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.

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Tobacco Control: Report unlocks progress across Sub-Saharan Africa

By Abubakar Jimoh

As the driving force behind the success of domesticating and implementing tobacco control policies in accordance with provisions of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) across Sub-Saharan African countries, the appreciable interventions by Civil Society Organisations cannot be undermined, especially in sustained advocacy, coalition buildings, service provision, evidence-based information, and monitoring efforts.

A recent report titled “Enhancing the effectiveness of civil society organisations in tobacco control in targeted African countries” published by African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) has revealed progress in the domestication and implementation of FCTC in most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Assessing efforts and interventions by the supported civil society groups, the report acknowledges a sustained legislative platform for influencing Tobacco Control regulations by the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) through persistent sensitisation of key actors to finalize regulations for guiding implementation of the National Tobacco Control Act.

According to the report, CISLAC has successfully deployed various viewer-friendly social media platforms in real time legislative and policy advocacy on tobacco control in Nigeria, encouraging other civil society group across Sub-Sahara Africa to follow the trend in social media mobilisation given its limited financial burden in achieving effective domestication and implementation of the FCTC.

On related development, with impressive progress in Tobacco Control, apart from gazetting Tobacco Control Regulations in 2015, Kenya has taken a step further in ensuring graphic health warnings as provided for in the Regulations appear on tobacco packaging.

In order to sustain the recorded achievements in Kenya, the report recommends capacity building for Tobacco Control enforcement teams to effectively enforce the provisions of national law and in view of the forthcoming county specific legislation.

The report bemoans the growing rate of tobacco industry, and the delayed implementation-complaint proclamation of FCTC and other Tobacco Control policies in Ethiopia, calling for appropriate measures to “pre-empt, counter, and discredit interference from the industry”.

It stated: “The directive from the Ethiopia Foods, Medicines and Health care Administration and Control Authority (EFMHACA) in 2015 lacks enforcement mechanisms. The new FCTC- has been delayed. In addition, creation of 100 percent SFEs in universities requires multi-sectoral collaboration from them and outside stakeholders.”

Recounting the achievements on Tobacco Control in Benin, the report commends massive sensitisation of key stakeholders and ministry officials leading to the passage of the Tobacco Control law in September 2017, while recognizing the essential role of the Ministry of Health in advancing Tobacco Control through sustained engagements with media professionals to relay messages, stress risky attitudes and behaviours and denounce illegal practices of distributors and retailers of tobacco products.

Through the advocacy interventions of RAID, Gambia passed the Comprehensive Tobacco Control Act in 2016, consolidating existing laws and regulations with subsequent significant steps in combating tobacco use, and transformation of RAID to a very effect Tobacco Control actor in influencing policy decision.

In Botswana, the report observes the current intervention by ANTI-Tobacco Network (ATN) focusing tobacco industry monitoring, sensitisation of key stakeholders, research and fact-findings on situation analysis on tobacco control to further support resources, structures, key actors and governance issues.

As part of lessons learnt in Tobacco Control interventions across Sub-Saharan Africa, the report notes that the indispensable high level partnership and coordination of all TC actors through exchange platforms had led to a greater impact. “Also crucial are commitment and mobilisation of government authorities, and of religious and traditional leaders in working with CSOs.”

It recommends massive public awareness to de-normalizing tobacco and increase knowledge among people, especially youth, on the negative effects of tobacco use, so as to prevent initiation and to promote cessation.

2017 CPI: The Fiction and Reality in Nigeria

By Abubakar Jimoh

In spite of self-proclaimed measures deployed by the present administration in the on-going selective fight against corruption, Transparency International Secretariat in Germany recently took the ‘bull by the horn’ when it released the 2017 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) showing “Nigeria slipping further down in international ranking” with zero progress in the fight against corruption.

The CPI ranks Nigeria 146 out of 180 countries sampled in 2017 — dropping 12 positions against 2016. These results show a slight deterioration in the scoring of the perception about corruption in public administration compared to 2016. This shows that, as the rest of the world improved in the perception on corruption, Nigeria slips further down as the fight against corruption stagnates.

