2017: National Assembly and the Pending Priority Issues

By Abubakar Jimoh

As the National Assembly resumes legislative activities for the New Year, it becomes paramount to draw attention of the legislators to pending and important issues that will shape the nation’s socio-economic development such as Petroleum Industry and Governance Bill, openness and transparency in the 2017 Appropriation Bill, Constitutional and Electoral Reforms, constituency accountability, sustainable security, Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), and Open Government Partnership.

Petroleum Industry Governance and Institutional Framework Bill 2015

The hostile nature of the existing law governing the oil and gas sector in the country led to reforms that culminated in preparation of Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) in 2008. The non-passage of the Bill about a decade after was due to many identified factors.

Meanwhile, the presentation of Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) 2016 on the floor of the Senate on 13th April, 2016 presented new opportunities for the Bill to be passed. It is different from previous versions of the PIB in many ways.

If passed into law, the new Bill will provide appropriate legal and regulatory framework particularly important for optimal performance of the oil and gas sector. It will pave way for efficient and effective governing institutions with clear and separate roles for the petroleum industry; establish a framework for the creation of commercially oriented and profit driven petroleum entities that ensures value addition and internationalization of the petroleum industry; promote transparency and accountability in the administration of the petroleum resources of Nigeria; and foster a conducive business environment for petroleum industry operations.

The Bill will ensure competitive, open, non-discretionary licensing and tender processes; promote independent regulator insulated from political interference; eliminate discretionary powers to the President and Minister of Petroleum; establish Petroleum Host Community Fund to be used for the development of economic and social infrastructure of the communities within the oil producing areas; address the lingering challenge of gas flaring, environmental protection, remediation and restoration.

In December 2016, the Bill was subjected to a Public Hearing in which the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and her partners actively participated. To achieve transparency, accountability and significant growth in the oil and gas sector, the legislators must fast-track passage of the Bill.

2017 Appropriation Bill

Encouraging thorough, open, and constructive process in the passage of the 2017 Appropriation Bill is essential to win citizens’ confidence in the legislators. Legislative openness in the Appropriation process entails transparent, inclusive and participatory process to reflect the needs and aspirations of Nigerians.

Legislative openness strengthens relationship between the people and the legislature and provides a means for the people to participate in the legislative activities. Legislative authority is exercised and upheld by legitimacy. The legitimacy is guaranteed by strong trust reposed on the legislature by the people. Strong trust in this case, cannot be achieved without adequate democratic process to allow for effective participation by citizens at all levels.

Legislative openness is increasingly recognized for its crucial role in making appropriation information more accessible to citizens, strengthening the capacity of citizens to participate in the process, improving legislative accountability, and increasing collaborative dialogue among the legislators on issues affecting Appropriation Bill.

It is evident across the globe that citizens’ participation in budgetary process can help governments to be more accountable and responsive, improve the people’s perception of budgetary performance and democratic dividend.

While endemic socio-economic problems as well as poor budgetary and economic policies implementation result in wasteful spending, misplaced priority and mismanagement of capital projects in various parts of the country, citizens’ participation in the appropriation process allows for effective monitoring of budget implementation, encourages accountability of public funds, and ameliorates mismanagement.

Observing the impacts of citizens’ participation in budgetary process, Participatory Budgeting Project (PBP) in United States, has noted that the process allows the citizens to directly decide how to spend part of a public budget, and enables taxpayers to work with government to make the budget decisions that affect their lives. The process which was first introduced in Brazil in 1989 has been adopted by over 1,500 cities across world. This has helped Brazil in decentralization and participatory budgeting, leading to appreciable shift in more resources to the grassroots, and increased local revenue.

In a study titled ‘Our money, Our responsibility: A Citizens’ Guide to Monitoring Government Expenditures’, Vivek Ramkumar observes that if a government makes an honest effort to implement the budget as it is appropriated, important questions often remain about the specifics of spending. In this case, by engaging with the budget throughout its appropriation and implementation, civil society can identify lapses and make appropriate advocacy interventions.

In a trend towards participatory budget process, the legislators must activate the existing commitments for allowing citizens input into the appropriation process so that it can reflects their aspirations. They must ensure the budget process and passage is timely, devoid of scandals and undue distractions. The legislators should ensure that through the appropriation process and related legislation, commitment to addressing the recession is clearly demonstrated.

More importantly, to ensure openness, citizens’ participation must be encouraged through physical access to the legislature. All citizens irrespective of their social, economic, political and ethno-religion backgrounds should be allowed access to the legislature.

Constitutional and Electoral Reforms

Electoral process in Nigeria is knowingly characterized by violence of various kinds, which manifest in killings, maiming of lives, and destruction property worth millions of naira. It is on this note that both local and international empirical investigations contend that electoral violence presents greatest obstacle to democratic consolidation in Nigeria. The recurrence nature of electoral violence since 1999 has assumed greater magnitude leading to instability in democratic consolidation as well as the loss and displacement of many innocent lives

Several underlining factors such as money politics, ethno-religion sentiments, unguided utterances and hate speeches, rigged elections, irregularities, malpractice, fraud monitoring in electoral processes, extrajudicial killings, among others have been identified to metamorphose into electoral violence.

The reported death before, during and after the elections is worrisome. For instance, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) estimated no fewer than 58 people killed in election-related violence in 22 states from Dec. 3, 2014 to February 13, 2015. Also, Rivers Commission of Inquiry revealed that out of the 97 allegations of killings it received, 94 of them occurred between November 15, 2014, and April 11, 2015. A total of 275 different violations involving killings, injuries to persons or destruction were reported to the Inquiry.

Similarly another report by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) records revealed no fewer than 66 reports of violent incidents targeted at polling, the Commission’s officials, voters and election materials in the 2015 general elections. These were in Rivers State (16), Ondo (8), Cross River and Ebonyi (6 each), Akwa Ibom (5), Bayelsa (4), Lagos and Kaduna (3 each), Jigawa, Enugu, Ekiti and Osun (2 each), Katsina, Plateau, Kogi, Abia, Imo, Kano and Ogun (1 each).

While studies have traced electoral violence to the rascal politics engaged by the political elites, the violence emanates from both intra-party and inter-party settings. Apart from the fact that electoral violence affects the credibility of the electoral system, other essential elements like the democratic system and the rule of law, the nature, extent and magnitude of violence and rigging associated with elections in Nigeria had assumed alarming proportions calling for immediate holistic legal intervention and political will to  stem the tide.

Money politics is another lingering challenge threatening peaceful electoral process and democratic culture in Nigeria. Political financing has become a profitable investment in the country. Despite the limits to campaign donations as stipulated by the Electoral Act, in 2015 general elections, there was no control of electoral spending, as billions of naira were expended on political campaign adverts, luring traditional leaders and political road shows.

The legislators should identify key laws and priority areas for reforms to empower INEC and relevant electoral bodies to deal with perpetrators of serious offences in the electoral process, and ensure a level playing ground for competitive elections and guarantees for all democratic rights and freedoms as enshrined in the Constitution.

Also, the ongoing review of the 1999 Constitution should be fast-tracked to address emerging issues affecting Exclusive and Concurrent Legislative Lists for timely growth and development of the country. This will ensure issues related to Immunity Clauses, Devolution of Powers, Local Government Autonomy and financial independence of States Houses of Assembly and Residency Rights and the issues resulting in Statelessness are critically examined and addressed.

It would be recalled that the Assembly, in its legislative agenda, had pledged to deliver on the amendments within the shortest possible time.

Constituency accountability

As democracy’s credibility and sustainability depends, to a large extent, on effective citizens’ participation, and on what it delivers, the quality of democratic politics diminishes if citizens are ignorant about their representatives.

While the concept of legislature legitimacy implies that citizens have some knowledge of their legislative institution and a certain level of support for it, the exercise of democratic control over the legislative system and the policy-making process, in the words of   Baker et. al, cannot occur unless the public has an elementary understanding of the national legislative institution and its membership.

Meanwhile, the workability of democracy, in the analysis of National Democratic Institute (NDI), requires informed and active citizens who understand how to voice their interests, act collectively and hold public officials accountable. Citizens have the responsibility to understand the basis of citizenship, politics and government as well as knowledge to make good policy choices and proper use of authority. It is on this process that citizens can exercise their rights without unreasonable resistance or harassment from authorities or others.

