki lost his life achievement – which took him six years to put together – in a flood.
Speaking on the incident, Eriki said: “The flood affected us, I lost everything.”
“All my labour in government; I took garri and kulikuli (a locally made snack) to see that that place becomes what it is. I suffered,” Eriki lamented.
The pain felt by Y’au and Eriki is as a result of the ecological challenges which could have been averted if the Ecological Funds are properly allocated and not mismanaged.
The Ecological fund is an intervention fund set up by the Nigerian Government in 1981, to tackle various environmental and ecological problems including natural disasters affecting the country.
The fund set up through the Federal Account Act, 1981, was based on the recommendation of the Okigbo Commission mandated to reduce ecological challenges nationwide to the barest minimum, facilitate quality and effective implementation of projects, judicious and equitable utilization of the fund and effective management of ecological fund projects.
The projects include flood, drought, desertification, oil spillage, pollution and general environmental pollution, storms, tornados, earthquakes, bush fires among many others.
In her opening remarks at the virtual screening of the documentary CDD’s Director, Idayat Hassan, represented by Shamsudeen Yusuf, the Centre’s Principal Programs Officer said the piece is part of the Strengthening Citizens Resistance Against Prevalence of Corruption (SCRAP-C) project implemented by CDD, Action Aid Nigerian and Centre for Communication and Social Impact, as consortium members, and implementing partners.
Yusuf said the project seeks to address social norms that would usually aid corruption to thrive in Nigeria.
“One of the ways to do this is to generate a sustained conversation around day-to-day experiences of Nigerians around corruption, particularly on how it directly or indirectly affects them, and make a consistent call for transparency and accountability in the management of public resources such as the Ecological Funds,” Yusuf said.
He said the series of investigations carried out by the Ford Foundation and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), had shown that some of the projects carried out to solve some of the most urgent environmental challenges across the country were either shoddily done or not even done at all. These actions, he said, have caused several damages including loss of lives and property.
“In the documentary, we showcase how mismanagement and the susceptibility of the ecological funds to corruption impacts negatively on the socio-economic well-being of Nigerians,” he said.
He also said that the documentary is expected to spur conversation and strengthen accountability mechanisms for the effective utilization of the Funds for the betterment of the country.
In her contribution, representing Muhammed Umar, the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Hadiza Zubairu, said while work is ongoing, the agency appreciates the effort by CDD and her partners in bringing this aspect of corruption to the fore.
Zubairu who is EFCC’s Head, External Corporation said: “It is rare because this has hardly brought to fore. The fight against corruption is a multi-stakeholders one and we at the EFCC loud the efforts to put into the documentary.”
Sam Waldock, Team Lead, Governance, and Social Stability, FCDO said: “I am very excited about this documentary because corruption can seem to be far from reality. We are really proud to support this.”
Also speaking, Ene Obi, the Country Director of Action Aid described the documentary and its details as chilling but the reality on the ground.
“We haven’t even gone to the Delta where people perch on rooftops. governance is supposed to be about taking care of the people. You have citizens who wake up in the middle of the night and can’t find their children and what do you do about it?” Obi said.
Decrying the disconnect between the government and the people being led, Obi said funds earmarked for environmental challenges have become part of the money stolen by authorities to meet their personal needs.
Speaking, a panelist, Idris Akinbajo, who is the Managing Editor of Premium Times said to tackle corruption in the management of environmental funds, citizens and the general public at large must be able to ask questions and get answers about how public funds were spent.
Akinbajo said: “There is a need to reflect on how funds allocated for environmental stewardship are managed.”
He said the secrecy surrounding the whole process is one of the major reason ecological funds is a pool of corruption. He called on the government at all levels to open their books if the fight against corruption is genuine.
“If the government is sincere about finding the problems in the ecological funds, it must publish the names of all those who have received which amount, for what and why. Dariye was convicted for stealing N2 billion, we need to show citizens that these are the real victims who were affected because he stole that money,” Idris added.
Further reeling out the Centre’s recommendation to ending the corruption in the system, CDD’s director said that there is a need to address the impunity that permeates the system.
“A system whereby public servants believe they are doing citizens a favour by releasing information. Aside from the insecurity and food security issues across the country mostly caused by activities of corrupt officials, the ripple effect of its consequences and embezzlement of the Ecological Fund is very glaring,” Hassan said.
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