In the observations of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC)—the National Contact of Transparency International, the fresh setback in the fight against corruption confirms that grand-corruption, political corruption, nepotism, favoritism and bribery persist in Nigeria at all levels.
As the most respected international measurement of corruption indices trends in discussions and debate across the media, there emerged two schools of thought—“Fictionists” and “Realists” even within the Presidency maintaining separate but interesting view on the CPI.
The Fictionists have subscribed to live in denial or deception from glaring truth on virtually every constructive assessment and report on government’s performance. They are economical not only with the truth but also in articulating the intrinsic challenges back-pedalling our socio-economic and political development with resultant legendary tardiness. Such is a case of Garba Shehu, spokesperson for President Buhari who promptly dismissed the most credible CPI with a political interpretation that it constituted merely a “fiction” sponsored by the administration’s critics.
Of course, the Spokesperson is only repeating history and inherent trend in successive administrations’ response to critical reports on government performance, as we once had Dr. Reuben Abati, Special Adviser on Media and Publicity and Dr. Doyin Okupe, Senior Special Assistant on Public Affairs to former President Goodluck Jonathan, who would stop at nothing in defending the Presidency and issuing condemnation to floor constructive reports, debates or fact-findings on former administration’s performance.
However, for the realists, the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo could not conceal but to summoned courage in embracing facts and figures, while recognising the report as a catalyst for Nigeria to do better in its fight against corruption rather than a setback.
While the growing culture of quick reaction and condemnation to fact-findings on socio-economic and political spheres in the country increasingly blindfolds especially the political class from reasoning objectively to conclusively unlock potential benefits from such constructive presentations, it has become imperative to remind the Presidency that well-meaning citizens are fully aware of the various unfulfilled commitments including 2016 Anti-Corruption Summit in London, Open Government Partnership, campaign promise by the present administration to combat corruption in all ramifications without fear or favour.
Meanwhile, this piece will present in view of realists, some contributory failures to the deterioration of the public patience and perception about the ability to fight corruption in Nigeria.
It is disturbing that official corruption is deeply embedded and fast becoming a permanent fixture whose subculture melts seamlessly into the public servants’ daily life. In 2016, a report by a global professional advisory firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers warned that corruption could cost Nigeria about 37 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product by 2030 if the situation is not addressed immediately. The report equates this amount to about $1000 per person in 2014 and nearly $2000 per person by 2030.
The spite of corrupt practices in the public sector remains a major impediment to service delivery and development success of this administration. Corruption is Nigeria’s worst problem; it is responsible for all kinds of woes, such as election rigging, failed promises, abandoned projects, poor quality of implemented projects, dilapidated infrastructure, nepotism, instability in the Niger Delta, and impediment to flow of foreign direct investment.
Corruption in Nigeria’s public sector features in acceptance of gratification; succumbing to inducement and undue influence; embezzlement; conflict of interests; procurement scam; unethical practices in the award of contracts by pubic office holders to cronies, family members, and personally held companies; bribery; fraud; nepotism and tribalism in recruitment/appointment, promotion; kickback on contract; rigging of elections; misappropriation and conversion of public funds for personal gains; leaking tender information to friends and relations; diversion and misappropriation of funds through manipulation or falsification of financial records; payment for favourable judicial decisions, to mention few.
Indeed ghost workers phenomenon and budgeting corruption are fast-trending in the public sector. For instance, in 2016, the Federal Government payroll was through a notable initiative of the Federal Government, reportedly rid of 50,000 ghost workers, saving the country a huge sum amounting to N200 billion.
Budgeting corruption is another public sector systemic menace. As revealed by Nigerian Accounting Association, over 60 per cent of corruption issues in Nigeria are built and legalized in budget.
In a paper presented at the 1st National Policy Dialogue on strategies for improving service delivery in government parastatals, agencies and commissions organised by office of the secretary general for the federation on 27th march 2017, the Executive Director of CISLAC, Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani) warned that the effects of corruption in service delivery in Nigeria were outrageous. The effects, according to him range from under development, absence of basic infrastructure facilities such as potable water, good road networks, dilapidated health care facilities and degrading services, massive poverty, cluelessness in professionalism, deficient leadership outputs, high unemployment and youth hopelessness, falling standard of education leading to production of low-quality graduates.
In the health sector, continued diversion of funds 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, reducing the funding available for salaries, health services and maintenance with resultant low staff motivation, poor quality of care and declining service availability and accessibility.
Nigeria’s education sector has hitherto continued to suffer from continuous scourge of severe corruption and incompetence which metamorphose in mismanagement of educational funds, leading to ill-equipped laboratory, library, and classrooms; embezzlement of education budgets allocated for the purchase of teaching materials; systemic bribery, abuse of office, sexual misconducts fuelling examination malpractices, unmerited advantages, and poor performance; serious preference for financial rewards in admission process into education institutions, where the best but poor students are denied.
The administration’s continued unwillingness to exert appropriate sanction against erring officials found wanting in cases of silent but illegitimate re-engagement of the former Chairman of the Presidential Pension Reform Task Team, Abdulrasheed Maina, who was disengaged from service by the previous administration over N2.7b Pension Fraud; non-investigated N120bn security scam attributed to the serving Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Kpotum Idris; the hypocritically unresolved alleged breach of due process in the award of $25 billion contract involving the Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Dr. Maikanti Baru; and many others, is indeed worrisome.
Likewise, the administration’s emerging dwindling capability in handling high profile corruption cases, giving chances to culprits to walk freely on the street and positive signal to potential culprits to freely engage in corruption has raise concerns in the country and at international community. Indeed, some former state governors who have cases to answer have brazenly come back to political reckoning, confidently walk the streets, and are appointed to deliberate on national issues.
Prior to the launching of CPI, having observed the persistent deviation and mismatch in the administration’s commitments on corruption and discrepancies in the implementation, as part of critical follow-ups, CISLAC had through various platforms—advocacy, research, capacity building and networking, demanded strict compliance and warned against the unfavourable consequence on the nation’s image.
CISLAC observed with persistent warning that the manners in which systemic corrupt practices were encouraged and celebrated, especially in the public sector, if not rapidly addressed would ultimately erode citizens’ trust and confidence in governance and eventually backpedal the gains and recorded progress from anti-corruption in the country.
It also found the persistently apparent disregard for relevant anti-corruption bills and the needless legislative time and resources dedicated in pushing for passage of NGO Bill by the National Assembly, as a potential setback to anti-corruption efforts and mechanisms in the country.
On transparency and accountability in regards to asset recovery, in 2016 at the Anti-corruption Summit in London, the administration committed to strengthen asset recovery legislation through the passing of the Proceeds of Crime Bill to provide for transparent management of returned assets and non-conviction based approach to asset recovery; and develop internationally endorsed guidelines for the transparent and accountable management of returned stolen assets. Two years after the Summit, the administration still lags in fulfilling the commitments.
Although the Economic Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) disclosed, during the 7th Session of the Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) held in Vienna in November 2017, that 2.9 billion USD have been recovered between May 2015 and Oct. 20, 2017, but there is little information and absence of clear guidelines on how these recovered assets are utilized to maximally benefit the common citizens whose interest government had promised to protect.
