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.

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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.

Participatory

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.

2019 elections: Experts warn against false news, electoral violence

  • Electoral violence thrives in corrupt and poorly governed environments –Rafsanjani
  • Existing self-interest dominated brinkmanship can fuel electoral violence – Prof. Jega
  • The problem is not democracy but growing inequality, corruption – Prof. Gambari
  • Electoral offences must be appropriately prosecuted – Prof. Jibrin
  • False news as a political bargain: a threat to democracy — Mallam Ya’u
  • CSOs must watch against partisan alliance, widespread division – Dr. Abdu

By Abubakar Jimoh

There are indications that corruption, poor governance and weak institutions could be responsible for the varying degree of electoral violence and insecurity that continue to frustrate efforts at achieving a peaceful and secured country.

These clues were given by a group consisting renowned experts and non-state actors working on good governance at a Civil Society Stakeholders’ Consultative Meeting themed “Arresting the Drift towards Chaos in Nigeria” organised by Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre  (CISLAC) in collaboration with Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) in Abuja.

Speaking at the meeting, Executive Director of CISLAC, Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani) said the existing economic and political instabilities provide a breeding ground for social vices backpedalling peace and security in the country.

He said: “Our volatile democracy accompanied by increasingly unemployment rate and chronic poverty level has exacerbated varying degree of insecurity which continues to frustrate efforts at achieving peaceful and secured society.

“While these challenges are major contributory factors to insecurity in our country, we cannot conceal the fact that insecurity thrives more in corrupt and poorly governed environments with weak institutions.

“Corruption and the government’s failure to address pervasive inequality provide a breeding ground for security threats ranging from terrific insurgency in the Northeast; the militancy in the Niger Delta; the violent crimes of armed robbery, ritual murders, kidnapping, and rape; the cross-border criminal activities in arms, drugs and human trafficking; electoral violence; the ethno-religious conflicts claiming lives and properties; the persistent deaths from road accidents; and poor traffic management and enforcement.”

The Executive Director expressed serious concern over the persistent insecurity threats posing a setback to girl child education, especially in the North-East, where female students feel insecure to attend school as a result of persistent attacks and kidnappings by insurgents.  “To avoid being kidnapped or caught in-between the security forces and the Islamic sect, more female student are forced moving out of the region to much safer parts of the country.”

He bemoaned unpatriotic efforts of political and socio-economic saboteurs who prey on recurring violence conflict between nomadic herders and sedentary agrarian communities

“Violent conflicts between nomadic herders and sedentary agrarian communities have escalated in recent years and are spreading southward, threatening the country’s security and stability. Given the existing level of insecurity, the conflicts are clearly taken fresh dimension which should be exhaustively investigated and prosecuted by relevant authorities.

“It is worrisome 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 Director said.

He further warned against unhealthy utterances and divisive agitations for separation by different groups from respective geo-political zones in the country with growing threats, precarious verbal attacks and hate speeches which if not holistically addressed may pose grievous challenges to the peaceful-coexistence, unity and diversity of our beloved nation.

“Although Section 39 (1) of the 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria which provides Nigerian with right to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference, however, related experiences both within Nigeria and across the continent have revealed that freedom of expression if not carefully exercised, occasionally gives room to dangerous speech, which incites violence or genocide,” he added.

Also, the Former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega warned that while brinkmanship as a deliberate political strategy in electoral politics or diplomatic negotiation, the present deployment of brinkmanship primarily in pursuit of self-interest by political saboteur, if not promptly addressed through appropriate holistic measures by relevant authorities will fuel unwary electoral violence before, during and after elections at all levels.

He said: “The wrong use of brinkmanship in the country, if not rigorously checkmated may provide a breeding ground for do-or-die politics leveraged by ethno-religious and political demagogues in pursuit of selfish political gains.

Prof. Jega recommended formulation, adoption and strict compliance to the electoral code of conducts like “Peace Accord” by various political parties to avert element of bloody political strategies and do-or-die politics in the country; and the creation of formidable and productive means of civil engagement through advocacy and public enlightenment irrespective of individual’s religious and political disparity.

The Chairman, Savannah Centre for Democracy, Diplomacy and Development, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari called for appropriate assessment of the activities and performance of various agencies of socialisation including religious institutions in the country as a baseline to strengthen individual orientation and re-orientation.

 “We must keep or eyes on the ball, the problem is not democracy but religious and communal violence, widespread corruption, and an excessive presidentialism amidst enduring poverty, unsustainable levels of unemployment among the youth, growing inequality, an eroded state- society compact, and threats to the unity and secularity of the state.

“It is also important we mainstream peace building in Nigeria’s educational curricula to inculcate importance of peaceful building and peaceful coexistence in the formal wall,” the Chairman explained.

Renowned Political Scientist and Fellow of Center for Democracy and Development (CDD), Prof. Jubrin Ibrahim stressed the need to strengthen powers and mandates of electoral institutions at all levels through coordinated engagements by civil society groups advocating for the accelerated establishment of electoral offences commission will help in achieving strong and reliable institutions to effectively man peaceful and credible electoral process.

The Executive Director, Center for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) also the Chairman, Board of Trustees, CISLAC, Mallam Y.Z Ya’u observed emerging use of false news as a political bargain as a threat to democracy and social integration, constituting potential element for electoral violence.

He said: “Widespread perception of marginalisation and inequality in the country provides enabling ground for manipulative contents by unprofessional media outfits and desperate politicians as a medium to satisfy selfish agenda at the detriment of larger citizens.

“The growing culture of partisanship, self-censorship and sensational reporting of political events by the traditional and new media pave way for unprofessionalism in news coverage, content generation and reporting.

