The Senate Committee on Environment, yesterday, said it had discovered some N16 billion included in the 2022 budget of the Ministry of Environment for servicing of debts believed to have been collected by state governments.

The Chairman of the panel, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, made the revelation during the presentation of his committee’s report before the Senate Committee on Appropriation in Abuja.

He claimed that about N6 billion was also added to the ministry’s 2021 budget, for which it was queried by the committee, stating, “only for it to be brought back in next year’s budget, this time to the tune of N16 billion.”

Ekweremadu explained that the loan was exclusively approved by a global institution for the state governments with a moratorium of 10 years.

He wondered why the ministry kept reflecting the facility in every budget cycle.

The chairman urged the appropriation committee to write to the Ministry of Finance to retrieve the N16 billion.

Fielding questions from journalists, Ekweremadu, who refused to mention the states that collected the loan, said he foresaw a “grand plot to defraud the Federal Government.”

The former Deputy Senate President expressed confidence that the appropriation committee would get to the root of the matter and handle the case in the best interest of Nigerians.

On efforts to check desertification, he said about 692 million trees are to be planted in 11 northern states to address the situation.

Ekweremadu clarified that the tree planting would be funded by the Great Green Wall initiative, adding that the exercise has no timeframe.

Responding, the Chairman of the appropriation committee, Senator Jibrin Barau, lauded Ekweremadu and his team for a good job.

His Committee on Army counterpart, Senator Ali Ndume, also presented his report, calling for the prompt release of funds to the military for purchase of weapons to win the war against insurgency and banditry.

He pleaded for increased allocation to the Nigerian Army. Ndume observed that wars are not fought with bare hands, urging the government to change its funding model for the Army.

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