With the overlapping mandates of anti-corruption agencies on asset recovery management, it is unclear, which of the many anti-corruption institutions takes a lead in the coordination of asset recovery efforts. Crucial legislature with a potential to establish an acceptable asset recovery management framework such as the Proceeds of Crime Bill, 2014 is stalled without explanation.
The suspension of Nigeria from the elite EGMONT group of financial intelligence agencies is ample evidence of chaotic institutional structure in the anti-corruption domain bedevilled by inexplicable inter-agency rivalry and lack of coordination of the anti-corruption effort.
Absence of independent, comprehensive review of how many assets that could be repatriated from all agencies with the power to seize assets, and verifiable information on the end-use and the impact of reinvested assets is a systemic challenge to successful anti-corruption fight.
Also, at a Global Forum for Asset Recovery (GFAR) held recently in Washington, USA, in December 2017, Executive Director of CISLAC made some disclosures on Nigeria’s progress in Beneficial Ownership transparency.
The Executive Director, who was also a Nigerian delegate at the Forum, bemoaned absence of legal requirement for Nigerian companies to maintain a register of Beneficial Ownership.
He said: “In Nigeria, beneficial owners can hide behind legal person members of a company without being identified. No legal requirements for Nigerian companies to maintain a register of Beneficial Ownership.
“We don’t have established Central Register of Beneficial Ownership information and no clear rules on access for all law enforcement and tax agencies to Beneficiary Ownership information are available. We don’t have legal framework for prosecution of non-disclosure of beneficial owner is available.”
Citing the Nigeria’s oil and gas sector as a case, the CISLAC’s boss explained that Nigeria as the world’s fifth largest producer of oil lost an estimated 9 billion USD since 2013 through shady practices in the oil and gas industry.
“Many of the names contained in the register of companies operating in Nigeria’s oil and gas industry are not the real owners. Although it is a legal requirement to submit the names and details of directors/ shareholders of a company before it can be registered, this is regarded as a mere formality;
“Lack of transparency allows influential officials to use their positions to extract maximum rent from a country’s mineral resources with minimum or no benefit to the citizens. A case in point is OPL 245 and Malabu Oil,” he added.
Rafsanjani berated the continued loss of the nation’s revenue to malicious tax incentives offered by the government to multinational corporations, giving chances to illicit financial flows.
“Nigeria may have lost as much as around 50 billion USD annually to illicit financial flows through money laundering, tax evasion and corruption. Oil and gas, and others companies with unclear owners enjoy tax holidays, credits and tax breaks on the expense of potential state revenues,” he added.
While it is commendable that anti-corruption agencies have accelerated the rate of convictions on anti-corruption charges with EFCC in 2016/17 brought 286 cases to conviction, however, the majority are rather insufficient cases with little impact of returned assets into the state budget and no effect on unfavorable public opinion. This exposes judicial incapacity or reluctance in prosecuting high profile cases involving senior public servants and elected politicians who have plundered lucrative Nigerian state resources or responsible for the catastrophic lack of oversight on public funds as mandated by the Constitution.
Corruption is not far-fetched in Nigeria’s Defence sector. A report titled “Weaponising Transparency: Defence Procurement Reform as a Counterterrorism Strategy in Nigeria” published by Transparency International Defence and Security Programme in collaboration with CISLAC reveals how violence extremism thrives in Nigeria as a result exploitative governing structures, unhealthy political struggles, states predation, and systemic corruption.
Similarly, a number of scandals have been recorded around the so-called ‘security votes’, which allow politicians to appropriate millions of dollars behind closed doors simply by evoking ‘national security’. As a result, funds that are meant to buy equipment and even pay salaries go missing, leaving the military badly equipped, demoralized and incapacitated.
The Ministry of Defence’s refusal to make its spending public has further made difficult to track the nation’s investment on the military and allied agencies. Excessive secrecy and needless confidentiality are typically employed to halt the disclosure of Defence budget and procurement process, including the weak and exceptional legislative oversight activities associating with the Defence financial system.
The direct costs of Defence procurement corruption include loss of public funds through misallocations or higher expenses and lower quality of goods, services and works. Those paying the bribes seek to recover their money by inflating prices, billing for work not performed, failing to meet contract standards, reducing quality of work or using inferior materials, in case of public procurement of works. This results in exaggerated costs and a decrease in quality.
Also, corruption in security sector symbolizes institutionalised human rights abuses and systemic bribery; commercialised extortion of the already impoverished citizens at check points; denial of bails at the instance of no monetary return despite legal provisions against such; sexual assault and shooting of citizens for refusing to bribe; high-level embezzlement and diversion of security personnel entitlements into private pockets; 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.
The extent of judges frustrating justice for compensations or enticement of various kinds has been reported. Endemic corruption in judicial system has resulted in loss of public confidence and hopelessness in the system.
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. Politicians are abusing offices and distorting judicial processes. Some registrars of lower courts build houses for judges in the Supreme Court, as gratification. Nigerian politicians alleged put judges on pay roll, even when such is against judicial code of ethics. High-ranking judicial officers acting as couriers of bribe;
Consequently, corruption cripples Nigeria socio-economic development including the fast-falling educational standard, dilapidating healthcare, bad roads, rising unemployment—breeding crimes and vandalism such as armed robbery, kidnapping, and youth agitation, poorly motivated security personnel, youth under-development, degraded national image, bad governance, eroded erodes standards, poor public services, infrastructural decay, massive brain drain.
It is worthy of a note that on the African continent, Nigeria ranks 32nd in Africa out of 52 assessed countries in 2017. While Botswana leads the continent with the record of competent and largely corruption-free public administration, Nigeria falls with 27 points hopelessly behind. In West Africa, Nigeria ranks out of 17 countries second worst leaving only Guinea Bissau behind.
In order to revert the unfavourable trend, clear guidelines must be established on the use of recovered assets with priority given to the health and education sector. It is important to have in place, a policy framework to set up integrity trust fund to manage asset recovery proceeds with involvement of credible CSOs and honest Nigerians.
International jurisdictions which harbour estimated $5 billion of Nigerian stolen assets must engage the Nigerian government without delay and in a transparent manner so that proceeds of corruption can benefit, especially the 61% of Nigerian living in abject poverty.
Publishing a breakdown of confiscated assets by all mandated agencies without delay will disperse the public suspicion of re-looting of looted assets. A comprehensive asset recovery policy must stipulate the handling of various types of assets including perishable assets.
The judiciary must put a preference to civil proceedings, especially non-conviction based confiscation in absentia of accused in the context of the inability to prosecute corrupt politically exposed persons and others in criminal court trials.
Developing clear policy actions on asset recovery as recommended by Global Forum for Asset Recovery in 2017 is paramount to revert current trend and successfully combat corruption in Nigeria. The inclusion of CSOs in the nation-wide discussion on the management and the end-use of recovered assets is imperative.
Government must make the 2017 Anti-corruption strategy public, assign responsibilities for its implementation with a detailed and costed action plan monitored by civil society organizations; prioritize anti-corruption courts and nominate judges with proven record of high integrity and no controversies; prioritize international cooperation and usage of international agreements to repatriate Nigerian assets abroad and use foreign jurisdictions’ legal instruments such as recently passed Unexplained Wealth Order in UK to expose Nigerian illicit financial flows.
The administration must get rid of absurd privileges for elected public officials and senior civil servants including insisting on the public submission of asset declarations of the executive, legislative and judiciary officials. Government must strengthen anti-corruption institutions, ensure adequate protection and encouragement for whistle-blowers, and intensify media and public consciousness in demanding transparency and accountability in governance.