He urged collective effort by the state and non-state actors to promote individual orientation and re-orientation with sustained public education to mitigate unwary response to false news and hate speech.

Country Director, Plan International, Dr. Hussaini Abdu, lamented the existing partisan alliance and widespread division among civil society groups in the country that frustrate effort at building formidable synergy against political instability.

He recommended building synergy among civil society groups to advance unified and holistic recommendations to address the growing political instability in the country; and drastic effort by relevant authorities to eradicate chronic poverty in the country through appropriate deployment of education, youth employment, security and infrastructural facilities as tools to engage developmental crisis.

Buhari and the six new laws

In December, 2017 President Muhammadu Buhari assent to six different bills that brought to limelight specific laws that will henceforth abolish a devastating practice in the nation’s health care emergency response system, eradicate the use of torture to extract confessional statements in investigation process, ensure adequate financing for NDDC to effectively pursue its objectives, establish a coordinating national institution to through rigorous research detect and prevent cancer diseases, among others.

By Abubakar Jimoh

As Nigerians prepared for the New Year celebrations, the nation witnessed the much awaited development from the executive arm with President Muhammadu Buhari signing into law six different bills.

The new laws which include Compulsory Treatment and Care for Victims of Gunshot Act, Anti-Torture Act, Niger Delta Development Commission (Establishment) Amendment Act, National Institute for Cancer Research and Treatment (Establishment) Act, Federal Capital Appropriation Act, and Federal Capital Territory Water Board (Establishment) Act, came at the moment when the nation had shifted focus and attention from the overarching political issues that dominated the 2017, primarily for the Xmas and New Year celebrations.

This piece takes a look at specific challenges or situations that triggered the promulgation of each Act giving cognisance to some explicit provisions.

Compulsory Treatment and Care for Victims of Gunshot Act

Given the countless number of innocent victims who have lost their lives to deliberately instituted bureaucracy with resultant rejection or delayed in treatment, the Act if effectively implemented will put to rest one of the most worrisome public health issues in Nigeria. The law addresses notable inadequacies obstructing treatment of gunshot victims leading to unnecessary loss of lives.

Apparently, at legislative level, the passage of the Compulsory Treatment and Care of Victims of Gunshots Bill was fast-tracked in response to the increasingly rejections and deaths of gunshot victims by Nigeria hospitals.

While as a legal framework, the Act which was sent to the Senate for concurrence by House of Representatives, sought to ensure that all victims of gunshot wounds receive necessary treatment from medical workers and assistance from security agencies.

Whatever the drive or consideration informing the practice of rejecting patients with gunshot wounds is indeed a pathetic admission that in Nigeria, the dignity due human life is often denied.

The awful practice which demands innocent victims who have been shot by robbers or hit by stray bullets to first secure a police report before going to the hospital for treatment has led to many avertable deaths.

Commending the legislative and the executive arms on the speedy passage of the bill and the subsequent Presidential assent, Executive Director of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani) said the law was paramount to oust cold-hearted practices and in giving a legal backing to the rapid treatment of the innocent victims of gunshot by Nigeria hospitals.

“We regret that many innocent lives have been lost through the degrading practice. It would be de-service to request police report before treating an innocent victim who undergoes varied degrees of dreadful pain. We also commend the National Assembly and Presidency for bringing the Act to the limelight.”

He added: “The Act is in in agreement with Section 20 of the National Health Act 2014, which forbids a health care provider, health worker or healthcare establishment from refusing a person emergency medical treatment for any reason.”

The Executive Director however, urged the legislative and the executive arms to as well take into cognisance adequate security of lives and property from the increasingly illegal arms flow into the country to mitigate persistent gunshot in complementing the exiting efforts.

Lamenting the evils perpetrated through the practice, Olu Onemola, Aide to the Senate President, Bukola Saraki said: “Having a system in place that forces both the good and the bad people who have been shot to first request police reports before going to the hospital, makes the innocent people among them victims of circumstance; victims of the hospitals, who refuse to treat gunshot victims without police reports; victims of the police, who oftentimes do not process these requests in a speedy manner; and victims of Nigeria’s current laws that make police reports mandatory for both law-abiding citizens and criminals alike.”

Also, a public health physician, Dr. Ben Akharaiye said the Act was a right step in saving Nigerians from unnecessary and preventable deaths. “The idea of waiting for police reports before treatment is an obsolete idea by our past leaders. It is in itself inhuman to say the least. Image the lives that have been lost in this country because of the long wait for police report, or even an outright denial by health facilities.

“What we have continued to reiterate then was that it is most like an innocent person that is shot than armed robbers, because these robbers or assassins are the ones holding the guns. Only few of these victims are armed robbers or assassins as the case may be,” he explained.

A provision of the new law mandates every person, including security agents to render required assistance to any person with gunshot wounds. This includes ensuring that the victim is taken to the nearest hospital for adequate treatment. It preserves the fundamental rights of gunshot victims by mandating that no person with a bullet wound shall be subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment and that no person with a gunshot wound shall be refused immediate and adequate treatment by any hospital in Nigeria — whether or not an initial deposit has been paid or not.

A report by Small Arms Survey revealed that as at 2007, the number of small arms and light weapons in Nigeria were estimated at between 1 and 3 million.

While the law as a curative measure remains paramount to save lives of the victims, relevant authorities must not lose sight of the preventive and stringent holistic measures to curtail illicit arms flow into the country that paves way for persistent shooting of innocent citizens.

It would be recalled that a 2015 resolution of the United Nations Security Council noted with concern that “illicit transfer, destabilising accumulation and misuse of small arms and light weapons in many regions of the world continue to pose threats to international peace and security, cause significant loss of life, and contribute to instability and insecurity.”