The channel through which citizens access their legislature has been through their elected representatives. In Nigeria, where the electorate is geographically divided into constituencies with members representing a specific locality, such access is expected to be typically facilitated by face-to-face contact or through constituency office.

To strengthen its relation with the constituency, while legislature must be available and accessible to the public, a legislator must report back to the constituents on what is happening in Assembly.  A good legislator must create a functional Constituency Office and maintain constant visit to his or her constituency to establish workable relationship with the constituents for constant consultation and as a feedback mechanism for proper representation. Through Constituency Office, members of the public can approach elected legislators and make constructive input in legislative process as it affect them. The services available at the constituency office must be available equally to all members of the public.

In the words of Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), a Constituency Office provides a key point of contact for electors with their representative and local staff. In view of its importance, legislators initiate wide-ranging programmes to ensure effective operationalization of their Constituency Offices, where members are available to see their constituents.

Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) finds it paramount that members should experience their constituents’ concerns and problems at first hand, and not just rely on second-hand reports when assessing the impact of legislation.

One-to-one and one-to-many communications between individual legislators and their constituents remain important elements of direct communication between a legislature and the public. Communications between legislators and citizens in the constituencies help lawmakers make appropriate decisions about legislation and public policy issues, and provide enabling platform for the expression of public views and opinions.

The legislators as representatives of the people must strengthen their working relationship with their respective constituencies for constructive information and contributions to inform qualitative and citizens-led legislative process.

Security sector

In recent times, the spate of insecurity in Nigeria arising from bomb blasts, assassinations, kidnappings, communal clashes has become order of the day. It is worrisome that communities are persistently invaded and innocent lives are lost to dreadful attacks launched by individuals or group.

It is no more news in the country that some political and socio-economic saboteurs and other enemies of social integration in most occasions take advantage of the existing instability to fuel precarious attacks on innocent citizens, primarily for their selfish and unpatriotic interest.

The increasing rate of insecurity in some parts of Nigeria is a clear indication that security of lives and property is by far eluding the citizens on a daily bases. It is glaring that the rate of insecurity is rooted from diverse and complex phenomena ranging from socio-economic, political and ethno-cultural disagreements to criminal activities across the country. The situation has exposed the executive, legislative, judiciary, government officials, traditional rulers, their subjects, and family members to all manners of threats.

Encouraging social cohesion among various groups in the country with key interests in national socio-political development is paramount to combat insecurity. Each constituent part of the country should be involved in the national socio-political and economic decisions. This will not only help to install the years of lost confidence in leaderships, but also to achieve national socio-political stability.

Workable efforts must be made to stop violence and proliferation of small arms and ammunitions across the country. This has long contributed to the intensifying rate of insecurity.

Due care and calculated thoughts must be exercised in government’s response to armed violence; since various attempts to tackle conflicts in forceful manner have provoked an escalation of violence generating hefty support for armed groups and strengthening the positions of militants in Nigeria.

The National Assembly should intensify its oversight on security sector to complement and sustain the nation’s recent achievements at combating insecurity and prioritise security as a crucial issue to attain desired political and socio-economic growth and development at all levels.

Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)

The recurring nature of numerous internal conflicts and natural disasters in Nigeria have rendered thousands homeless without means of livelihood to suffer a lot of depravity and other forms of hardship including loss of income from inability to work in places where they are relocated as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) across the country.

The vulnerable groups such as children, pregnant women and the aged are persistently kept under trees and in uncompleted houses and left uncared for; as against the African Union Internally Displaced Persons Convention, which sets out the obligation of member states (including Nigeria) to protect and assist IDPs in meeting their basic needs.

Lack of legislation to address the plights of over 2million IDPs in the North East and other parts of the country is appalling.

A National Summit organized organized by CISLAC in collaboration with National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and IDPs in 2015 to commemorate the World Humanitarian Day on Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) freshened critically reflection on the need for adoption and implementation of African Union Convention on Internally Displaced Persons.

The Summit observed and lamented absence of frameworks to provide holistic approach in supporting IDPs’ search for durable solutions, and in preparing for and preventing future displacement. It reiterated the importance of national responsibility to ensuring an effective approach to internal displacement, calling for prompt domestication and implementation of Kampala Convention on IDPs in Nigeria.

In April 2015, a joint assessment by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) identified no fewer than 1,538,982 registered IDPs in the states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba, Yobe, Plateau, Nasarawa, Abuja (Federal Capital Territory), Kano and Kaduna.

It would be recalled that on 6 December 2012, the African Union (AU) celebrated the entry into force of the AU Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa, also known as the Kampala Convention. The Convention was endorsed in 2009 at an AU Special Summit in Kampala, Uganda and signed by 31 of the 53 member states of the African Union including Nigeria.

The Convention aims to mitigate the causes of displacement, including through establishing early warning systems and taking measures to reduce disaster risks. It also sets out the obligation of states to protect and assist internally displaced persons “by meeting their basic needs as well as allowing and facilitating rapid and unimpeded access by humanitarian organizations and personnel” and to ensure durable solutions.

It establishes that member states that are not in a position to meet the humanitarian needs of IDPs are expected to seek out and facilitate international assistance. The Convention also provides that humanitarian organizations must abide by humanitarian principles, international standards and codes of conduct.

In addition to access to humanitarian assistance, the Convention sets out a comprehensive set of protection issues, such as non-discrimination, freedom of movement and sexual and gender based violence, and obliges States Parties to take measures ensuring the protection of IDPs in these respects.

It has become imperative for the National Assembly to expedite action in the domestication of the Kampala Convention and reviewing the Act setting up the National Commission for Refugees.

Open Government Partnership

The National Assembly should ensure legislation that will facilitate the country’s ability to keep to her commitments to the international community are revisited and addressed. The National Action Plan for the implementation of the Open Government Partnership that seeks to pursue open governance and the Roadmap to implement Beneficial Ownership under the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative are clear examples of this.


Corruption: Experts demand adequate response to cases

By Abubakar Jimoh

A group of national and international anti-corruption actors has called for ample policy response to reported corruption giving zero chance to nepotism to revert current unfavourable corruption indices and successfully combat the menace in Nigeria.

The group made this call at a One-day High Level Workshop to Share International Anti-Corruption Best Practices to Address Emerging Issues themed “Preventing the Facilitation of Corruption in Public and Private Sector: Leveraging on International Frameworks to Promote Sustainable Development” organized by Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) with support from MacArthur Foundation and Ford Foundation in Abuja.

Speaking at the High Level meeting, human right activist and former Minister for Education, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili urged immediate dismissal of excessive centralized power operating in opaque context, especially in the oil and gas sector to successfully wage war against corruption in the country.

She bemoaned the refusal of the President Muhammadu Buhari to appoint a Petroleum Minister to effectively coordinate activities and pilot affairs of the nation’s oil and gas sector, giving chances to infiltration of politically exposed persons into oil and gas contracting.

“Where the tendency to be corrupt is high, there will be more corruption. Effort to reduce corruption must critically consider prompt reduction of power that exercise in opaque context especially in the oil and gas sector. Government must embrace total transparency and accountability, and open-up the economy to the world.

“Government must embrace full accountability in the nation’s extractive sector. If these are taken into account, the existing challenges of identifying beneficial owners in public contracting will be automatically addressed.

“While Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is an enabling law to ensure openness and transparency of public information disclosure, the political class however, does not want the Act in practice,” Dr. Ezekwesili bemoaned.

The human right crusader encouraged anti-graft institutions to embrace high level professionalism, openness and transparency in their activities in order to earn credibility and support of the citizens, who will take ownership and de-normalise behavour in demanding social justice and accountability in governance.

Giving his welcome remarks at the Workshop, the Executive Director of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani) said despite emphasis placed by successive administration in combating corruption in the public sector which accounted for an estimated 70% of corruption cases in Nigeria, the spite of corrupt practices in the public sector remained a major impediment to service delivery and development success of the administrations.

He said: “The effects of corruption in service delivery in Nigeria are outrageous. The effects range from under development, absence of basic infrastructure facilities such as potable water, good road networks, dilapidated health care facilities and degrading services, massive poverty, cluelessness in professionalism, deficient leadership outputs, high unemployment and youth hopelessness, falling standard of education leading to production of low-quality graduates.

“Let me also use this medium to emphasis that since the issue of corruption remains persistent in Nigeria, putting in place adequate and effective anti-corruption response mechanisms with a view towards tackling the menace remains looming.