‘Nigeria accounts for about 70% of the illegal small arms in West Africa’

By Abubakar Jimoh and Vaclav Prusa

There are indications that West Africa is conveniently situated for drug and illegal weapons’ trade between South America and Europe, and Nigeria accounts for about 70% of the illegal small arms in the sub-region.

These hints are contained in 20-pages report titled ‘CrimeJust: Fact Sheet Nigeria’ published by Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) under the aegis of Criminal Justice project supported by the European Union (EU) implemented by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in partnership with INTERPOL and Transparency International.

The report which aims at raising policy consciousness on the dreadful impacts of Organised Crime and enhancing the capacity of relevant authorities to effectively devise appropriate countermeasures reveals that Nigeria stands at the centre of a number of transnational crimes.

According to the report, the existing porous borders have not only paved ways for free flow of arms in and out of Nigeria but also contributed to increasing number of violent conflicts, constant human and drug trafficking which remain a challenge to authorities within and outside Nigeria.

The report observes that the broken political system, corrupt law enforcers and social environment are contributory challenges to many criminal activities as socially acceptable, thereby putting Nigeria at the epicentre of highly internationalised and organised crime. “The established linkage between the worst forms of criminality at an industrial scale and the political elite is widely observed and documented both in Nigeria and internationally.”

Narrating the networks in Organised Crime, the report traces drug trafficking and other serious crime to high public officials including the police and the army. “Political Exposed Persons and individuals within the Nigerian police and armed forces do not only assist criminal activities but also sometimes run illegal activities including drug and human trafficking and weapons smuggling.

“Drug trafficking, money laundering, arms manufacturing and arms trafficking, human trafficking, advance fee fraud, armed robbery and commercial kidnapping, piracy, pipeline vandalism and cybercrime are forms of organised crime with significant Nigerian involvement nationally and internationally.

“Allegations of corruption, heavy-handedness, and politicization have dogged the Nigeria Police Force,” it recounted.