Anti-Torture Act

Nigerian security forces have hitherto been regarded among the crudest in the world as a result of the intentional use of excessive force and extra-judicial killing, verbal attacks and psychological intimidation reportedly mounted on a suspect to extract confessional statements and killing of robbery suspects without judicial trial.

The Act which criminalises torture and other inhuman treatments is a turning point in the effort of government and civil society groups to check impunity and high-handedness in the society.

While commenting on torture in part of Nigerian Police, Law Mefor, a Consulting Psychologist regarded police brutality as one of several forms of police misconduct, which include false arrest, intimidation, racial profiling, political repression, surveillance abuse, sexual abuse, and police corruption.

Mefor wrote: “Police brutality is closely related to torture. Torture could actually be an extreme form of police brutality. Technically, the term ‘police brutality’ is now generically used to cover all government security agencies – police, prisons, military, name it. One aspect of torture that must engage our attention here is psychological torture, which is less well known than physical torture and tends to be subtle and much easier to conceal.

“In Nigeria, these forms of torture are everywhere you have government security agencies operating, especially the police and the prison. The police cells and prisons are punitively run in Nigeria to inflict maximum psychological damage. If it is not intended, then, it has become a huge achievement by default.”

Similarly, in August 15, 2013, a report published by the Vanguard Newspapers accused the deployed Joint Task Force—both military and police in the Northeast of widespread atrocities ranging from summary executions, arbitrary arrests and torture.

In another 2014 report titled Welcome to Hell Fire – Torture and Other Ill-treatment in Nigeria published by Amnesty International revealed that countless people have suffered, and continued to suffer torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment (hereinafter ill-treatment) in the hands of the Nigerian security forces, including the police and military.

The report observed torture and other ill-treatments as routine practices in criminal investigations in Nigeria, adding that suspects in police and military custody across the country are subjected to torture as punishment or to extract confessions as a shortcut to ‘solve’ cases – particularly armed robbery and murder.

According to the report, many police sections in various states, including the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and Criminal Investigation Division (CID), have “torture chambers”: special rooms where suspects are tortured, such chamber are sometimes under the charge of an officer known informally as “O/C Torture” (Officer in Charge of Torture).

Also, in a report titled Nigeria: Navigating Secrecy in the Vetting and Selection of Peacekeepers published by CISLAC, it was revealed that sexual exploitation and abuse and human rights violations by members of the Nigeria Armed Forces have been rampant with no proactive responses by the concerned institutions to deal with the situation in a systematic manner that would win the confidence of the public.

The report notes inadequacies in the training for peacekeepers particularly the police curriculum which it regards as “severely undeveloped” with critical gaps in areas that are vital to effective policy, such as forensics and crime management, special victims, human rights and information technology.

In addition, incidents of torture are not uncommon at home, workplace and public places. Many lives are lost to extra-judicially killings from torture with the culprits go scot-free without facing justice.

Against this background, the Anti-torture Act penalises every act of high-handedness by individuals towards their subordinates, servants, or people in custody in the case of criminal suspects under investigation.

The law protects the rights of the potential victims of such ill-treatment and would enable the punishment of the responsible individual(s), thus, ensuring there will be no impunity.

It stresses that freedom from torture is a non-derogatory right with no exceptional circumstances, whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war; internal political instability, or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification for torture.

The law criminalises torture as an act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him/her or a third person information or a confession; punish a person for an act he/she or a third person has committed or is suspected to have committed.

More importantly, various provisions of the Act make it a state policy to ensure that the rights of all persons, including suspects, detainees and prisoners are respected at all times; and that no person placed under investigation or held in custody of any person in authority shall be subjected to physical harm, force, violence, threat, intimidation or any act that impairs his will.

The law listed as part of the actions that constitute torture to include systematic beatings, head-banging, punching, kicking, striking with rifle butts, pumping on the stomach, food deprivation or forceful feeding with spoilt food, electric shock, cigarette burning, burning by electrically heated rod, hot oil, acid, forced to assume to fixed and stressful bodily position, sexual abuse and any other acts.

Niger Delta Development Commission (Establishment) Amendment Act

The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) as “an interventionist Commission” was established to address socio-economic, environmental and political problems that have engulfed the Niger Delta region.

Funding gaps are major setbacks hampering the Commission’s activities. This triggered a resolution by Advisory of the Commission in September, 2014, calling for the need to urgently address the funding challenges facing the Commission so as to reposition it for better service delivery to the people of the region.

Amendment to the Act strengthens weak provisions in the Principal Act and removes obvious impediments, particularly in the area of funding and reposition the Commission to carry out its mandate effectively.

It clarifies certain provisions in the Principal Act and provides for prompt remittance of funds due to the Niger Delta Development Commission, as well as penalties for delay or default.

With provision of new subsections to ensure prompt remittances to the Commission, the Commission’s financial burden will be reduced.

National Institute for Cancer Research and Treatment (Establishment) Act

The rising deaths from cancer related diseases in Nigeria has gained a widespread attention of the governments, individuals and stakeholders with recent available data showing accelerating rate of cancer diseases in the last five decades.

A report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) discloses no fewer than 10,000 related deaths while about 250,000 new cases are recorded from cancer annually.

Consequently, the National Institute for Cancer Research and Treatment (Establishment) Act was introduced to give dedicated attention to the dreadful disease through an established institution that will provide national leadership in cancer research, control and treatment; guide scientific improvements to cancer prevention, treatment and care; coordinate and liaise with the wide range of groups and healthcare providers with interest in cancer as well as make recommendations to the government about cancer policy and priorities.

