In view of public concerns and criticism by various stakeholders on the recently announced N9.3 billion Clean Cookstoves Contract awarded by the Federal Government, Senate Committee Chairman on Environment & Ecology, Senator Bukola Saraki has faulted the intervention on the grounds of misplacement of immediate priority and lack of transparency and accountability in the procurement process.
Senator Saraki believes that funding of the Clean Cookstove 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.
Senator Saraki, who is the highest political office holder in Nigeria to lead the clean cookstoves initiative in Nigeria is a member of the Leadership council of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves and believes that an intervention of that financial magnitude should be driven in partnership with the private sector through various forms of Public-Private partnerships. Senator Saraki will like to avoid a situation whereby his integrity would be put at stake, for example when he attends the next Leadership Council meeting and he is asked to make a presentation on how the N9.3bn was used to create markets for clean cookstoves in Nigeria and he cannot lay his hand on any convincing strategy. He lamented how it has been very difficult for his committee in the past to appropriate even 100 million naira for the same initiative due to insufficient Federal Government allocation for the environment sector, for the presidency to now direct N9.3bn to be spent as sole source is questionable. The Global Alliance for Clean cookstoves is 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.
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. Senator Saraki noted that the distribution of stoves are important in stimulating the demand for the product, but the amount of intervention that was announced by OSGF who knows only little of the issue instead of the FME who has been championing the issue, came without adequate research, when there are still awareness gaps, and more immediate life threatening ecological issues currently confronting the nation.
Senator Saraki was hoping to convey a meeting with the Senate Committee on environment and stakeholders before the adjournment till December 16, but in the interim noted some misplacement of priorities in the project components where the most important issue of setting up the structures that will create a sustainable market for clean cookstoves was not addressed. Additionally, 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 Bukola Saraki led Committee on Environment & Ecology agrees that in order for Nigeria to achieve her 20 million clean cookstoves target by 2020, some government intervention is 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.
Senator Saraki therefore calls for a review of the whole process involving all critical stakeholders that would be more transparent and that can make it more accountable to Nigerians. 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. A N9.3bn PPP arrangement with the private sector with the potential of addressing all the subsectors of the clean cookstoves initiative would build investor confidence and guarantee investments in the establishment of Clean Cookstove manufacturing plants in Nigeria. He further calls upon 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.