The report discloses that drug trafficking remains a thriving business and serious issue with a global dimension of Nigerian involvement, noting that networking Nigerian gangs operate from Brazil and other South American countries though Europe and South East Asia with no fewer than 30% of the foreigners arrested across Germany, Italy, Switzerland, and Portugal were from West Africa, mostly Nigeria.

On human trafficking related crime, the report explains that vast and porous borders have exacerbated human trafficking routes from Nigeria through North African countries in the Sahara via the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.

“These vast borders have proven to be very difficult to control. The porosity of Nigeria’s borders has serious security implications for the country.

“With the porosity of Nigeria’s border, the security of Nigeria is threatened by the flow of arms, criminals, terrorists, drugs and thriving illegal human trafficking operations.

“Law enforcement agencies and security services are poorly organised, ineffective and, frequently, too corrupt to control the influx of drugs and other transnational crime to enter and exit Nigeria,” the report noted.

As related to reporting of abuses by security establishment, the report observes that frequent verbal and physical threats and repeated crackdown on whistle-blowers, journalists and activists persistently obstruct accessibility to public information increasing public disillusion about meaningful participation in governance.

The report further bemoans rivalry and overlapping roles amongst the law enforcement agencies with resultant poor coordination in the fight against Organised Crime, stating that the lingering inability of the agencies to exchange information and data results in incomplete evidence from prosecution in complex cases of organised crime, and poor conviction rate.

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.

Nigeria: Social sector financing and dwindling donors’ resources

By Abubakar Jimoh

The rebasing of Nigeria’s GDP has projected the nation as a middle income economy resulting in consequent dwindling donors’ resources with the effect that by 2022 the country will witness reduction in availability of grants and more external funds that can be accessed through higher interest loans.

Efforts at providing an enabling platform for inter legislative Committees dialogue to interact in proffering holistic solutions to the current trend and challenges confronting adequate and sustainable social sector financing coupled with the need to harness and strengthen domestic resources for social sector financing in the face of dwindling funding led to a one-day retreat for National Assembly Members organised by House of Representatives Committee on Appropriation in conjunction with Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) recently in Abuja.

Giving his opening address, the Executive Director of CISLAC, Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani) noted that the Retreat was primarily triggered by the current but unpleasant trend arising from pervasive dwindling donors’ resources, which without pretence leaves Nigeria as one of the major beneficiaries with a challenge and no option than to proactively brainstorm, provoke critical discussions and harness potential for domestic resource mobilisation for sustainable social sector financing to inform appropriate legislative decisions and policy directions in Nigeria.

As adequate and sustainable financing for social sector remains paramount to achieve healthy, secured and developed society, the Executive Director recounted the Nigeria’s ailing health, agriculture and education sectors that have hitherto suffered from inadequate financing, warning that though “donor resources play an integral role in complementing Nigerian governments’ efforts in social sector financing, however, we must as well not lose sight to acknowledge the present reality and proffer holistic measures to avert the detrimental impacts dwindling donors’ resources may pose to our nation’s social sector investment and development”.

He noted: “While the fundamental purpose of humanitarian aid by any government is to support the efforts of a receiving nation at revitalising her social sector as well as uplifting the poor from extreme poverty, which renders them incapacitated to attain self-reliance and effectively fight diseases, the present dwindling donors’ resources, if not instantly matched with concrete legislative and policy measures will without doubt revert existing achievements and backpedal development of our nation’s social sector.

The CISLAC’s boss provided an exclusive narration of the current development in donors’ resources to Nigeria, when he reveals: “It is no more news that the rebasing of Nigeria’s GDP has firmed up the nation’s position as an emerging market economy. However, in the wake of GDP re-basing, Nigeria is fast witnessing down-slopping trend in donors’ resources, practically buttressed by the recent international decisions to withdraw funding for social sector like the European Union (EU) which specifically withdraws financial support for Nigeria, saying the country has enough resources to meet her developmental needs; Global Alliance for Vaccine Initiative (GAVI) which runs out by 2020 with potentially 7.5million children losing access to live-saving vaccines annually; United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warning governments to take full responsibility of their respective nutrition financing while their refusal may lead to another 2.5 million severely acute malnourished children and grossly intensify child mortality in the country.”

He did not conceal the similar and most recent development from proposed international aid cut by the United States, stating that if such executed without proactive national measures, will constitute additional challenge to the development of Nigeria’s social sector financing.

The Chairman House Committee on Appropriation, Hon. Mustapha Bala Dawaki in his goodwill message urged concerted efforts by relevant stakeholders towards local production of immunisation vaccine to reduce high financial burden associating with vaccine procurement which constitutes the a major component of donors’ support in Nigeria, calling for a strengthen collaboration between executive and legislature arms to support and fast-track the process.

He said the continued mono-economic practice and lack of innovation in domestic resource mobilisation with particular focus on oil revenue had discouraged the nation’s capacity and efforts at diversifying and effectively harnessing domestic resources for financing social sector.

Also, lamenting delay and inadequate release of appropriated funds which remain systemic challenges to resource mobilisation, allocation and utilisation for the social sector development in the country, the Chairman House Committee on Finance, Hon. Babangida Ibrahim urged increased domestic financial priority for key sectors of the economy to mitigate wastage and shortfall in resource mobilisation and allocation for adequate and sustainable social sector financing.