The Act provides for the establishment of the National Institute for Cancer Research and Treatment Board with the power to erect, provide, equip and maintain research centre, training schools with state of the art facilities as are necessarily suitable for or required for any of the objects of the Institute; encourage and provide for research at the Institute; accept gifts, legacies and donations which are consistent with the objects of the Institute; enter into contract as well as acquire and hold movable and immovable property.

It also empowers the Board to create a central online database for statistical analysis to create access by both public and private individuals with a view to attracting donor agencies; establish a department of telemedicine for collaboration with peers both within and outside Nigeria.

Federal Capital Territory Water Board (Establishment) Act

Over the years, accessibility to adequate, accessible and affordable water supply remains a major challenge in some parts of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) with persistent outcries by the residents that people living in the satellite towns of Abuja lack access to potable water.

The FCT has a huge number of people suffering from inaccessibility to safe drinking water. With over 3.5 million population as at 2016, according to City Population, some FCT residents have reportedly resulted in buying a 20-litre-jerrycan of water from water vendors in their neighbourhoods, while others experience long queues before fetching water from nearby boreholes.

The Federal Capital Territory Water Board is the sole agency charged with the responsibility of producing and supplying potable water in the FCT. The board is faced with the challenge of making potable water accessible to the teeming residents of the city centre, satellite towns and over 800 communities.

The new law charged the FCT Water Board Establishment with the responsibility for providing safe, adequate and affordable water supply services to the residents of the FCT, Abuja.

It is also to collaborate with the other authorities responsible for water resources management to secure efficient use of water resources for the conservation and protection of the water resources of the Territory and the nation.

Apart from providing safe , adequate and affordable water supply service to the residents of FCT, based on the new law, the Board shall collaborate with the others authorities responsible for water resources management to secure efficient use of water resources for the conservation and protection of the water resources of the Territory and the nation.

Other mandates of the Board include to ensure the supply of adequate and potable water throughout the Territory at reasonable charges; management and maintain all capital works, water services facilities and new water service assets in the Territory; identify and implement project for delivery of water supply service which may be undertaken with private sector participation; manage and maintain existing waterworks within the Territory particularly to the various Area Councils and maintaining limited supervising capacity and intervention over these Area Councils operations.

Federal Capital Appropriation Act

This Act provides for the issue out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federal Capital Territory the sum of N64,276,476,002 out of which N12,799,413,161 is allocted to Personnel costs and N7,599,158,687 for Overhead Costs, while the balance of N43,877,904,154 is allocated to Capital Expenditure.

Under provisions of the Act, the Director of Treasury of the Federal Capital Territory Administration may, when authorized to do so by Warrants signed by the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, pay out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the FCT during the financial year ending 31st December, 2007 the sum specified by the warrants not exceeding the aggregate of N64,276,476,002.

The Act requires amounts appropriated to be made from the Consolidated Revenue Fund only for the purposes specified in the Act with all revenue accruing to the Territory other than the Statutory revenue distribution shall be paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federal Capital Territory.

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.

Participatory

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.

Delayed appointments and the policy implications

By Abubakar Jimoh

The continued reluctance exhibited by the executive and legislative arms towards confirmation of some key appointments and re-appointments in the country remains a major concern that if not promptly addressed will frustrate the good efforts and resources hitherto committed to the fulfilment of the present administration’s promises and mandates.

It is worrisome that half way and two years remaining for the administration to complete its first tenure and probably seek re-election, several appointments germane to the fulfilment of the promises made during electioneering campaigns and critical to the attainment of change mantra are yet to be announced.

Even amongst those announced, there are so many still awaiting Senate confirmation, while some are yet to be tabled before the Senate. This unwholesome development if not immediately arrested would negatively impact on the popularly and globally-acclaimed mandate of the Buhari Administration and militate against the delivery of its much-touted vision and objectives.

While the role of shopping and appointing the right candidates to fill various positions is an integral part of the executive’s mandates to coordinate policy direction and translate its agenda into impactful reality, the Nigerian Senate is constitutionally empowered for confirmation of Federal Executive appointments.

It would be recalled that in October 2015, following a public outcry condemning the delayed ministerial appointments by President Muhammadu Buhari, the need to restructure the Federal Government ministries and to effect his party’s mantra of change in government processes and operations were given to account for the delay in sending names of ministerial nominees to the Senate.

Following the appointment of Ministers into various ministries, one would wonder why the Presidency drags its foot from effecting new and renewed appointments in some departments and agencies through legislative endorsement.

The recent outright and persistent rejection of some appointments sent to the Nigerian Senate for confirmation by the Presidency not only backpedals the on-going executive’s efforts at shopping for right candidates into the right positions, but also a clear indication of unhealthy executive-legislative relation, which has serious implications on our nation’s political stability, democratic and governance process.

Among the key appointments awaiting confirmation by the Senate includes the Chairman, Director General and Members of Pension Commission, Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), the embattled Director General, Lottery Regulatory Commission, the reappointment of Chairman, Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), Engr. Elias Mbam announced nearly a year ago but who is yet to assume duty following the inability of the Presidency to submit his name to the Senate for confirmation.

It is worthy to note that more vacancies are waiting to be filled in strategic Constitutional bodies like INEC where 37 slots of States Electoral Commissioners are still vacant, the Federal Civil Service Commission, the Federal Character Commission, Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, Federal Character Commission amongst numerous others. Most of these agencies of government play stabilizing roles in the political economy and continued existence of Nigeria.

Giving the above essential responsibilities, immediate attention to the confirmation of leadership and membership of such key institutions becomes imperative to ensure accelerated delivery of the present administration’s agenda.