“We must therefore share international anti-corruption best practices to address emerging issues towards building integrity and emerging best practices on curbing corruption by leveraging on international frameworks to promote sustainable development in Nigeria.”

The Executive Director continued: “In February 2018, Transparency International released the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) and Nigeria slipped further down in the global rankings, an indication that appreciable and lasting progress has not been made in the fight against corruption.

“Nigeria ranks 148 out of 180 countries, with a 27% score out of 100%. In 2016, Nigeria ranked 136, slipping further down by 12 points. Corruption persists in the country at all levels costing taxpayers 25% of annual GDP. Despite accelerated convictions between 2016 and 2017, none has made sufficient impact on asset recovery or positively defined public opinions.

“There can be no gainsaying that corruption threatens virtually everything we hold dear and precious in our hard-won constitutional order. It fuels maladministration and deceitfulness, and blatantly undermines the democratic ethos, the institutions of democracy, the rule of law and the foundational values of our emerging democratic project.”

The Chair of Transparency International, Delia Matilde Ferreira Rubio added that collective and sincere effort must be invested by relevant authorities and the citizens to successfully combat corruption.

She called for strong institutions and de-normalised citizens’ perception through the passage of internationally ratified conventions to change process and institutions.
According to her, without strong institution, individual re-orientation and enabling laws against corruption, Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) cannot be achieved.

“Corruption can happen in any country. It has nothing to do with race. It has to do with reaction of the government or society towards corruption cases. It is the reaction that makes the difference in each society.

“Corruption has been normalized as usual way of behavior. This is what we must fight. We must fight for education, strong institutions and full implementation of enabling laws.

“We must fight for independence agencies with adequate resources and legal authorities to deal successfully with corruption. The fight against corruption must be sustainable to combat forces that undermine anti-corruption efforts,” the Chair warned.

The Chairman of CISLAC’s Board of Trustees, Mallam Y.Z Ya’u said corruption crippled most government’s initiatives in Nigeria, warning that the manners in which corruption is encouraged and celebrated, especially in the public sector reveal the extent to which systemic corruption has become the order of the day.

He said: “Whistleblowers are fast becoming victims of circumstance in any attempt to uncover corruption.

“Continuous diversion of resources reduces the level of resources and investments available for social sector.

“Corruption is Nigeria’s worst problem. It is responsible for all kinds of woes, such as election rigging, failed promises, abandoned projects, poor quality of implemented projects, dilapidated infrastructure facilities, and nepotism.”

Acknowledging the ongoing efforts at arresting and prosecuting offenders in the country, the African Director of MacArthur Foundation, Dr. Kole Shettima stressed the importance of instituting appropriate preventive mechanisms and ensuring governance presence at all levels.

“There is need to ensure presence of governance in ungoverned areas in the country. More priority should be accorded basic and qualitative lives of the people. Good governance is a credible investment to combat corruption in the country.

“Effort should be made in raising the public conscious especially ordinary citizens against corruption. Those who are not corrupt should be appreciated, reinforced and celebrated,” he explained.

‘Nigeria lacks legal framework to prosecute non-disclosure of beneficial ownership’ —Rafsanjani

By Abubakar Jimoh

The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) has hitherto been involved in series of interventions on Beneficial Ownership disclosure with specific focus on the extractive sector as a means to promoting Transparency and Accountability, curbing Illicit Financial Flows and promotion of tax transparency. At a Global Forum for Asset Recovery (GFAR) held recently in Washington, USA, the Executive Director of CISLAC made some disclosures on Nigeria’s progress in Beneficial Ownership transparency.

 There are indications that beneficial owners hide behind legal person members of a company in the award of contracts without being identified in Nigeria.

This disclosure was made by the Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani) at Global Forum for Asset Recovery (GFAR) held in Washington, USA.

The Executive Director, who was also a Nigerian delegate at the Forum, bemoaned absence of legal requirement for Nigerian companies to maintain a register of Beneficial Ownership.

He said: “In Nigeria, beneficial owners can hide behind legal person members of a company without being identified. No legal requirements for Nigerian companies to maintain a register of Beneficial Ownership.

“We don’t have established Central Register of Beneficial Ownership information and no clear rules on access for all law enforcement and tax agencies to Beneficiary Ownership information are available.

“We don’t have legal framework for prosecution of non-disclosure of beneficial owner is available.

Citing the Nigeria’s oil and gas sector as a case, the CISLAC’s boss explained that Nigeria as the world’s fifth largest producer of oil lost an estimated 9 billion USD since 2013 through shady practices in the oil and gas industry.

“Many of the names contained in the register of companies operating in Nigeria’s oil and gas industry are not the real owners.

“Although it is a legal requirement to submit the names and details of directors/ shareholders of a company before it can be registered, this is regarded as a mere formality;

“Lack of transparency allows influential officials to use their positions to extract maximum rent from a country’s mineral resources with minimum or no benefit to the citizens. A case in point is OPL 245 and Malabu Oil,” he added.

The Executive Director berated the continued loss of the nation’s revenue to malicious tax incentives offered by the government to multinational corporations, giving chances to illicit financial flows.

 “Nigeria may have lost as much as around 50 billion USD annually to illicit financial flows through money laundering, tax evasion and corruption.

“Oil and gas, and others companies with unclear owners enjoy tax holidays, credits and tax breaks on the expense of potential state revenues,” he added.

Malnutrition: Jigawa vows to establish more CMAM activities

By Abubakar Jimoh

There are indications that apart from working to ensure timely release of N150million (out of N300million budgeted) being nutrition counterpart balance to UNICEF for the procurement of Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF), Jigawa State Government has been working to cascade CMAM program across the local governments yet to be covered in the state.

The State’s Commissioner for Health, Dr. Abba Z. Umar made this known during an advocacy visit to the Ministry by Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) in Jigawa state.

He urged UNICEF to fast-track the procurement and delivery of RUTF to relevant facilities as 150million had hitherto been released by the State Government.

“The counterpart balance of N150miilion for the procurement of RUTF is being processed as we speak; and will be release once the approval is secured to that effect.

“We are committed to eradicate malnutrition in the state. The state is more willing to scale up the CMAM to cover the remaining local government in the state,” the Commissioner promised.

Speaking during the visit, the Project Coordinator, Chioma Kanu represented by Asst. Program Officer, CISLAC, Murtala Muhammad explained that while Nigeria currently records 2.1 million malnourished children with nearly 1000 Nigerian children dying from malnutrition-related causes every day, Jigawa state currently records over 67,716 malnourished children.

He revealed that UNICEF has set aside $2,915,718 for the treatment of severely malnourished children in Jigawa state while the state government is expected to contribute $567,317 under the existing counterpart agreement.

Muhammad said: “Immediate release of Funds by the Government for nutrition is required to save lives. The CMAM programme still needs to be scaled up. With more resources, government can save more lives, and UNICEF will also contribute more.

“Government needs to also create and dedicate budget line for nutrition as the 2018 budget process kick starts.

“The state needs to also adopt multi-sectoral costed nutrition strategic plan to address the long term nutrition problem in the state. Government needs to ensure nutrition is fully integrated into the Primary Health Care per ward initiative.

“We urge sustained effort to promote Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) and Exclusive Breastfeeding practices in the state. We request that you influence increase funding for nutrition in the state.”

Stringent tax regime and the unwanted fatalities from tobacco use

By Abubakar Jimoh

The dreaded but preventable impacts of tobacco use like diseases and premature deaths in Nigeria with various studies showing potential opportunities for the country, if redirected focus on preventive rather than curative measures to mitigate effects of tobacco led to the intensive advocacy by Civil Society group for comprehensive National Tobacco Control Act to domesticates the World Health Organization’s Framework on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC).

Reports by WHO have shown that tobacco use costs national economies immensely through increased health-care cost and decrease productivity. It worsens health inequalities and increase poverty as the poorest people spend less on essentials such as food, education and health care.

While stringent measures like increasing taxes and levies on tobacco products have proven to reduce consumption and generates revenue which can be used to finance universal health coverage and other developmental health programme.

In order to mitigate illicit importation, distribution and sales of tobacco product through tax avoidance, WHO Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products was introduced to prevent tobacco illegal trade and secure supply chain of tobacco products through a series of government measures.

Effort to devise implementation strategy and adopt holistic fiscal measures to discourage consumption of tobacco and its associated risks in accordance with provisions of the National Tobacco Control Act, 2015 brought to limelight a two-day workshop of Technical Working Group on Tobacco Taxation in Nigeria.

