Hope for rural women as Reps investigate N9.2bn clean cookstove project

 A flicker of hope is in the air for the environment and more for rural women as the House of Representatives has mandated its  committees on Anti-Corruption, Environment and Habitat to investigate last administration’s Clean CookStoves For Rural Women project under the Ministry of Environment.
A N9.287 billion project was initiated in 2014 to supply 750,000 units of clean stoves and 18,000 Wonderbags to rural women, but till date, not much is known about the execution of that project.
The project was initiated as federal government’s response to a report which disclosed that over 95,000 Nigerians, mostly women and children, die annually from smoke from the kitchen, adding that this is Nigeria’s third highest killer after Malaria and Hiv/Aids. Additionally, Nigeria loses 3 percent of its forests annually due partly to the felling of trees for firewood.
Worried about the fate of the cookstove project and the continued risk posed by smoke on women and children, James Faleke raised a motion, which was adopted on January 24, 2017, on the urgent need to investigate the N9.2 billion made available by the immediate past administration to provide clean cookstoves for rural women in the country.
Connected Development’s  (CODE) Follow The Money, the largest anti-corruption grassroots movement, has commended  this move, describing it as a right step in the right direction and pledge to lend its support where and where necessary to enable the committees succeed in this assignement.
Follow The Money which has been tracking the spending of the NGN 9.2 billion since it was approved in November 2014,  recalls that, in  September 2015, it submitted a report to the National Assembly, and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), stating that only 45,000 clean cookstoves were provided and exhibited at the Velodrome of the National Stadium in Abuja.
The report also stated that, out of the N9.2 billion, the Ministry of Finance released only N5 billion to the Ministry of Environment for the execution of the project, and the Ministry of Environment released only N1.3 billion (15 percent) to the contractor of the project – Integra Renewable Energy Services Limited.
“We applaud the decision of the law makers to investigate this project. We believe that such investigation would trigger proper sanctions for those that compromised the rule of law in the process of executing the project meant the suffering of  rural poor women”, said Hamzat Lawal, the Chief Executive of CODE co-founder, Follow The Money.
 “Till today, we have not seen any single beneficiary of the cookstoves. Where are the 45,000 stoves that were procured?, Lawal queried, adding, “ultimately, we call on the respective committees to conduct the investigation in an open forum so that all relevant stakeholders, including the civil society and media can participate, give feedbacks, share their findings on the white elephant project and ensure transparency in the investigation.”
The Anti-Corruption committee will be investigating details of the contract, number of cookstoves supplied, mode of distribution and details of beneficiaries on a state by state basis. They would also determine the status of the balance of N952,000,000 that is with the contractor since 750,000 units would have been supplied at a unit cost of N464, totalling N348,000,000 out of the N1.3 billion paid out.
In addition, the committee would confirm the status of the balance of N3.7 billion which was outstanding from the initial payment to the Federal Ministry of Environment. The concerned lawmakers are expected to report back to the House within six (6) weeks for further legislative actions.
 CHUKA UROKO

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