Jimoh writes from AMAC Estate, Airport Road, Abuja

Emir Sanusi: When enough is enough

By Abubakar Jimoh

In recent times, one would have critically observed the persistent but unfair criticisms level by some Nigerians against the Emir of Kano State, HRH Alhaji Sanusi Muhammad Sanusi II for his constructive positions on pervasive socio-economic challenges permeating the Northern region or ill-advised government policies as they affect the nation at large.

We ought to appreciate the gallant and dogged Emir for standing firmly and articulating the mind-blowing but true positions about our stagnant socio-economic and political conditions for possible adjustments, even at the detriment of his throne. Such indeed, is a gift we should embrace and uphold.

Many have engaged written and other available means to advise him to shun public commentary and support every government’s decision or policy, not minding the dreadful consequences or probably to sail our already self-inflicted depressed economy towards a total recession.

The on-going verbal and written attacks against the Emir would however, not be a surprise as Yoruba adage puts its “Olooto kii ni eni” (i.e. the truthful one has nobody). Pardon me for the innate interpretation.

Some Nigerians are well known to hold strongly critics against any matter of public or policy concern without giving iota of proper and constructive digestion to the communal benefits of issue, as far as such is hitting on them. They make mockery of or conflagrate challenges facing one region in appreciation of their rosy ones.

Meanwhile, had the Emir been promoting obsolete or unrealistic socio-cultural practices backpedalling Northern development or commending every policy mistakes, the story would have of course won him encomium from every level of political sphere. Such is a society, where respect and dignity for traditional advice by the contemporary politicians are fast declining.

The lost respect and dignity would only be reverted in presence of some fundamental questions which often arise as: Who is the closest to the people? Who speak for the majority voiceless or poor?

We must on this note be mindful of some Northern leaders who, after the death of over 330 Northerners from Meningitis outbreaks, see themselves as angels, but poor citizens as sinners whose socio-economic problems can only be resolved by divine intervention, not good governance.

It is worrisome that our country has degenerated to a level where our socio-economic problems are not more of governance issues, but the wraths of God against the poor citizens.

We must remember that prior to ascending the throne, Sanusi was well known for his doggedness in articulating factual position on matters of public concern, even when such would cost his seat as then Governor of the Centre Bank of Nigeria.

Having observed the emergent socio-economic issues and archaic cultural practices as major impediments to the Northern region’s development and citizens’ well-beings, he comes openly and proffers holistic recommendations, instead of impressing political egos.

Giving the existing socio-economic problems backed by intrinsic cultural practices in the North, can we sincerely say Emir Sanusi is merely trying to impress the public? For instance, while adequate, accessible and affordable maternal and child is key to the development, survival and growth of every society, in various engagements by Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) across North revealed that the region is faced high level maternal and child mortality arising from inadequate budgetary allocation, overstretched, inaccessible and dilapidated Primary Health Care system.

Similarly, childhood under-nutrition remains very high in the region with about 2.2 million out of the 2.5 million severely acute malnourished children being from Northern Nigeria. Majority of children do not receive minimum acceptable diet. While 50% child mortality in the country has malnutrition as underlining cause, no fewer than 1200, out of 2600 estimated daily deaths are caused by malnutrition.

Relevant studies across the Northern States have exposed mothers personally consuming or selling Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) meant for the treatment of their severely acute malnourished children. The situation which is intensified by existing rising poverty level hampers both local and international efforts at addressing childhood malnutrition and mortality in the region.

Apart from the above, adequate budgetary allocation to the social sector in the region is impeded by the on-going widespread dwindling revenue allocation from Federation Account to the states and low State Internally Generated Revenue.

It is in presence of decreasing resources and the growing financial incapacitation of many families that Emir Sanusi advises each family to be realistic in marrying number of wives or bearing children it can best carter for.

No fewer than 3 million out of school children, roaming the streets of Kano state, as Almajirai – pupils of Quranic schools are converted to beggars. The resultant socio-economic challenges of the situation was recently confirmed and seriously bemoaned by the State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje during the Kaduna State Economic and Investment Summit, where he stressed that the “Almajiri syndrome is one of the serious problems worrying the North-west geopolitical zone”.

This precarious backdrop prompts the Emir Sanusi’s tenacious public opinion calling for an end to the region’s obsolete socio-cultural and identification of the regional economic advantages for the region’s socio-economic prosperity.

Finally, while I commend the Emir’s giant stride, being the father of the a state and representative of the voiceless, he should as a matter of urgency consider reducing the Emirate’s expenditure to barest minimum to avert wrong signal or sensationalised public opinion.

INEC Appointment: Civil Society condemns Anti-gender Politics

By Abubakar Jimoh

A Group of civil society organizations has condemned in totality the ongoing anti-gender politics and needless negative comments from the opposition party against the recent appointment of Mrs. Amina Bala Zakari as the Acting Chairman of Nigeria’s foremost Independent National Electoral Commission after the expiration of Prof. Attahiru Jega’s tenure.

In a press conference organized recently in Abuja, the group, which comprises: CISLAC, Women Aids Collective (WACOL), State of the Union (SOTU), Accountability for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health in Nigeria (AMHiN), Advocacy Nigeria, Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative (WRAPA), Women In Nigeria, Women Advocates’ Research and Documentation Center (WARDC), West Africa Civil Society Forum(WACSOF-Nigeria), Federation of Muslim Women Associations of Nigerian (FOMWAN), Centre for Democracy and Development, Partners on Electoral Reform, and Centre for Information Technology And  Development (CITAD), decried the hue and cry over what it described as “well-deserved appointment by President Muhammadu Buhari”.

The group said, “It must be noted that Mrs. Amina Zakari has been a serving commissioner with the INEC and has shared in the successes of the Prof. Jega led administration which is marked by transparency, fairness and free electoral process. She has also distinguished herself as she is among the six (6) commissioners penciled out for the proposed position of Chairman/chairperson of INEC.