The workshop organised by the Federal Ministry of Health in collaboration with Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) with support from African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) in Keffi, Nassarawa state specifically aimed at enlightening relevant health institutions on financial benefits of increased tobacco tax, advocate for and recommend new tobacco tax regime to Government, canvass for the removal of tobacco industries from enjoying any government incentive, while highlighting the roles of Ministries, Departments and Agencies as critical stakeholders in the successful implementation of the National Tobacco Control Act.

Giving the importance of policy advocacy to achieving effective implementation of the Act, Okeke Anya, Program Manager (ECOWAS & AU), CISLAC, disclosed that policy advocacy would help in building knowledge on the devastating consequences of Tobacco on Health, taxation in general, and create a multi-sectoral partnership for effective implementation of laws, policies and guidelines.

He listed as part of advocacy achievements on Tobacco Control in Nigeria: the implementation of Signing and Ratification of World Health Organisation- Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC), passage and assent of the National Tobacco Control Act, appropriate support rendered in the draft of Tobacco Control Regulations, initiation of legislative framework that expunged weak provisions of the Act, and improved media coverage of tobacco control issues.

Recounting the socio-economic losses to tobacco use in the country, Dr. Chukwuka Onyekwena representing the Centre for Study of Economies of Africa (CSEA), stated that economic losses in the form of medical treatments and loss of productivity from tobacco-related disease amounted to US$ 591 million in 2015 with no fewer than 17,500 deaths annually.

Dr. Onyekwena tried to establish relationship between poverty and tobacco use, sting that tobacco use and poverty are intertwined as observed in recent development.

“An average smoker spends 7.8% of national median income to purchase 10 sticks of the cheapest cigarettes each day, making less money available for other basic items,” he lamented.

Examining the current status of tobacco taxes in Nigeria, Dr. Onyekwena said about 80% of legally consumed tobacco products were domestically produced with British America Tobacco Nigerian (BATN) taking largest market share of 75%, followed by Leave Tobacco and Commodities Nigeria Ltd and International Tobacco Company (ITC).

He observed weak tax structure for tobacco use with low tax rate of 25% as against as against the 75% of retail price recommended by WHO as baseline, adding that Nigeria recorded one of the lowest Value Added Tax rates in the world.

“Nigeria runs an ad valorem tax structure, while WHO recommends specific tax structure. Ad valorem tax structure is susceptible to undervaluation; encourages price reductions; disincentivizes costly ‘quality’ improvements; and encourages ‘trading down’ in favour of cheaper tobacco products.

“It does not incorporate a minimum retail sales price and tax administrative system remains weak,” Dr. Onyekwena.

He posited that such comprehensive strategy as stronger tax administration, improved boarder control, appropriate monitoring and tracking systems, and significant increase in excise tax in line with WHO benchmark could yield optimal outcomes for public health and government revenue.

Giving the level of implementation of the National Tobacco Control Act, 2015, Dr. M.T. Malau, Branch Head, Tobacco Control Unit, Federal Ministry of Health bemoaned among other things delayed in the development of Strategic Plan of Action for implementation, Tobacco Control Fund, and absence of Tobacco Control Coordinating Mechanism at States and Local Government Areas, as required under the Act.

He advised that implementation of the National Tobacco Control Act 2015 would protect present and future generations of Nigerians and residents of Nigeria from the devastating health, social, economic, and environmental consequences of the use of tobacco products and exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke.

Dr. Malau itemised as part of the underlined strategies to achieve effective implantation: development National Tobacco Control Strategic Plan of Action, implementation of tobacco taxation, ratification of protocol on illicit trade, commencement of process to adopt tracking and tracing system to reduce illicit trade on tobacco products, establishment and operationalization of the Tobacco Control Fund.

Other strategies include issuance of license to tobacco industry, development of guidelines on tobacco cessation and integration of tobacco dependence and cessation services into existing health facilities, and intensified awareness campaign against tobacco use.

Stakeholders at the summit called for policy consciousness on the illicit importation of tobacco, a growing misconduct prohibited by law, found in the production, shipment, receipt, possession, distribution, sale or purchase of tobacco products.

They warned the government against the continued trading of tobacco products across and within borders without payment of local excise taxes through such illicit practices as illegal manufacturing, distribution and sales that could further exacerbate the precarious socio-economic impacts of tobacco use in the country.

“A way to penetrate new markets is achieved by selling cigarettes without paying all applicable taxes. Illicit trade is a threat to public health and the achievement of Sustinable Development Goals (SDGs). It can be addressed even in the presence of higher or rising tobacco taxes,” they cautioned.

Discussing illicit market penetration for tobacco importation, they observed that Nigeria formed part of large markets for illicit importation of tobacco products in Africa.

They observed other underlying factors for illicit importation of tobacco products like high level of corruption, lack of commitment to addressing illicit trade, ineffective customs and tax administration.

“Tobacco tax avoidance is determined by corruption, weak tax administration, poor enforcement, presence of informal distribution channels, presence of criminal networks, and increasingly access to cheaper sources,” they added.


Who is afraid of civil society?

By Abubakar Jimoh

In recent weeks, Nigerians have witnessed a potential setback to our nation’s democracy through the on-going unguarded activities by some members of the House of Representatives who dedicate precious legislative time and resources in pushing for passage, a Sierra Leone-originated, but widely condemned and rejected legislative framework popularly known as a “Bill to regulate NGOs, CSOs”.

The bill which within few months of its initiation in the House passed for second reading in theory, aims at setting up a commission to regulate their activities and provide a platform for robust relationships between them and the government for the interest of Nigerians.

It expropriates the powers of the corporate affairs commission (CAC), which will no longer be able to issue certificates to Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs). Certificate Issuance will be handled by a 17 man committee selected by the president subject to approval by the Senate president.

Under the proposed provisions of the bill, NGOs will have to re-register after 24 months, they will pay re-registration fees and the committee handpicked by the president and decide whether to re-approve or deny the certificate.

It is worrisome that the clueless imported bill from Sierra Leone shamelessly found its way to our highly respected Lower Legislative Chamber without appropriate scrutiny and in-depth socio-political analysis if Nigeria as a democratic nation needs such totally authoritarian and despotic legislation at this point when the citizens should begin to feel the impact of legislative representation, especially at national level, but are insensitively deprived appropriate representation by the trust ones who endlessly backstab them.

Not only are citizens deprived appropriate representation, taxes derived from their hard-earned incomes translated into legislative time and resources are injudiciously utilised in pursuing personal agenda in guise of a baseless legislation.

More unfortunately, the Bill has since arrival to the House been receiving needless legislative attention, time and resources.

A development of this nature puts to question whether our legislative activities are guided by selfish personal agenda or constituents’ needs and priorities.

With the volume of well-informed civil society, media and citizens in the country, the on-going effort by the legislators to frustrate accountability mechanism would without doubt result in more aggressive demand for accountability and interpretation of quality of representation and performance by civil society groups that may henceforth trigger citizens’ perception and understanding of who deserves their votes.

The cabal pushing for passage of the mischievous bill must be made to realise that true democracy which was drastically pursued by the civil society groups has come to stay and the groups will never relent in their efforts in demanding accountability under the same democracy.

It is no more news that Nigerians have suffered from various anti-citizens bills sponsored by undemocratic cabal in the legislature primarily to sabotage accountability mechanism and continuously ensure citizens are dispossessed their constitutional rights to enjoy democratic dividend.

Such ill-fated bills include the ‘Social Media Bill’ that was subsequently dropped for its irrelevant to the nation’s progress and citizens’ development.

Even when other pro-poor and important legislative pieces like Petroleum Industry and Governance Bill (PIGB), Gender and Equal Opportunity Bill are less prioritised or unattended to. To mention little from several pro-poor bills lying dormant for years in the Assembly.

In recent statement, the sponsor, Deputy Majority Leader of the House, Hon. Buba Jibril was quoted and attributed to Kim Jong-un-like dictatorial statement saying: “Not even United Nations can stop the bill from passage”. Such condemnably hilarious attitude giving no regard to global authority is a true reflection of undemocratic attitude and disrespect for democratic core values hence, undiplomatically misplaced priority in the discharge of legislative mandate.

