The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment, Bukola Saraki, has faulted the planned procurement of cooking stoves worth N9.3 billion by the Federal Government, describing it as “misplacement of immediate priority”.
He also alleged that the procurement process lacked transparency and accountability.
The Federal Government had last week approved the award of a contract for the procurement of 750,000 units of clean cooking stoves and 18,000 wonder bags for the National Clean Cooking Scheme.
The contract was awarded to Messrs. Integral Renewable Energy Services Limited in the sum of N9,287,250,000.00, inclusive of Value Added Tax, VAT, and with a delivery period of 12 weeks.
The approval was sequel to a memo presented to the Federal Executive Council, FEC, by the Minister of Environment, Lawrentia Mallam.
In a statement by his media aide, Bamikole Omishore, on Wednesday, Mr. Saraki, a former governor of Kwara State, said the funding of the procurement from the Ecological fund without due process “is a mockery of the Procurement Act and the Cookstove initiate”.
“The Ecological funds, which is assumed to have been the source of this fund was established to fight emergency ecological problems in Nigeria like flooding, erosion and other unforeseen natural disasters and not for funding initiatives such as clean Cookstoves which are suppose to be funded through appropriations by National Assembly,” he said.
Mr. Saraki, who is the highest political office holder in Nigeria to lead the clean Cookstoves initiative in Nigeria and also a member of the Leadership Council of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, argued that an intervention of that financial magnitude should be driven in partnership with the private sector through various forms of Public-Private partnerships.
He said he would like to avoid a situation whereby his integrity would be put at stake, especially at the next meeting of the Leadership Council.
According to him, it would be difficult for him to explain how the N9.3 billion was used to create markets for cookstoves in Nigeria if he is asked to make a presentation at the meeting.
Mr. Saraki lamented how it had been very difficult for his Committee in the past to appropriate even N100 million for the same initiative due to insufficient allocation of funds by the government for the environment sector.
“For the presidency to now direct N9.3bn to be spent as sole source is questionable,” he said.
The lawmakers said the Global Alliance for Clean cookstoves had been striving to create an enabling market for clean Cookstoves and such fundamental best practice should be emulated for a sustainable clean Cookstoves program in Nigeria.
He said, “Creating a market enabling environment and adoption of innovative business models to attract business investments in scaling up the use of clean Cookstoves in Phase 2 of the Global Alliance’s vision were part of what was agreed at recently concluded Cookstoves Future Summit in New York.”
Mr. Saraki also contended that the distribution of stoves was important in stimulating the demand for the product, but faulted the amount of intervention that was announced by the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, OSGF, which knows only little of the issue instead of the Federal Ministry of Environment, which had been championing the issue.
He also noted the misplacement of priorities in the project components since the most important issue of setting up the structures that would create a sustainable market for clean Cookstoves, was not addressed.
Additionally, he said spending such an amount on this initiative without due process given the aforementioned national limitations that we are facing defeats the purpose of a long lasting solution.
The Senator said in order for Nigeria to achieve her 20 million clean Cookstoves target by 2020, some government intervention was required to stimulate the demand for Cookstoves, which include distributing stoves for free to Nigerians in the lowest part of the economic ladder.
“However, distributing 750,000 stoves at once is market distorting. It doesn’t encourage investment and is counterproductive to the Global Alliance’s vision of creating a sustainable market for clean Cookstoves,” Mr. Saraki said.
The lawmaker demanded a review of the whole process involving all critical active people in the industry that would be more transparent and that could make it more accountable to Nigerians.
He said, “An efficient tracking, monitoring and implementation strategy domiciled and implemented by the Federal Ministry of Environment which will support our existing local manufacturers to build capacity should be pursued.
‘We can’t be talking about stimulating demand and creating local jobs by sending foreign exchange to another country to import stoves.
“An N9.3bn PPP arrangement with the private sector with the potential of addressing all the sub-sectors of the clean Cookstoves initiative would build investor confidence and guarantee investments in the establishment of Clean Cookstoves manufacturing plants in Nigeria. He further called on the Ministry of Environment to ensure that funds meant for the initiative should not be diverted to fund political campaigns, given the suspicious timing of the FEC approval.”
Mr. Saraki indicated his plan to convey a meeting with members of his Committee and others involved in the sector before the adjournment of the Senate later this month.