“The President’s act of appointing Mrs. Zakari has been characterized as nepotism but as gender activists, we believe that judging by Mrs. Zakari’s antecedent, she was appointed based on merit. It is noteworthy that the integrity of the Acting Chairperson has not been questioned which should be the major consideration given the delicate and politically sensitive role of the institution. Hence, we applaud the effort of the President Muhammed Buhari for taking the first step toward fulfilling his electoral promise to empower Nigerian women. Therefore, the appointment of a woman to head this great institution that has successfully conducted two general elections in 2011 and 2015 is not only unprecedented but shows sensitivity to gender equality.”

The group bemoaned the claims that Mrs. Zakari’s appointment overrules the mandate of Prof. Jega, stating that it is the constitutional right of Mr. President to appoint whoever he wishes to steer the hallowed tide of INEC as an acting chairman/chairperson. “In the same vein, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria can also appoint the Chairman of the Commission as a constitutional mandate. Therefore the appointment of a woman to head this great institution that has done Nigeria proud with two elections conducted since 2011 to 2015 is not only unprecedented by shows sensitivity to gender equality,” it explained.

It added: “The fear that the appointment could lead to tinkering with electoral processes should be allayed as the former Chairman of INEC made great effort to set up strong institution that any attempt by future leaders of the commission to thwart the processes will be easily detected. It is obvious that Mrs. Zakari also has impeccable record that has not been faulted by any including the opposition party.”

The group therefore, called for gender inclusion in governance to compliment effort of President Buhari at fulfilling campaign manifesto, and improve social development.  It further commended and encouraged the President to fulfill his promise to increase the number of women in positions of authority.

Confab Report: Between National Assembly and the Presidency

By Abubakar Jimoh

national-confab

As part of the efforts to exhaustively brainstorm and address identified challenges in Nigeria’s constitution, in March 2014 President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan inaugurated a National Conference, consisting about 492 delegates that represented a cross-section of Nigerians including the civil society groups and professional bodies.

It would be recalled that President Jonathan said while inaugurating the conference that its outcome might be subjected to a referendum.

While some Nigerians suggested that recommendations from the Conference be submitted to National Assembly for further deliberation, others argued in support of referendum primarily to ensure decisions therefrom are binding on every Nigeria. It was in support of latter that a reproductive health activist and former Country Director of an International Non-Governmental Organisation, IPAS Nigeria, Dr. Ejike Oji, in April 2014, suggested that the outcome of the ongoing National Conference be subjected to a national referendum, primarily to legitimise the its outcomes.

He said: “A national referendum should rubber stamp the outcome of the National Conference, because already, some people are saying that the delegates went on their own business, but with a referendum, the decision would be binding on every Nigerian.”

Similarly, Barrister Ferdinand Okotote, a Sokoto-based lawyer said if the outcome of the National Conference was to be binding on Nigerians, the people must have a say in the final outcome, as such an action would legitimise the decisions of the conference.

Also, in April, 2014 a nationwide opinion survey of personalities conducted by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) revealed that most respondents preferred ratification of conference decisions by referendum rather than Presidential or National Assembly endorsement.

At the peak of the Conference, Hon. Victor Ogene, the Deputy Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Media and Public Affairs raised alarm that the outcome of the conference might be an exercise in futility unless the 1999 constitution was further amended to make provision for referendum, as such was not provided for in the constitution.

“The only document we swore to uphold is the constitution. For any section to be altered, you need two third majority of both chambers of the National Assembly and two third of state assemblies. Unless this is done, the issue of referendum will not sail through, as there is nothing on referendum before the House,” he said.

Following the position by Hon. Ogene, many Nigerians were of the opinion that asking the National Assembly to ratify the conference decisions would be less expensive and bear no cost to the economy. According to them, the National Assembly is already an established institution; but conducting a referendum is like conducting fresh general elections, which would be more expensive and more cumbersome. In line with this, the Chairman of the Sokoto State chapter of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Steve Nwoke, was of the view that the resolutions of the conference should be submitted to the National Assembly for ratification. Just as a senior lecturer at the Niger Delta University (NDU), Mr. Ebipado Sapere-Obi, expressed uncertainty about a referendum, noting the absence of an enabling law for a referendum in Nigeria.

The conference, which lasted for five months was concluded in August 2014 with 22 volumes of reports and annexures totaling about 10,335 pages submitted to Jonathan. Receiving the reports, he assured Nigerians that it would not be a waste, stating that the quality of debate and the depth of contributions added to the ability of the delegates to resolve every argument without burying or suspending them was indicative of the fact that it was a new dawn in Nigeria and a new nation was at the door.

Jonathan disclosed that the report of the Conference would be sent to National Assembly and the Council of State for incorporation into the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The Council is made up of governors, former presidents or heads of state, former Chief Justices of Nigeria, Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

“As I receive the report of your painstaking deliberations, let me assure you that your work is not going to be a waste of time and resources. We shall do all we can to ensure the implementation of your recommendations which have come out of consensus and not by divisions. The discourse reflected our latest challenges. We shall send the relevant aspects of your recommendations to the Council of State and the National Assembly for incorporation into the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. On our part, we shall act on those aspects required of us in the Executive,” he said.

As Jonathan promised, by October 2014, the National Assembly through the spokesman of the House of Representatives, Zakari Mohammed disclosed that it had received the confab report, adding that every member of the House was issued the “compressed” report to study in preparation for its consideration any time soon.

“When we circulate reports, members will study them. We’ll consider the confab report very soon, maybe next week. I’ve not conferred with the rules and business committee, but I do know we’ll look at it very soon. We got a more compact report. What we have is a compressed document that you can easily study,” he said.