The Director-General, Budget Office of the Federation, Mr. Ben Akabueze added that while the rebasing of Nigeria’s GDP has projected the country as a middle income economy with propensity for incessant dwindling donors’ resources, by 2022 there will be decreased availability of grants with more external funds that can be accessed through higher interest loans.

He revealed that a Technical Committee has been constituted by the Budget and Planning Office will critically observe, analyse, and address the impacts of Nigeria’s transition from lower to middle income status.

“After the rebasing, Nigeria was rated a Middle Income country, meaning that Nigeria should be able to take care of its own. By the year 2022, Nigeria will bear the full cost of vaccines formerly funded by GAVI. Most donors’ resources are already on their way out. Therefore we must take cognizance of this fact,” the Director-General explained.

Mr. Vishal Gujadhur, Lead Presenter also Senior Program Officer, Development Policy and Finance in USA noted that though in 2010, while Nigeria’s GDP almost doubled with per capita income much higher than originally thought, it as well showed untapped revenues from non-oil sectors and weakness in the nation’s revenue mobilisation.

He said: “As countries grow wealthier, donors begin assessing whether a country can pay its own way. With a Gross National Income (GNI) per capita of $2,450, Nigeria is now squarely a lower middle income country (LMIC). It continues to receive significant concessional funding – for example from the World Bank, Gavi, and bilateral donors like DFID.

“When a country is above the ‘threshold’, it will be ‘graduated’ from assistance. In 2016 Nigeria fully exited the ADF which is the concessional window of the AfDB – a marker of things to come.”

The Senior Program Officer observed that based on Official Development Assistance (ODA), between 2011 and 2015, Nigeria received an average of $2.9 billion in aid flows. To size this figure, he recalled that ODA inflows in 2015 at $3.2bn were more than total government expenditure on education.

“Nigeria graduated from ADF in 2015, entered the accelerated transition phase of Gavi in 2017 and is projected to stop receiving Gavi and International Development Association (IDA) funding by 2022. More than 80% of these flows come from a few institutions – IDA, Global Fund, USAID, DfID, and Gavi. This means the graduation policies of a few institutions will have a significant impact on Nigeria’s aid flows.

Nigeria’s top 3 bilateral donors – USA, France and the UK – make up more than 80% of total bilateral aid in-flows. Recent political trends in these countries, and more nationalist leaning policies will impact aid flows. The US is already due to scale back its aid according to the 2018 budget proposed by President Trump. DfID current five year plan (through 2020) has this current plan as the last “full” one for Nigeria,” Gujadhur added.

He warned that since Nigeria has crossed the eligibility threshold for both IDA and GAVI which combined amounted to about $1.1bn, 34% total 2015 ODA flows, crossing the eligibility threshold would raise high expectation of Nigeria to graduate from these sources of funding soon. “Nigeria will lose the equivalent of 10% of 2016 FGN revenue.”

Gujadhur argued that though on an aggregate level Nigeria is not as dependent on aid, however, on sectoral level, Nigeria is more dependent on aid, given the significant concentration of aid flows across health, population policies, education and agriculture. “This means that the impact of transition will be felt more in these specific sectors if not so much at the aggregate level. Transition preparation would therefore require a more targeted approach.

An uncoordinated aid transition will impact Nigeria’s primary health care and the government would be unable to achieve the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP)’s goal of revitalizing primary health care in Nigeria. Some sub-sectors, like vaccines and family planning, are at particular risk without proper planning,” he cautioned.

The ERGP in the analysis of Ministry of Budget and National Planning, articulates Nigeria’s vision for the country for the period 2017-2020, and lays the foundation for long-term growth, primarily to optimise local content and empower local businesses. The plan stipulates the role of government in facilitating, enabling and supporting the economic activities of businesses. It articulates the strategy for aligning fiscal, monetary and trade policies. The plan outlines relevant policy instruments to promote import substitution and export promotion.

Similarly in agriculture, Gujadhur observed that between 2012 and 2015 ODA inflows averaged 75% of FGN budget to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural development and even surpassed Ag budget in 2014. He said an uncoordinated transition could impact the economy especially given that agriculture has been a strong driver of the economy as the only sector that grew in 2016 in spite of the recession.

Discussing the potential opportunities for domestic resources mobilisation, he stated that Nigeria’s revenue as % of GDP is lowest in world. “Numbers are even worse for 2016 – now below 6%”.

As part of the immediate measures, Gujadhur advised that apart from Fiscal Strategy Paper and fiscal space which must be connected to realistic short and medium terms targets, 2018 budget should be center of Nigeria’s development strategy with Economic Recovery and Growth Plan as basic to put medium term plan together.

On short term basis, he acknowledged the an inter-ministerial team set up by the Honourable Minister for Budget and National Planning to work on transition strategy, but according to him adequate support from the National Assembly and other Ministries, Departments and Agencies remains critical to the success of such process.

As medium term measures, Gujadhur recommended increased non-oil revenues “from very low base” with continual government’s efforts on the tax administration through appropriate legislative driven tax policy.

Prof. Ode Ojowu, a renowned economist also the lead discussant added that the GDP growth reduces ODA flows, and “may not necessarily buffer the shock to specific sectors of ODA intervention like Health and Population”.

