The Environment And The Budget By Eze Onyekpere

The environment provides the setting and milieu for all human and developmental actions. It has a cross-cutting impact on virtually all other sectors and departments of economic and social life. Conversely, what happens in other sectors to a great extent determines the quality of the environment in terms of its ability to support life. The ability of a society to feed itself, provide employment, reduce health challenges and grow the economy is to a great extent linked to the quality of its environment. The government has the fundamental responsibility of protecting the environment and Section 20 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 states that, “The State shall protect and improve the environment and safeguard the water, air and land, forest and wildlife of Nigeria”.

However, recent Nigerian environmental statistics are frightening. They indicate that only 7.7 per cent of the entire Nigerian land area are under forest cover as we record the highest deforestation rate in the world. We lost half of our forest cover between the year 2000 and now. This cannot be compared with other West African countries which have forest covers of their land area as follows: Benin 44.9 per cent; Ghana 39.2 per cent; Gabon 85.4 per cent; Burkina Faso 22.8 per cent; Guinea Bissau 75.4 per cent among others. Desertification is affecting more than half of Nigeria’s land mass: 15 states in Northern Nigeria are faced with desertification, out of which seven are very severe whilst eight have moderate desertification challenges. Out of the 909,890 km of the country’s land area, about 580,841 km accounting for 63.83 per cent of total land are impinged on by desertification. Imagine the implication of the highest deforestation rate in the world combined with a desertification ravage on agricultural productivity, rural livelihoods and economic growth. The image that is unfolding is one of a real, not imaginary, fire on the mountain.

Nigeria is the one of most threatened countries in terms of loss of biodiversity in Africa. In a study done on selected African countries, Nigeria fared badly. The countries are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Gambia. Among these selected African countries, Nigeria and Cote D’Ivoire have the highest number (29) of threatened mammal species. Nigeria has the highest number of threatened bird species and for fish species, we jointly have the highest number with Gabon. For plants, we are unrivalled at 198 threatened species. Again, the shrinking of the Lake Chad and its attendant livelihood and security challenges shows the implication of not devoting enough attention to the environment and climate change.

In 1994, Nigeria became a party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and ratified the Kyoto Protocol in 2004, submitting National Communications in 2003 and 2014. The country has a National Policy on Environment dated 1999. The Federal Executive Council, in 2012, adopted the Nigerian Climate Change Policy Response Strategy. Nigeria submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution to the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in preparation for the 2015 Paris Conference on Climate Change.

The recurring decimals in all these policies and frameworks include: Implement mitigation measures that will promote low carbon as well as sustainable and high economic growth; promote an understanding of the essential linkages between the environment, social and developmental issues; strengthen national institutions and mechanisms (policy, legislative and economic) to establish a suitable and functional framework for climate change governance. Others are to encourage individual and community environmental participation initiatives; enhance national capacity to adapt to climate change; significantly increase public awareness and involve private sector participation in addressing the challenges of climate change; use of natural resources and the restoration and maintenance of biological diversity; and securing a quality environment adequate for good health and well-being.

The strategic objective of the National Policy on the Environment is to coordinate environmental protection and natural resources conservation for sustainable development. The policy is committed to ensuring that the country’s natural and built environment is safeguarded for the use of present and future generations. This commitment demands that efficient resource management and the minimisation of environmental impacts must be the core requirements of all developmental activities. Accordingly, the policy seeks to promote good environmental practice through environmental awareness and education. The guiding principles of the policy are the public trust doctrine, environmental offsetting, polluter pays principle, user pays principle, precautionary principles and pollution prevention pays. Others are the principles of inter and intra generational equity and the principle of participation.

However, these lofty dreams and visions of environmental law and policy cannot be implemented in a vacuum. Public resources will be appropriated to achieve them. Enter the budget of the federal, state and local governments. The budget needs to provide a robust macroeconomic background to channel resources and supportive policy to realise the environmental ambitions. A review of the key highlights of the 2016 budget of the Federal Ministry of Environment will be needed to determine whether the country is headed in the right direction and necessary adjustments and course corrections (if any) that we need to undertake.

Strikingly, the 2016 federal budget allocated a paltry N19.473bn, being 0.32 per cent of the overall budget to the environment with 74.54 per cent of this going to recurrent expenditure whilst 25.46 per cent was voted to the capital vote. Under the recurrent vote, personnel took the bulk of 89.91 per cent. The capital allocation to the sector represents 0.31 per cent of the overall capital vote whilst the sectoral recurrent vote is 0.55 per cent of the overall recurrent expenditure. Between 2014 and 2015, the average capital expenditure was 58.18 per cent of the approved environmental capital vote. For 2016, 66.12 per cent of the capital vote is domiciled at the head office. There are many mini erosion control projects in the budget; funds were provided for special remediation for lead contamination whilst the budget witnessed a couple of frivolous allocations. Service Wide Votes to the Sustainable Development Goals which include environmental concerns were left un-disaggregated.

It is worth noting that the environment has no international benchmark, such as the ones used in analysing the agriculture, education and health budgets. There is no fixed percentage recommended by any standard. However, this does not imply a state liberty to perpetually underfund the FMOE’s operations. The appropriations must be reconciled with the challenges facing the sector to determine its adequacy. The allocations to the FMOE have been decreasing between 2013 and 2016 and in no year did it reach one per cent of the entire appropriation. It shows an average allocation of 0.44 per cent of the overall vote over the four years. In absolute terms, the figures for 2013 and 2014 (N27.253bn and N23,113bn) are higher than the 2016 vote even though the 2016 federal budget is higher than the budgets of the aforesaid two years. The overall budget for 2016 is higher by 21.52 per cent when compared to the 2013 figures. Rather than a reduction, the expectation would have been for increased allocation to the sector, as the budget increases. Considering the relationship of environmental protection to food security, livelihoods and security, this vote over the years seems inadequate to tackle the challenges of the sector.

But this pattern of appropriation has implications which will be discussed in the concluding part of this review.

Follow me on twitter @censoj