In his contribution, Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba, said the National Assembly had no choice than to go ahead with the process of Constitution amendment since the process had been ongoing long before the setting up of the National Conference.

He said it was only President Goodluck Jonathan who had the prerogative as the convener of the conference to determine what use the conference report would be put to, stating that on the part of the apex lawmakers, they were going ahead to give the country a new constitution.

Ndoma-Egba said: “Well, if you recall, the process of amendment of the Constitution has been going on before the National Conference was set up by President Jonathan. He has the responsibility to decide how he wants the confab report to be handled. If he wants to keep it like former President Olusegun Obasanjo did with his own Conference report, there is nothing anybody can do about it. So the constitution review will go on up to the State Houses of Assembly until it finally becomes operational. We cannot wait for the report of the conference before we conclude the constitution review process. The National Assembly will go ahead with it not minding the conference report,” Ndoma-Egba stated.

In the heat of 2015 presidential campaign, implementation of the National Conference reports took a difference dimension as it became a reference point following the visit of Jonathan to Ondo State as part of state wide campaign to shore up support for his second term ambition. Publicity Secretary of the Afenifere, a Yoruba socio political Organisation Organisation and delegate at the National Confere, Yinka Odumakin made a public disclosure of the group support for Jonathan because he convoked the National Conference and was ready to implement the report. Odumakin said the group was convinced about the commitment of the president to the National Confab and the implementation of the report.

Also speaking, Ondo State Governor, Dr Olusegun Mimiko said what Afenifere did was an unequivocal endorsement of the president. Dr. Mimiko said Afenifere expressed believe in the transformation agenda of the president describing it as systematic and strategic for the development of the nation.

Against this backdrop, a former Chief of Defence Staff, General Alani Akinrinade has bemoaned the endorsement of President Goodluck Jonathan by Afenifere noting that it was wrong. He said while members of the organisation might have their political leanings, it was wrong for some Yoruba leaders to use the platform to canvass for votes for a particular candidate. He said the Yoruba agenda brought before the National Conference failed.

The General also faulted the pro-Jonathan Yoruba leaders who said that the implementation of the report would benefit the people. He noted that the recommendations of the confab were below Yoruba’s target and wondered why the leaders would base their endorsement on that.

He said, “When the Yoruba sent their delegates, the cardinal points that can make a federation were practically not given to us. I can assure you, we missed all the targets. It will be preposterous of us now to expect that by the time that report is executed, we will end up with true federalism. We want to set the record straight that there are major things that have to be done before we can have a true federalism. It cannot be done by one President alone. Unless you change the rule now, you will need all the national and state assemblies to agree with you.”

He further noted that Ondo State Governor, Olusegun Mimiko, who has been holding several post-confab conferences, was only pushing the agenda of the Peoples Democratic Party. “By the look of things, it appears that they (Afenifere) were set up principally to canvass votes for Jonathan so that he might execute all the decisions reached at the last national confab,” he said.

Dancing to the tune of the moment, following the Federal Executive Council (FEC)’s approval of the modalities for implementation of the report as recommended by the conference at its meeting in March 2015, Jonathan ordered the immediate implementation of aspects of the national conference report, particularly policy matters that do not require constitution amendment, stating that other aspects would then be vetted and sent to the National Assembly.

“The national conference report came to the council today. You will recall that barely one year ago, Mr. President inaugurated the conference and at the end of their sitting, the conference came up with a report and submitted the report to him,” Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Pius Anyim disclosed while briefing journalists after the meeting presided over by President Jonathan.

He continued: “… today, we are taking steps towards implementing the resolutions of the national conference and we believe in the vision of Mr. President in setting up the conference and the wonderful work done by eminent Nigerians who attended the conference in producing the report, the resolutions and recommendations, and we believe our country will benefit immensely from the work of this conference.

Step to implement the report has been met with prompt objection when a member of House of Representatives representing Ikole Ekiti/Oye Federal Constituency (I), Hon. Bimbo Daramola, who said President Jonathan’s campaign promise to implement the report of National Conference was misleading and belated, saying that the President has no constitutional power to implement the report, but only the National Assembly has the powers to implement the reports.

Conversely, Human Rights Lawyer, Mr. Tunji Braithwaite said, the National Assembly could never approve the resolutions of the National Conference because most of the resolutions did not favour corrupt politicians. He maintained that Jonathan goofed by not subjecting the resolutions of the conference to a referendum.

On related development, the decision by President Jonathan to implement the report has been supported by Senate President, David Mark, who recently assured his Benue South senatorial district of the creation of Apa State following the determination of President Jonathan to implement conference report. Mark while appealing to Idoma people during the grand finale of his re-election campaign in Otukpo stressed the need to re-elect Jonathan so that the long awaited dream state can become a reality. He however, said the report which would pass through the senate had already been received by the president who would implement the content if given a second term opportunity.

Also, commenting on the imperatives of implementing the report, Dr. Joe Nwogu, Secretary General of Ohaneze Ndigbo noted: “Amongst the fundamental flaws of the polity to be re-jigged include the devolution of political power away from the bloated centre to the states, fighting corruption, presentation of annual budget, revenue sharing, state creation and legislative structure. Other areas include pensions and gratuities for political office holders, state of government-acquired schools and the status of people living with disabilities.

“…For instance, with it each state will have their own constitution; its own police force, prison service and create their own local governments. The added benefits also include the freedom to own their sea ports, air ports and railways. Solid minerals that have been the exclusive preserve of the all-powerful Federal Government have been moved to the concurrent list for state government to also exploit.”