He called for more efficient, transparent and accountable budgetary process to provide a cushion to the reduced flow of ODA. “We note that in assessing the impact of development assistance, we should not lose sight of the fact that a reasonable percentage of the funds returns to donor country by way of expatriate consultants and procurement of goods,” Prof. Ojowu noted.

The renowned economist recommended the need for ODA Policy in Nigeria to provide a portal where the activities, funds and location of donors could be accessed and practically collate for effective utilization as donors are guided by their respective country laws, rules, regulations and politics.

“In 2005, the National Planning Commission produced a draft ODA policy for Nigeria, but it did not sail through. The immediate objective of that policy was Nigeria still needs the ODA policy. In the interim, given the co-funding relationship, government can negotiate with development partners to focus their resources in a defined area of priority rather than spreading thinly across sectors,” he explained.

As part of the exit strategy, Prof. Ojowu recommended: domestication of ODA funded activities with significant reduction in major costs such as freight, insurance and other port handling charges; greater cooperation between the Ministry of Budget and National Planning, Ministry of Finance and the benefitting Ministries and Agencies to promote joint ownership of the intervention projects and minimize the sectoral impact of declines in ODA flows; an appropriate population policy; a framework for states to compete for federal government grants and donor support; proactive multi-tier budgeting for greater coordination, efficient budgeting and improved outcomes in place of the focus on federal budgetary allocations.

In order to increase revenues from incomes, he further suggested institutionalized revenue and expenditure tracking; strengthen institutions to fight corruption; adoption of international best practices in tax legislation and administration; comprehensive data to track compliance to Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme; established centralized database that harmonizes the extant databases, covering international passport, bank verification number (BVN), driver’s license, permanent voter’s card, mobile network sim registration, national identity card.

Examining Nigeria’s financing flows and efficiency for mobilizing domestic resources for sustainable social sector investment, a don at Department of Economics, University of Ibadan, Prof. Abiodun O. Folawewo, observed that total government generated revenue at all levels of government has been grossly inadequate to finance the administrative, socio-economic and developmental responsibilities.

He said: “At the federal level, externally driven revenues (oil-revenue) have dwarfed domestic domestically (non-oil) sourced. At state and local government levels internally generated revenues (IGR) usually fall below accruals from federal allocation accounts.”

He identified available sources of local funding for developmental projects and social sector investment to include: constitutional provisions in terms of taxes, levies and others rates; investment opportunities; and borrowings from local financial market.

The existing gaps in domestic resource mobilisation according to him include inefficiency in tax regime; weak capacity of revenue collection agencies; lack of innovation for resource mobilization; inadequate utilization of current tax law provision; and corruption and revenue leakages/losses.

The university don recommended as ways forward: training and re-training of revenue collection personnel at all government levels; continuation of the current restructuring of revenue and expenditure system of government; innovation in terms of exploring hitherto existing untapped aspect of constitutional provisions; removal of all administrative bottlenecks to the levying and collection of taxes, especially at state and local government levels; motivating and incentivising of citizenry for payment of taxes; mainstreaming of the large the informal sector; public-private partnership; and enactment of law on minimum budget benchmark for social sector funding.

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.

Trump’s aid cuts, a setback to humanitarian supports in Africa

By Abubakar Jimoh

Recently, the humanitarian world was thrown in a sober reflection by a shocking but unpleasant development arising from President of the United States, Donald Trump’s financial decision to cut-down global aid spending by 32 percent as contains in the proposed budget plans for the Fiscal Year 2018.

The decision which was thankfully subjected to extensive criticism by both Republicans and Democrats in the legislature was as well instantly denounced by a global movement—ONE Campaign, which through its works on good governance across globe including Africa has been able to ascertain the detrimental impacts such proposed plans will pose to the existing efforts at successfully combating poverty, diseases and marginalisation, and boosting social investments, especially in Africa.

While the fundamental purpose of humanitarian aid by any government is to complement the efforts of a receiving nation at revitalising her social sector as well as uplifting the poor from extreme poverty, which renders them incapacitated to attain self-reliance and effectively fight diseases, the on-going financial decision by President Trump, if not instantly addressed and reversed will, without doubt result in counter-productivity to the United States’ tracked and commendable records in supporting and sustaining enabling environment for political and socio-economic stability, particularly in Africa.

As a continent with emerging democracies and pervasive inadequate funding for social sector, experiences have revealed that most African governments rely on international aids, which are largely secured from United States through various counterpart-funding agreements to augment their budgets for social sector. A good example is the recent tripartite agreements among some Nigerian state governments, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Dangote Foundation to sustain the fight against dreaded polio virus, which was prevalent in northern part of the country owing to lack of funding for the procurement and administration of vaccines.

Meanwhile, working alongside the aforementioned donors, Global Alliance for Vaccine (GAVI) has been supporting African governments in routine immunisation through procurement and donation of polio vaccines, leading to a major success in the fight against polio virus in various parts of Africa including Nigeria

It is noteworthy to highlight that GAVI receives 79% of its funding from contributions by governments with United States as a key donor significantly contributing no fewer than 9.2% amounting to US$ 800.0 million as at March 2017 that according to GAVI, “will greatly enhance Gavi’s capacity to purchase and deliver life-saving vaccines for children and help in immunizing millions of children in developing countries against vaccine-preventable diseases, which claim 1.5 million lives every year”. The contribution as disclosed in an acknowledgment by GAVI was part of the US$ 814.5 million approved for USAID’s Maternal and Child Health programs for 2017.

