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

By Abubakar Jimoh

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

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

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

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

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

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

“As part of the strategy to create accessible, affordable and improved health care system, especially in the grassroots, Katsina State House of Assembly has taken a step to harmonize the State’s Primary Health Care through a Bill presently receiving legislative inputs,” Usman explained.
According to him, with over 6million population, the state’s maternal mortality rate stands at 634 per 100,000; infant mortality, 22 per 1000; and under-5 mortality, 36 per 1000 live births.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Abubakar Jimoh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emir Sanusi: When enough is enough

By Abubakar Jimoh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Nigerian women suffer from unjust tax regime

By Abubakar Jimoh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016: ‘Over 74, 000 children enrolled into Community Management of Acute Malnutrition programme in Jigawa’

COMMUNIQUÉ ISSUED AT THE END OF A ONE-DAY EXECUTIVE AND MEDIA ROUNDTABLE ON MATERNAL HEALTH ORGANIZED BY CIVIL SOCIETY LEGISLATIVE ADVOCACY CENTRE (CISLAC) WITH SUPPORT FROM THE MACARTHUR FOUNDATION, HELD AT ROYAL HOTEL, DUTSE JIGAWA STATE ON 6TH APRIL, 2017.

PREAMBLE:

Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) organized a One-day Executive and Media Roundtable on Maternal Health. The Roundtable aimed at bringing Jigawa State’s executives, civil society and the media under one roof to brainstorm on necessary action for timely release and effective implementation of maternal and child health budget in the state for efficient intervention and maximum impacts on the citizens. The meeting drew over 20 participants representing State Primary Health Care Development Agency, Ministries of Budget and Economic Planning, Health, Education and Women Affairs, Civil Society Organizations, and the Media. After exhaustive deliberations on various thematic issues, the following observations and recommendations were made:

Observations:

  1. Jigawa State has allocated 13% (out of 15% Abuja Declaration) of its total budget to health sector in the 2017 Appropriation Act.
  2. The State Government recently engaged the services of 450 Primary Health Care workers of different cadres to be posted across Primary Health Care Centres in the state to improve accessibility to health care services.
  3. Out of 685 health facilities in the state, only 24 (12 General Hospitals and 12 PHCs) render free maternal and child health services to 878,581 under-5 and 1,020,407 women of reproductive age.

  4. The State Primary Health Care Development Agency is presently awaiting 15% allocation from the 1% Consolidated Revenue Fund for the provision and maintenance of Primary Health Care facilities, as enshrined under Section 11 (3)(c) of the National Health Act 2014.
  5. The State has received its share of $1.5million from the World Bank “Save 1Million Lives” program to address six different health indicators, of which maternal and child health is a key priority.
  6. High commercial value leverage on programmes, coverage and activities, especially by public media impedes efforts by other relevant stakeholders at raising policy and public awareness on maternal and child health in the state.
  7. Jigawa state records high level severe acute malnourished children with no fewer than 74, 000 children enrolled into the state’s Community Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) programme in 2016.

Recommendations:

  1. Upholding high level corporate social responsibility by the media with prioritized attention to revitalize maternal and child health care service provision and accessibility in the state through dedicated programmes, coverage and activities.
  2. Proactive and joint advocacy by Civil Society groups for sustainable maternal health care services, giving congnisance of the existing unfavourable maternal and child health indices, to galvanise legislative and executive supports for the introduction and passage of Free MNCH.
  3. Increased collaboration among various Ministries, Departments and Agencies to define the workability for operationalisation of the state’s health care programmes and policies.
  4. Effective management and utilization of existing fund provision to the health sector to maximize maternal and child health care service delivery.
  5. Adequate supervision of health care facilities by relevant authorities to restore proper code of conducts among health workers to encourage attendance for maternal health service in the facilities.
  6. Establishing e-platform mechanism for feedback to support monitoring and evaluation system for possible improvement in maternal and child health service provision and delivery.

  7. Synergy among Ministries of Health, Education and Women Affairs for guiding and counseling of the girl child education.