Not conscious of the fact that the bill constitutes a deliberate violation of the guarantees of freedom of thought, opinion and expression, and freedom of association, as contain in 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) and various international conventions to which Nigeria is a signatory, Jubril made a public threat to infringe on citizens’ rights.

The argument that some NGOs used their funds to fund terrorism is merely nothing but an illusion; as if confirmed to be true, what then is the work of Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU)?

If no personal motive attached to the bill, the House should have summoned courage to publish the names of culprits and discharge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to do its work.

Meanwhile, as citizens suffer from years of socio-economic upheavals and continuous neglect despite huge constituency allowance allocated to each legislator to complement the work of the executives in addressing such, civil society groups, media and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) are famous in alleviating citizens’ suffering and giving voice to the voiceless in the country.

More importantly, the rigorous processes Nigeria’s Civil Society Organisations are subjected during registration and filling of returns is evident and well documented with various authorities like Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) National Planning Commission, Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).

Finally, while the legislators have the mandate towards citizens’ representation, civil society groups have the responsibility not only to foster legislative-constituent relations but also to ensure connectivity between legislative activities and constituents’ representation. Civil society role should rather be respected and appreciated for democratic values to thrive.

Good Governance and Peaceful Co-existence in Nigeria

By Abubakar Jimoh

With Nigeria’s rich ethno-religious and linguistic diversity, good governance remains essential to ensure minority rights, equality and peaceful coexistence for all citizens to survive and thrive.

While governance is referred to as a process by which decisions are made and implemented or not implemented—in case of bad governance, good governance is the main driving force behind a healthy, secured and prosperous nation.

Given this backdrop, governance cannot be described as good without some fundamental features like participatory, consensus building, transparency, accountability, efficiency, effectiveness, equity, inclusiveness, and rule of law.


As credible and sustainable governance depends largely on effective citizens’ participation and on what it delivers, the quality of governance diminishes if citizens are ignorant about plans, programmes and policies of the governments.

Involving citizens in governance process helps ordinary citizens to assess their own needs and participate in and monitor governments’ plans and programmes.

It is evident across the globe that citizens’ participation can help governments to be more accountable and responsive, improve the people’s perception of governmental performance and democratic dividend the citizens receive from the governments.

Effective citizens’ participation is guaranteed when they understand and want to exercise their rights to participate in local political issues as legally protected under Section 14 of the 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, which states: “(1) The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be a State based on the principles of democracy and social justice. (2)(a) sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this Constitution derives all its powers and authority…        (c) the participation by the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.”

The citizens’ civil and political rights include freedom of expression and access to information, which are at the basis of political participation as guaranteed and highlighted under relevant provisions of Freedom of Information Act, 2011, which provides for citizens’ access to public records and information, protect public records and information to the extent consistent with the public interest; and  African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, which mandates all African countries including Nigeria to uphold the supremacy of their constitutions and promote participatory democracy by encouraging culture of popular participation and protect fundamental people’s rights.

Apart from this, through their local institutions, governments can facilitate the citizens’ participation to ensure they feel confident and know where and how to participate.

In this case, strengthening one-to-one and one-to-many constructive communications between individual legislators and their constituents are important elements of participatory governance; as direct communication between them helps legislators to make appropriate decisions about legislation and public policy issues, and provide enabling platform for the expression of public views and opinions. Solidified linkages between the two promote peace and stability in a democratic system. These linkages in the analysis of Nikhil Dutta et al are a two-way phenomenon—top-down and bottom-up communications. That is, legislators represent the people`s interests, while simultaneously providing feedback and information to their constituents on the political processes.

E-governance has been adopted in most parts of the world to transform citizen service, provide access to information to empower citizens, enable their participation in government and enhance citizen’s economic and social opportunities. The features of E-Governance highlighted by Crowley M, a researcher at Center for Public Policy & Administration University of Utah, includes the ability for citizens to leave feedback to various government offices; a subscription based list serve or e-Newsletter that keeps citizens and other agencies informed; Online discussion forums or chat rooms to discuss policy issues; e-Meetings for cross agency/cross governmental participation; Online citizen surveys or polls for specific issues with published results; Online citizen satisfaction surveys with published results; Online decision-making – e-petitions, e-referenda; Online performance measures with published results.

Consequently, E-Governance has become an enabling involving the use of Information Technology in improving transparency, providing information speedily to all citizens, improving administration efficiency and improving public services such as transportation, power, health, water, security and municipal services. Local governments in this case, can take responsibility in developing integrated rural-based, citizencentric, information-driven, user-friendly, easily-accessible, and dynamic e-governance system.

When citizens feel that their views are represented in government and their representatives bear constituents` interests in mind, they are encouraged to participate in governance process. Through this process, citizens’ participation in governance will improve accountability and the ability of local authorities to solve problems, creates more inclusive and cohesive communities, and increases the number and quality of initiatives made by communities.

Efficient and effective service delivery

A peaceful and productive society is achieved through effective and efficient service delivery by the state institutions. Good governance in this case, according to GIZ means “effective and efficient structures which provide optimal support to citizens in leading a safe and productive life in line with their desires and opportunities”.

We cannot say good governance is in place in presence of continued diversion of resources reduces the level of resources and investments available for the public health system. Resources are reportedly drained from health budget through embezzlement, fraud and corruption reduce the funding available for salaries, health services and maintenance, contributing to lower staff motivation, quality of care and declining service availability and use.

As observes by the Executive Director of CISLAC, Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani), corruption impedes effective and efficient public health care service delivery, and this practically symbolises: unethical attitudes of the health workers towards helpless patients, discouraging attendance at public health care facilities; scarcity of drugs even when they are provided by governments but patients are directed to private hospital or stores to purchase such at expensive sums;  poor access to health care facilities, intensifying the already increasing maternal and child mortality rate, especially in the grassroots; poor monitoring and evaluation of the health facilities by relevant authorities, giving chances to degrading treatments and unethical attitudes by some health workers; delayed release of health budget as appropriated, backpedalling timely interventions and provision of adequate, accessible and affordable health care services; poor implementation of health budget even when released.

We cannot think of good governance in the presence of endemic mismanagement of educational funds. This triggered a lamentation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) that corruption has weakened the sector, leading to low efficiency, wastage and misappropriation of resources, low quality service delivery. The Commission classified the ills into different levels of occurrence such as policy, Ministry/state and local government, schools and administrative levels. Corrupt practices in the education sector are extensively endangering the country’s social, economic and political future.

Of course, good governance cannot be arguably in place with the unquantifiable and unforgivable inefficient and poor service delivery by our nation’s security services, with their continued and unchecked sabotage of the nation’s socio-economic development and well-being of the citizens through institutionalised human rights abuses and systemic bribery, which gives chance to hopelessness, insecurity and degrading treatments of the less privileged; sexual assault, extra-judicial killings and shooting of citizens for refusing to bribe; high-level embezzlement and diversion of security personnel entitlements into private pockets, limiting resources, efforts and motivation to effectively secure lives and property of the citizens; and the porous nation’s borders, which paves ways for influx illegal immigrants, illegal importation of weapons of various kinds that further endanger lives of the citizens.

Transparency and Accountability

Having a transparent and accountable system helps the governments in adapting to social and technological changes, stay close and respond to citizens demands. Through transparent system, a legislature provides more information and expands citizen participation in a deliberate and meaningful way that makes it more effective in delivering democratic dividend to the electorate. Every citizen regardless of his or her social, political, economic, education and ethno-religion background should have access to public information, which should be made available by the concerned public institution.

Transparency and accountability are increasingly recognized for their crucial role in making legislative and policy information more accessible to citizens, strengthening the capacity of citizens to participate in legislative and policy processes to advocate for greater access to government, improved accountability, and increased collaborative dialogue on issues bothering public reform.

How can we talk of transparency and accountability in governance when budget processes or information are not public accessible for citizens’ participation scrutiny, contributions, monitoring and evaluation in most states across the country? We cannot talk of transparency and accountability when federal allocation and Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) are diverted and used for unknown purposes. We cannot talk about transparency and accountability in presence secrecies and lop-sidedness in tax collection, administration and utilisation, breeding illegal and multiple taxation.

Lack of accountability could be practically buttressed where maternal delivery services are practically carried out based on unaddressed ‘queue-and-swamp’ system in the health facilities; when unavailable but avertable drugs and other essential commodities, and poor access to health care facilities intensify the increasingly maternal and child mortality rate, especially in the grassroots.