Moreover, the recent developments in the nation’s political atmosphere such as the emergence of General Muhammad Buhari as President-elect and observed high turnover in the national legislative chambers, present a fresh challenge to the implementation of the report. That is, will General Buhari implement the report? Will upcoming legislature vote for referendum or subject the report to deliberation? Only time can tell.

Dangerous Speech as Source of Election-Related Violence

By Abubakar Jimoh
electoral-violence
It has been argued that persuasion is better than force as a means of drawing public support or attention, that good book and good argument can improve the soul, yet the intuition remains that some speeches are in fact dangerous.
In linguistic perspective meanings are inherent in words, while such would be interpreted based on existing cultural and socio-linguistic context.  In the words of Jim Aune, American blogger, “dangerous speech” exists when a high-ethos sender delivers a factually inaccurate yet emotionally inflammatory message in a self-contained contact and context to receivers with a high level of anxiety in an unusually polarized historical context.
Although it is a well-known fact that under Section 39 (1) of the 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, every person is entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference. However, experience has shown that freedom of expression occasionally gives room to dangerous speech, which incites violence.
Nigeria is a signatory to the 2013 AU African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, an international legal instrument, which recognizes among other things freedoms of information and expression for citizens of member countries.
Speech is most often prohibited under international law for its possible consequences and capacity to result in an internationally unacceptable secondary effect, such as violence or genocide. This informed the opinion of Antoine Buyes, who wrote in Cambridge’s Journal of International and Comparative Law in 2014, where he provides three legal justifications that could traditionally pose restriction to freedom of expression. These are prevention of breaches of speech and protecting public orders; protection of targeted group, both regarding its members’ feeling and physical safety; and curtailment of speech to avert what society deems inappropriate.
So far, democracies have long struggled with the issue of restriction to expression of ideas and beliefs. It would be recalled that during 399 BC back in ancient Greece, the Athenians, who cherished individual freedom, nevertheless prosecuted Socrates for his teachings, claiming that he had corrupted young people through his teaching and insulted the gods.
In modern world, exceptions to free speech are provided in some countries like United States, where certain limitations to free speech and expressions are recognized by the Supreme Court. These exceptions have been created over time, based on certain types of speech and expression, and under different contexts. While freedom of speech in the United States is a constitutional right, these exceptions make that right a limited one. In this case, speech that involves incitement, false statements of fact, obscenity, child pornography, threats, and speech owned by others are all completely exempt protections.
Also, in Saudi Arabia, individual rights to freedom of speech are banned by the government; and any speech or public demonstration that is deemed to be immoral or may subject its national unity to danger can lead to imprisonment or corporal punishment.
More importantly, many writers have observed dangerous speech as a phenomenon which emanates from hate speech.  For instance, Joyce Arthur, a Canadian activist and writer, in a piece titled “Argument – Should hate speech be a crime?” offers to explain the point at which speech becomes dangerous. She wrote: “Hate speech is dangerous because words have power and can influence others to act. The assassinations of abortion providers in the US prove that words do not have to incite violence explicitly to cause violence. Hate speech promotes division and intolerance; it harms and marginalizes the vulnerable groups it targets. Free speech is exercised largely by the privileged at the expense of the unprivileged who do not have a level ground on which to respond.”
Experience has revealed that elections trigger inflammatory speech because they are analogous to battles, targeted to one opposition or another. This presents basic challenges in distinguishing between political speech, which constitutes the exercise of a human right, and remains essential for effective democracy; and the best practices for limiting dangerousness in speech, without curbing the exercise of freedom of expression.
Deliberating on how dangerous speech form a rudiment of violence, Susan Benesch, a Political scientist and Project Director at World Policy Institute reveals that inflammatory public speech rises steadily before outbreaks of mass violence, suggesting that it is a precursor or even a prerequisite for violence, which makes sense: groups of killers do not form spontaneously. “In most cases, a few influential speakers gradually incite a group to violence”.
Benesch provides five fundamental qualitative variables to discern the dangerousness of speech, offering a useful model for analyzing hate speech case studies. These include the level of a speaker’s influence, the grievances or fears of the audience, whether or not the speech act is understood as a call to violence, the social and historical context, and the way in which the speech is disseminated.
The facts raise by the Project Director was evident in Kenya and Rwanda…. In the past two decades, Rwanda and Kenya have experienced considerable violence. The two countries remain useful case studies to discern when and how hate speech becomes dangerous speech.  For instance, provocative role of Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines in the Rwandan genocide has been widely condemned, as it offers a definitive example of dangerous speech. The radio was reportedly encouraging people to participate in genocide because it said ‘the enemy is the Tutsi’—the minority population constituted 14%. United Human Rights Council estimated that some 200,000 people participated in the perpetration of the genocide, which by April, 1994, left 800,000 men, women, and children perished.
Similarly, In Kenya, the media, particularly local language radio, have been accused of being responsible for fuelling ethnic hatred and violence in the aftermath of the 2005 referendum campaign and 2007 presidential elections. Local language radio stations were reportedly routinely partisan and unethical. The extent at which talk shows provided the greatest opportunities for dangerous speech was widely reported. IRI reported that immediately after elections’ results were announced, gangs of youths blocked Kenya’s main roads and set fire to hundreds of homes of perceived ‘outsiders’, resulting in the death of more than 1,200 people and some 600,000 displaced into temporary camps, with an equal number seeking refuge with friends or relatives.
In order to prevent dreadful impact of violence that emanate from dangerous speech, perpetrators must be held accountable, following a concrete proof that speech can be shown to induce violence. It has been recommended that violence may be prevented by interfering with the process through inhibiting the speech, limiting its dissemination, undermining the credibility of the speaker, or inoculating the audience against the speech so that it is less influential, or dangerous.