Apart from direct financial aid to the governments, the sincere efforts of other agency like USAID has been recognised and widely acknowledged most especially in promoting good governance through its project and activity labelled “Strengthening Advocacy and Civil Engagement” (SACE), which has helped to increase the capacity of citizens across the continent to be more involved in democratic reform processes by influencing institutions whose function are to serve public interests.

Not only have funds from USAID assisted in enhancing participation of marginalized populations — such as women, youth, and the disabled — and emphasizing the importance of leadership and innovation, the agency is famous in addressing developmental challenges in Nigeria by promoting political and socio-economic stability through improved social services, transparent and responsive government, and humanitarian assistance to the crises affected zone like North Eastern part of the country.

In 2011, a report entitled “U.S. Foreign Assistance to Sub-Saharan Africa: The FY2012 Request” published by Congressional Research Service, reveals a total bilateral U.S. development assistance from USAID and the State Department to sub-Saharan Africa amounting to an estimated $7.08 billion in 2012 as against $1.94 billion in 2002 Financial Year. The rapid increase in development assistance which was later explained in another corresponding report titled “Overview of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)” by Center for Global Development, was largely driven by global health spending, which concentrates on resources to combat the fast spreading HIV/AIDS primarily to 14 countries, 12 of which are in sub-Saharan Africa.

Consequently, another major success has been recorded in the fight against HIV/AIDS in the region. An instance is Nigeria which in a 2016 report entitled “Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases: Where we are” published by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) was applauded for the falling trend in HIV/AIDS satisfying the criteria for the attainment of Goal 6 of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Similarly, while HIV and AIDS have had a significant negative impact on life expectancy in South Africa, leaving many families and children economically vulnerable and often socially stigmatized, it has received the largest Anti-Retroviral Therapy programme in the world through the effort of United States PEPFAR and has contributed towards stabilizing HIV prevalence in Africa. This fact was buttressed in another study by the Science Desk of National Public Radio (NPR) that “PEPFAR, really, has saved a huge number of people’s lives. This has been one of the most effective public health inventions outside of clean running water, decent nutrition and vaccine programs. This has made an unbelievable difference”.

Moreover, of $48 billion to PEPFAR in 2008, $500 million was allocated to fight HIV/AIDS in Kenya. In fact, single biggest change for public health in Kenya was according to Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Kenya, achieved by the founding of PEPFAR.

It is also important to mention that in 2013, following a political crisis that claimed tens of thousands of South Sudanese lives and left about 4 million displaced, USAID had charted a strategy that increased humanitarian assistance and support for fundamental needs including access to water, health and education services. With continued support through direct service delivery and technical assistance, the agency has helped in saving South Sudan from deteriorating into famine conditions in addition to significant progress recorded in the quality, coverage, and impact of the national HIV/AIDS response.

Additionally, these facts were reiterated and highlighted when in Fiscal Year 2015 report, the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) could not conceal but to state that through available funds, USAID sustained provision of critical, life-saving assistance in response to conflict and displacement in South Sudan and Sudan’s Darfur Region; met conflict-related needs in the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Somalia; provided nutrition assistance in Kenya; and supported flood-affected communities in Madagascar, Malawi, and Mozambique.

The opposite of this backdrop is a clear indication of horrific conditions Africans will be subjected should President Trump get his proposed plans passed. We therefore call for a rethink on the proposed financial plans by President Trump.

 

Passage of PIGB: CISLAC lauds Nigerian Senate

By Abubakar Jimoh

The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) has commended the giant legislative stride by Upper Chamber of the National Assembly that resulted in recent passage of the long awaited Petroleum Industry and Governance Bill (PIGB), after over twelve years in different legislative sessions of the Assembly.

The Centre made this known in a statement signed by its Executive Director, Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani).

The statement said passage of the PIGB formed a major campaign promise of the present administration to be delivered; the commitment which was reiterated in the Federal Government’s Short and Medium Term Priorities to grow Nigeria’s Oil & Gas Industry 2015–2019, fancifully labelled the “7 Big Wins” with a time lapse at the first quarter of 2017.

“We note that the  Bill as passed reflected many of the proposals put forward by civil society, including CISLAC and her partners during the Public Hearing session held on the Bill, especially the unbundling of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to separate her commercial role from her regulatory functions, among others.

“It would be recalled that CISLAC had reservations about the splitting of the Bill initially because of the possibility that the other components may never be attended to and uses the this opportunity to remind the National Assembly that the Bill has left out fiscal issues which remain the most important aspect of the old PIB,” it noted.

It however, urged Senate to immediately commence work on the outstanding parts on which the passed Bill is silent as it had promised, as it is the only way to demonstrate trustworthiness and sustain confidence of Nigerian people.

The statement also called on the House of Representatives to as a matter of urgency, consider the Bill or adopt the Senate version to conclude the legislative process for onwards assent by the President.

“We call on the President to promptly assent to the Bills, whenever they are transmitted to him, after legislative process, as we believe the Bill if implemented will provide appropriate legal and regulatory framework in the oil and gas sector, it added.

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