Equity and inclusiveness

Women constitute over 50 percent of the world’s population; perform two-third of the world’s work, yet receive one-tenth of the world’s income; represent a staggering 70 percent of the world’s one billion poorest people.

In the analysis of the Executive Director, Centre LSD, Otive Igbuzor, in developing countries, women own less than two percent of all land. At least 60 million girls are missing due to female infanticide or sex selective abortion and an estimated 5,000 women murdered each year in “honour” killings. He observes unequal distribution of food and health care including 93 million children who are not enrolled in school are girls.

In eight Northern States, over 80% of women are unable to read (compared with 54% for men), as reported by UK Department for International Development (DFID) in 2012; owing to some traceable factors such as lack of funds, existing traditional and religious inclination, non-provision of educational facilities by government, poor funding of the educational sector, weak educational policies, early marriage, early childbirth, poor sanitation and ignorance.

Nigeria has the highest population in African continent with 38 percent of its women lacking formal education as against 25 percent for men and only four percent of women have higher education against the seven percent of their male counterpart.

Consequently, in Nigeria, majority of girls and women face real-time poverty, gross inequality, molestation and injustice, denying them effort to acquire meaningful skills and contribute positively towards the nation’s development.  Series of discrimination and atrocities against women include poor education, poor nutrition, violence and brutalization, vulnerability and low pay employment.

Since democratic rule in 1999, women are under-represented in all key political decision making bodies in Nigeria. During the 2007 elections, women constituted about 11% of all candidates with only one woman contesting for the office of the President; 33.9% for governorship positions; 13.5% for Senate, 15.6% for House of Representatives, and 15.8% for Houses of Assembly. Following the elections, women occupied only about 7.5 percent of key leadership positions in Nigeria.

During the 2007 general elections, the late President Umar Musa Yar’Adua’s administration promised 30 percent of political appointment to women, a year after the elections, only 11 percent was allocated to women.

Official records released by the Independence National Electoral Commission (INEC) shows that a total of 809 women emerged as candidates for the 2011 elections on the platforms of various political parties. This represents a 17% increase over 692 women who emerged as candidates during the 2007 elections. But when the results was released, women’s representation at national level regressed slightly from 7.5% in 2007 to 7.1% in 2011. In the 2015 elections, the number further decreased to 7 in Senate (6.4 percent) and 19 in House of Representatives (5.2 percent).

During President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, women occupied 33 percent of cabinet positions. This was later decreased to 19 percent in President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.

In Nigeria, every 10 minutes one woman dies from conditions associated with childbirth; and only 39% births take place with assistance of medically trained personnel, coupled with the scarcity of skilled attendants, absence of personnel among other factors impede the effectiveness of health services in the country.

Nigeria records one of the lowest rates of female entrepreneurship in sub-Saharan Africa; with majority of women concentrating in casual, low-skilled, low paid informal sector employment.

Women are important in our society; and every woman has a role to play. Without meaning to sound like a broken record, I will like to remind us that women owing to their nurturing nature make good managers.

More importantly, a healthy society doesn’t automatically emerge and stand firm without the balance of that pivotal role played by women. Indeed, from behavioral to health education, it is a woman who teaches how to behave, how to speak and how to deal with different classes of people. Consequently, women remain fundamentals of a good society and essential contributors in the nation’s building.

Similarly, it is often said that the basic unit of society is a family; one cannot overemphasize the importance of women in the family. As women make a family, a family makes a home and homes make a society. Thus, there would be no society without the contribution of women.

Although women have great responsibilities in upbringing of a healthy, solid society, but records the lowest rates of political participation in the country. She plays roles as a mother, a sister, a daughter, a wife.

While imposition of tax remains a vital instrument for the promotion of resource re-allocation, social equity through wealth distribution, women marginalisation in tax processes and responsibilities of government towards its citizens has hitherto constituted public and policy debates, but with little effort to address the emergent plights of women under unwary tax regime.

With increasing incidence of taxation in the contemporary tax reforms, Nigerian women are worst hit by the socio-economic burden of the various gender-insensitive tax policies.

It would be recalled that in September 2015, Nigeria joined the rest of the world at United Nations’ High Level Plenary Summit for the adoption of Structural Development Goals (SDGs) with 17 goals and 169 targets as part of the global efforts to build a comprehensive development plan in order to complete the unfinished business of the Millennium Development Goal (MDGs).

Adopting the SDGs, at country level with Goal 1 and 5 promising to: end poverty and hunger in all its forms everywhere; and achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, respectfully, Nigeria is committed to address poverty and ensure equal opportunity for women in all socio-economic and political ramifications. However, the existing gender-biased tax regime remains a major impediment that if not strictly addressed may backpedal or obstruct the country’s success in the implementation of SDGs.

Also, the imbalanced Value Added Tax (VAT) system is another endemic challenge to the women’s earning and well-being. The VAT Amendment Act 2007 removed the 5 percent fixed rate and gave the Minister of Finance Power to determine the VAT rate. Exercising the authority, the Minister of Finance raised the rate to 10 percent, but later repealed its decision with the rate returned to the initial 5 percent. Nigerian women are known to purchase more goods and services that promote health, education and nutrition compared to men.

In 2004, the Nigeria Living Standards Survey report by the National Bureau of Statistics showed that over 50% of the expenditure by female headed households was on non-food items which as likely to attract VAT. This in the observations of GTZ creates the potential for women to bear a larger burden of VAT, especially if the VAT system does not provide for exemptions, reduce rates or zero-rating.

Good governance cannot be in place when women are maginalised in all ramifications with a high percentage of girls out of schools. Appreciable efforts must be made by governments at all levels to recognise girls and women as equal players in the game of life whilst empowering, up-skilling and investing in them for a better world.

Full-fledged implementation of 35% Affirmative Action for Women by governments at all levels is paramount to encourage full participation of women as leaders and decision-makers in households, communities, and in the public and private spheres.

A god governance system improves access to education and eliminating gender gaps in education, proper individual orientation, mass public awareness and sensitization on the provisions of the Rights of Women.

Rule of law

In every governance system, the guiding principles of rule of law must be upheld and respected since it’s the foundation of good governance. In Nigeria with a contrary experience, the basic principles are violated through carelessness and recklessness conducts.

As former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Aminu Tambuwal puts it, “the principle of rule of law is, like other attributes of liberal democracy such as accountability, transparency, and human rights promotion and protection, essential element of democracy without which the process, dynamics and success of a democratic system is likely to be endangered, some would say, bereft of its inherent value and sanctity.”

According to him, without the rule of law democracy is impracticable as arbitrariness is likely to hold sway and torpedo the process of realizing good governance. “The rule of law encompasses all it takes to uphold, promote and safeguard the supremacy of law over any proclivities of institutions, groups or individuals. It is a term which is essentially instrumental to the nurturing of a virile democratic culture and democratic consolidation,” he added.

In order to uphold the principles of rule of law, an effective judicial system must be guaranteed to promote equality and fairness in legal processes. The judiciary has a great role to play in the efforts to save the nation from imminent collapse under the weight of unbridled corruption. Without doubt, judges symbolize the judicial powers of the state; they stand out as the central figures in the judicial system and the administration of justice.

Good governance is not attained through intentional creation of backlog of cases to pave ways for demanding bribes to fast-track a case; endless abuse of offices and distortion of judicial processes; judges who are on politicians’ pay roll, even when such is against judicial code of ethics; high-ranking judicial officers who serve as couriers of bribe.

Consensus building and responsiveness

Adopting strategies for consensus building in Nigeria through such holistic techniques as bringing diverse groups of stakeholders together to engage in shared learning and decision making on legislative and policy issues has become imperative to enhance collaboration, peaceful co-existence and encourage public participation in governance.

Consensus cannot be built on a failure to separate party politics from state, which in the observations of Commonwealth Network is extremely damaging, “making important public institutions such as the military, judiciary, election commission and state media hostage to the incumbent”.

It is important that governments provide for credible and independent institutions and adequate political space for an effective opposition and diverse groups. At the same time opposition parties must respect the rule of law and engage in a meaningful and constructive manner in the political process.

Consensus building process must be sincere and transparent to restore confidence in and represent interest of oppositions or diverse groups. Through this process, outcomes of dialogues or meeting will be acceptable and respected by all parties.

