By Etta Michael Bisong
In a bid to stop Nigeria’s ministry of Environment from terminating the contractual agreement between them, Messrs Integra Renewable Energy Services Ltd, the contractor handling the NGN9.2 billion ( about $46 million) Clean Cooking stoves scheme has dragged the ministry to court . This was contained in a letter made available by the ministry earlier today. The letter, signed by Ms S Aburime, Legal Adviser to the Permanent Secretary, justified the ministry’s continued refusal to provide information on the contract agreement on the basis that the case is already in court and that “further public comments on the issue may be subject to “sub-judice.” The clarification according to her has become necessary in order to “reduce the pressure from rampaging journalists as well as keep the rules.”
The ministry therefore enjoined those requesting information on the clean cookstoves scheme to follow court proceedings as hearing on the matter progresses. On the other hand, Chief Executive Officer of Messrs Integra Renewable Energy Services Limited, Mr Boma Young Harry rebuffed efforts made by Climate Reporters to get the firm’s position on the recently instituted legal proceedings. Cookstoves, clean controversies The Federal Executive Council (FEC) on 26th November, 2014 approved the above sum (NGN9.2billion) to procure and distribute 750, 000 clean cooking stoves and 18, 000 wonder bags for free to women particularly those living in rural communities across Nigeria.
Initiated under the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan as presidential intervention, the project is aimed at reducing the incessant felling of trees as well as tackle the health hazards associated with traditional cooking method. The procurement and distribution of the products based on the contract agreement stipulated that the exercise would be completed within 12 weeks effectively from 4th March, 2015. A view of some of the Clean Coookstoves in cartons
However, the exercise has witnessed several controversies mostly the manner with which the contract was awarded as well as the procurement and distribution model of the products. In response to the uncertainty bedeviling the scheme, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Mrs. Nana Fatima Mede, in a recent communication made available to journalists revealed that the contractor handling the project had failed to adhere to the laid down agreement. Advertisement
The permanent secretary warned that failure to comply with the contract procedure leaves the government with no option than to terminate it. “N1.3 billion has been released to the contractor out of the N5 billion given to the ministry by the federal government, with about N3.7billion still with us,” she said. Mede, an accountant explained that the current crisis surrounding the contract is that having supply 15 per cent of the cooking stoves and received the same percentage of the contract sum, there were no subsequent supply and certificate issued after the completion of 15 per cent of the contract.
“What the contractor supplied to us is not complete, he has not supplied up to 15 per cent,” she lamented. Civil society reaction Chief Executive Officer of Connected Development, Hamzat Lawal, describe the disagreement between the ministry and contractor as a welcome development that would make the contract document and beneficiaries information public.
Lawal hinted that some of the disagreement between the ministry and contractor revolves around the project implementation as stipulated on the contract which seems to be handled secretively. The enthusiastic rights campaigner whose organisation tracks the utilisation and ensure transparency in government funds expressed hope that the court would compel the ministry of Environment to make public the contract documents, work plan for distributions and monitoring framework. He said: “It is important to note that as this case drags on; our mothers in rural communities cooking with open fire are at risk of loosing their lives. Commenting also on the matter, Oludotun Babayemi, an independent monitoring and evaluation observer regretted the current dimension clouding the exercise.
“It’s appalling that the Federal Ministry of Environment has decided to channel its energy in court cases, when it could have responded officially by writing to the information requested by stakeholders on the ministries work plan for the project,” Babayemi said.