In order to uphold the principle of good governance, governments must be aware of what the citizens want and citizens must as well be aware of what governments are going.  Governments must be responsive and responsible towards citizens’ demands and expectations by maintaining integrity, transparency, and accountability. In Nigerian context, to be responsive and responsible, government have the primary responsibility to effectively relate and interact with the citizens.

How Nigerian women suffer from unjust tax regime

By Abubakar Jimoh

While imposition of tax remains a vital instrument for the promotion of resource re-allocation, social equity through wealth distribution, women marginalisation in tax processes and responsibilities of government towards its citizens has hitherto constituted public and policy debates, but with little effort to address the emergent plights of women under unwary tax regime.

With increasing incidence of taxation in the contemporary tax reforms, Nigerian women are worst hit by the socio-economic burden of the various gender-insensitive tax policies.

It would be recalled that in September 2015, Nigeria joined the rest of the world at United Nations’ High Level Plenary Summit for the adoption of Structural Development Goals (SDGs) with 17 goals and 169 targets as part of the global efforts to build a comprehensive development plan in order to complete the unfinished business of the Millennium Development Goal (MDGs).

Adopting the SDGs, at country level with Goal 1 and 5 promising to: end poverty and hunger in all its forms everywhere; and achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, respectfully, Nigeria is committed to address poverty and ensure equal opportunity for women in all socio-economic and political ramifications. However, the existing gender-biased tax regime remains a major impediment that if not strictly addressed may backpedal or obstruct the country’s success in the implementation of SDGs.

In every tax regime, women are either implicit or explicit marginalised. Explicit marginalisation in the analysis of German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) emanates from specific provisions of the law, regulations or proceedings that deliberately treat men and women differently, while implicit marginalisation describes differences in the way the tax system (or any tax policy measure) affects men’s and women’s well-being.

Explicit marginalisation occurs in the Personal Income Tax system where the tax law discriminates against married women with respect to tax reliefs and allowances. Hence children’s allowances are claimed by the husband as long as he is not legally separated from his wife. Implicit marginalisation on the other hand is found in marriage tax marginal rates, Value Added Tax (VAT), excise or selective taxes, import duties and export duties.

Besides, various assessments of the Personal Income Tax burden have revealed that the average tax paid for equivalent levels of income is higher for female taxpayer than male, as married men are granted the tax relief on the assumption that men are breadwinners.

It is noteworthy that apart from constituting over 50 percent of the world’s population, women perform two-third of the world’s work, and receive one-tenth of the income. They in proportion represent 70 percent of the world’s one billion poorest people.

Similarly, majority of Nigerian women face real-time poverty, gross inequality, molestation and injustice resulting from insensitive tax collection and administration processes, which deny them the opportunity to meaningfully earn and contribute positively towards the nation’s development. The degree of molestation from multiple and unjust taxation/levies regime is evident and well documented in various encounters by Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) with women, especially in informal sectors across the country.

While women constitute a high percentage of the population engaging in informal sector business like farming and trading, the local market women are the worst hit by the era of multiple taxes and harassments from some unscrupulous tax collectors, who endlessly extort whopping sums from the innocent women.

It is worrisome that the era of multiple taxations has led to drastic loss in profit generation, and continuous discouragement of women’s participation in the nation’s socio-economic development as against Goal 5 of the SDGs with specific pledge to “achieve equality and empower all women and girls”.

As related to the women in formal sector, although Nigeria has the highest population in African continent, as reports by 2012 Gender in Nigeria Report, with 38 percent of its women lacking formal education as against 25 percent for men, the disparity in education attainment largely undermines women’s earning capacity and well-being under personal income or direct tax burden as most women earn too little to pay a significant amount of personal income tax. Indeed, the heavy tax rate imposes on taxpayers through personal income tax poses unequal impact on women.

Also, the imbalanced Value Added Tax (VAT) system is another endemic challenge to the women’s earning and well-being. The VAT Amendment Act 2007 removed the 5 percent fixed rate and gave the Minister of Finance Power to determine the VAT rate. Exercising the authority, the Minister of Finance raised the rate to 10 percent, but later repealed its decision with the rate returned to the initial 5 percent. Nigerian women are known to purchase more goods and services that promote health, education and nutrition compared to men.

In 2004, the Nigeria Living Standards Survey report by the National Bureau of Statistics showed that over 50% of the expenditure by female headed households was on non-food items which as likely to attract VAT. This in the observations of GTZ creates the potential for women to bear a larger burden of VAT, especially if the VAT system does not provide for exemptions, reduce rates or zero-rating.

Given the existing intense tax burden on women, it has become imperative that policy and development interventions through taxation must take cognisance of the plights of women in order promote sustainable economic growth and poverty eradication, if Nigeria is determined to achieve its global commitments under Goal 1 and 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The National Tax Policy should be reviewed with committed and sincere efforts to address gender insensitivity in the collection, administration and utilisation of tax revenues as well as mainstreaming of gender-sensitivity into tax practices and tax policy formulation.

More importantly, appreciable efforts must be made by the governments to resolve the growing incidence of multiple taxation/levies in the informal sector, especially at local government level as self-employed and poor women are mostly victims of multiple taxation/levies which consequently reduce their profits and welfare.

‘Inter-ministerial collaboration is key to progress in maternal health’—Experts

By Abubakar Jimoh

The Chairman, Katsina State Coalition of Civil Society Organisations, Muhammad Bashir Usman has said inter-ministerial collaboration among the State Ministries of Heath, Information, Education and Women Affairs was paramount to effective and concerted intervention on maternal and child health in the state.

The Chairman made this known during an Executive-Media dialogue organised by Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) aimed at bringing the State’s executives and media under one roof to brainstorm on necessary action for timely release and effective implementation of maternal and child health budget for efficient intervention and maximum impacts on the citizens.

He said: “While successive governments have made several efforts to reduce maternal and child mortality, inter-ministerial partnership and engagement among the health related Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs), especially around budget and its implementation is key to efficient healthcare delivery.”

Acknowledging that North West region is faced with serious human resource gaps in the health sector, Usman said Katsina state recorded merely 507 out of 4835 midwifes required to provide maternal health services across the state.

He however, commended the recent policies, frameworks and guidelines initiated by the State Government to improve the situation such as persistent recruitment of additional health care personnel and introduction of health care education across higher institutions, as measures to mitigate high patients-to-doctor ratio in the state.

“The State in recent times has taken drastic step towards mitigating high patient-to-doctor ratio through persistent recruitment of additional health care personnel and introduction of health care education across higher institutions.

“As part of the strategy to create accessible, affordable and improved health care system, especially in the grassroots, Katsina State House of Assembly has taken a step to harmonize the State’s Primary Health Care through a Bill presently receiving legislative inputs,” Usman explained.

According to him, with over 6million population, the state’s maternal mortality rate stands at 634 per 100,000; infant mortality, 22 per 1000; and under-5 mortality, 36 per 1000 live births.

He urged realistic health budget composition through appropriate consultation with communities and relevant stakeholders by the media and civil society groups to promote effective implementation.

Also, Mr. Ibrahim Maiwada representing the State Ministry of Health added that mainstreaming maternal and child health as multi-sectoral issues through prioritized efforts among various Ministries, Departments and Agencies in the state would help in concerted effort to address maternal and child health.

The Snr. Program Officer (Gender and Reproductive Health), CISLAC, Chioma Kanu expressed concerns over impending factors such as information accessibility, lack of fund, capacity gaps and restrictive policies hampering investigative journalism, policy and public awareness on maternal and child health, encouraging full capacity deployment and utilization of Media and Public Relations Department of various Ministries to encourage timely and appropriate information dissemination

The State Ministry of Budget and Economic Planning, represented by Mr. Muhammad Kabir Barau revealed that in 2017 Appropriation Act, the State Government has allocated 8.97% to the health sector, which is an increase from the previous years.

He observed under-performance in part of the established Budget Monitoring and Tracking Committee as an impeding challenge to budget performance monitoring and evaluation in the state.

“Katsina State has received its share of the World Bank’s “Save 1 million Lives” fund and established implementation Committee with maternal and child as a key priority for intervention,” Barau added.

Health Reform Foundation of Nigeria (HERFON) represented by Dr. Sabiu Laidi explained that evidence-based advocacy by civil society groups in the state would assist them to understand, identify relevant facts and figures to effectively advocate and engage policy and legislative process on maternal and child health.

He further advised the media on well-packaged and persistent maternal health programmes by through persistent and innovative coverage and reportage that captivate policy, legislative and public attention towards maternal and child health.

‘There should be zero tolerance for maternal death’– Perm Sec, KSMoH

By Abubakar Jimoh

“There should be zero tolerance for maternal death in presence of the on-going renewed efforts by the Kano State Government to ensure adequate, accessible and affordable health care services in the state”, the Permanent Secretary Kano State Ministry of Health, Mallam Dahiru Musa has said.

The Permanent Secretary disclosed this during an Executive and Media dialogue on Maternal Health organized by Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) in Kano state to bring the state’s executives and media under one roof to brainstorm on necessary action for timely release and effective implementation of maternal and child health budget in the state for efficient intervention and maximum impacts on the citizens.

He said: “There should be no maternal death. The state has put in place adequate Health Management Information System, which is subjected to periodic review by the instituted Maternal Death Review Committee to ensure qualitative and accurate maternal health data collection and use in policy decision.

“Medical students are through the state’s scholarship engaged on overseas training programmes to bridge the high patients-to-doctor ratio and boost human resources for heath in the state; and established Community Midwifery College in Gwarzo for training of young girls to augment existing skilled birth attendance.

“The State Government has created the State Health Contributory Scheme with an established Agency to administer the Scheme, as a palliative measure to address the emerging dwindling revenue resources from Federation Account to the health sector.”

Musa added that the sum of 50 million naira was recently provided by the State Government to United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) through co-funding arrangement for the procurement of Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) to mitigate child death from malnutrition.

Also speaking during the Dialogue, Mrs. Zuwaira Omar, representing CHRICED, however, debunked unfriendly attitudes of some health workers as endemic challenges impeding timely realisation of adequate attendance for health care services at health facilities in the state.

She said migration of the state’s trained skilled health workers to other states or international community at the expense of state’s dire needs for adequate and accessible health care services had hampered efforts at addressing high patients-to-doctor ratio.

Presenting the issues affecting effective utilization of health budget, Muhammad Inuwa Shu’aib noted that maternal deaths account for 32 percent of all deaths among women between 15 and 49 years.

While commending the State Government’s effort at increasing budgetary allocation to health sector, amounting to 12.6% in current year as against 9.7% in 2016, he revealed that the sum of 180, 000,000 naira has been dedicated for maternal and child health services.

He noted: “In the past, the release was on quarterly basis. Some efforts demonstrated to use findings from Operational Research in 2008 played a vital role to influence decision making, where release was reviewed to monthly basis.

“Although there were some factors—bureaucratic process, poor timing that caused delay in the release of fund up till 2016, delay resulted in more death of pregnant women in the State. Currently, there is consistency in the release of Maternal Health fund particularly in this quarter January-March 2017.”

Shu’aib explained that high maternal and child mortality rates reported for the state could easily be attributed to “the fact that only 13% of deliveries in Kano were attended to by a skilled birth attendant, only 11% of deliveries in the state take place in a health care facility”.

According to him, the state’s Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) data is 1,025 deaths per 100,000 live births.

Shu’aib added: “The free maternal health is provided mostly in designated secondary health facilities far away from majority of the rural settlements. It is not currently seen as a programme that can go beyond the present health facility-based implementation approach.

“The free maternal health is facing severe operational problems including: inadequate human resource for health, inadequate funding, out of stock syndrome, inadequate infrastructure and lack of participation of the local governments authorities in the provision of free maternal health.

“There is inadequate community involvement and participation in the planning and implementation process which has resulted to a lack of community ownership of the free maternal health.”

He attributed the challenges facing maternal health in the state to inadequate analyzed data for expected target beneficiaries—pregnant women; inadequate projection of costing per head; over dependence on development/donor partners for support on health related issues; low involvement of community existing structures Civil Society Organisations, Community Based Organisations and media in Maternal Health budget process.

Shu’aib He urged formidable effort by the media through evidence-based advocacy and investigative journalism in demanding accountability from relevant stakeholder to sustain existing achievements and enhance judicious utilization of maternal health funding in the provision of adequate, accessible and affordable health care services; and provision of appropriate monitoring system for the procurement and dissemination of commodities with timely release of appropriated fund for maternal and child health interventions.

The dialogue drew over 20 participants representing Ministries of Health, Planning and Budget, Women Affairs, Civil Society Organizations, and the Media.

Averting pervasive insurgency

By Abubakar Jimoh

With the complexity of global security threats and the intensity of intra-state conflicts in the West African region, it has become imperative for the regional governments to devise holistic approach to security management.

While violent conflicts are reportedly declining in the sub-region, a recent report by International Journal of Security & Development disclosed that the recent insurgencies in the Sahel region affecting the West African countries of Mali, Niger and Mauritania and low intensity conflicts surging within notably stable countries such as Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal sends alarming signals of the possible re-surfacing of internal and regional violent conflicts.

In recent times, the global manifestation of terrorism and insurgency have become evident in Nigeria, where the absolute responsibility of the Nigerian government to grant security to the citizens has been challenged by such threats to security as international terrorism, state failure, and corruption, calling for holistic and dynamic measures to address the situations.

As recommends in the United Nations Resolution on Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, countries must take appropriate measures to refrain from organizing, instigating, facilitating, participating in, financing, encouraging or tolerating terrorist activities and to take practical measures to ensure their respective territories are not used for terrorist installations or training camps, or for the preparation or organization of terrorist acts intended to be committed against other States or their citizens.

Given the intensity of recurring attacks, relevant authorities in the country must continue to arrange for initiatives and programmes to promote dialogue, tolerance and understanding among civilizations, cultures, peoples and religions, and to promote mutual respect for and prevent the defamation of religions, religious values, beliefs and cultures. Of such dialogues and initiatives is the on-going constructive interface between Nigerian security agencies and Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) under the aegis of Peace and Security Forum. The Forum has hitherto paved way for regular meetings on issues bothering the nation’s security. It has further stepped down its approach to advocacy through regular peace and security meetings with traditional rulers, community and religious leaders to promote peaceful coexistence, sustainable peace and security at all levels.

Appreciable effort must be made to promote a culture of peace, justice and human development, ethnic, national and religious tolerance, and respect for all religions, religious values, beliefs or cultures by establishing and encouraging, as appropriate, education and public awareness programmes involving all sectors of society. In this case, the security agents must shun all manners of extra-judicial killings, human rights abuses, and apparent disproportionate response to socio-religious gatherings as experienced in recent times.  This must be promptly addressed to avert unwary sensation that can warrant further outbreaks of insurgency.

The country must adopt peace, justice with strong institutions as enshrined under Goal 16 of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development. Governments at all levels must provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive systems to address ethno-religious attacks by bringing perpetrators to justice.  This will re-install citizens’ confidence in governance and judicial system.

It is no more news that Nigerians have continued to suffer from widespread poverty, low economic output in both private and public sector attributable to corruption, inefficiency, erratic power supply, unrealistic policies, and infrastructure decay. These among other factors informed the recent report by the International Monetary Fund, (IMF), warning that unless Nigeria’s government takes urgent steps to curtail the on-going economic decline, there could be a worsening of unemployment and widespread poverty in the country.

Meanwhile, the alarming rate of youth unemployment has become a dire socio-economic issue for a developing nation like Nigeria.  It would be recalled that in May 2016, a report by Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS) had revealed unfavourable statistics, stating that 1.5 million Nigerians became unemployed in the first quarter of the year. Another report by the Bureau showed that as at the second quarter of the 2016, a total of 4.58 million Nigerians were unemployed. As crime in varying degrees affects policies and development of the country, it becomes imperative for the nation to strive towards development by reducing the frequency of crime to the barest minimum through sustainable effort by both executive and legislative arms to eradicate poverty and promote sustained economic growth and development.

All levels of government must pursue and reinforce development and social inclusion agendas at every level as goals in themselves, as these are paramount to reduce youth unemployment, marginalization and the subsequent sense of victimization that fuels extremism and the recruitment of terrorists. A report by the Guardian Newspapers, United Kingdom, has attributed the root insurgencies in the country to the increasing sense of marginalisation on the part of some communities.

Similarly, collective rehabilitation and reintegration efforts must be taken by the governments to put in place, national systems of assistance that would promote the needs of victims of terrorism and their families and facilitate the normalization of their lives. The on-going initiative by the Nigerian Government to rehabilitate and reintegrate victims of violence attacks in North East through exhaustive consultation with Civil Society and relevant stakeholders is indeed a commendable development.