Call to immediate action:

  • Project to increase accessibility to family planning contraceptives from 1% to 5%
  • Have functional Basic Health Centre in every Ward to attain Universal Health Coverage
  • Upgrade Primary Health Care facilities to Ward level
  • Provision of vehicle to improve accessibility to maternal health services
  • Increase weekly radio programmes from 1 to 4 to amplify issues on maternal and child health
  • Mainstream maternal health issues into the existing radio programme on youth

Signed:

  1. Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani)

Executive Director, CISLAC

  1. Adamu Muhammad Garun Gabas

Permanent Secretary, Jigawa State Ministry of Budget and Economic Planning

Nigeria: North West region is faced with serious human resource gaps in the health sector

COMMUNIQUÉ ISSUED AT THE END OF A ONE-DAY EXECUTIVE AND MEDIA ROUNDTABLE ON MATERNAL HEALTH ORGANIZED BY CIVIL SOCIETY LEGISLATIVE ADVOCACY CENTRE (CISLAC) WITH SUPPORT FROM THE MAC ARTHUR FOUNDATION, HELD AT MAKERA HOTEL, KATSINA STATE ON 12TH APRIL, 2017.

PREAMBLE:

Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) organized a One-day Executive and Media Roundtable on Maternal Health. The Roundtable aimed at bringing Katsina State’s executives, civil society and the media under one roof to brainstorm on necessary action for timely release and effective implementation of maternal and child health budget in the state for efficient intervention and maximum impacts on the citizens. The meeting drew about 15 participants representing Ministries of Health, Budget and Economic Planning, Education and Women Affairs, Civil Society Organizations, and the Media. After exhaustive deliberations on various thematic issues, the following observations and recommendations were made:

Observations:

  1. While adequate, accessible and affordable maternal and child is key to the development, survival and growth of every society, North West region is faced with serious human resource gaps in the health sector with merely 507 out of required 4835 midwifes in Katsina state.
  2. Inter-ministerial collaboration among the State Ministries of Heath, Information, Education and Women Affairs remains paramount to effective and concerted intervention on maternal and child health in Katsina state.
  3. Impending factors such as information accessibility, lack of fund, capacity gaps and restrictive policies hamper investigative journalism, policy and public awareness on maternal and child health.
  4. In 2017 Appropriation Act, Katsina State Government has allocated 8.97% (out of 15% Abuja Declaration) to the health sector, which is an increase from the previous years.
  5. Under-performance in part of the established Budget Monitoring and Tracking Committee in the State is an impeding challenge to budget performance monitoring and evaluation.
  6. Inadequate supervision of health sector, capacity gaps among health workers, lopsidedness in human resource deployment paves ways for over-concentration of health care workers in the urban areas at the expense of rural counterparts hence, impeding accessibility to maternal and child health services.
  7. Katsina State has received its share of the World Bank’s “Save 1 million Lives” fund and established implementation Committee with maternal and child as a key priority for intervention.

Recommendations:

  1. Mainstreaming maternal and child health as multi-sectoral issues through prioritized efforts among various Ministries in galvanizing advocacy for maternal and child health.
  2. Proactive media with appreciable curiosity through prioritized resource utilization to engage investigative journalism, and raise policy and public awareness on maternal health budget allocation, release and implementation.
  3. Capacity building for health reporters on investigative journalism on maternal and child health issues through training and retraining programmes; and leveraging International Days to amplify policy and public awareness on maternal and child health.
  4. Enhanced legislative advocacy on the domestication of National Health Act 2014 and translation of existing health policies into legislation to promote sustainable intervention on maternal and child health.
  5. Addressing human resource gaps through adequate funding and supervision, engagement of sufficient and qualified health workers with appropriate incentives to bridge human resource gaps, especially in the rural areas.
  6. Evidence-based advocacy by civil society groups in the state to understand, identify relevant facts and figures to effectively advocate and engage policy and legislative process on maternal and child health.
  7. Well-packaged and persistent maternal health programmes by the media through persistent and innovative coverage and reportage that captivate policy, legislative and public attention towards maternal and child health.
  8. Full capacity deployment and utilization of Media and Public Relations Department of various Ministries to encourage timely and appropriate information dissemination.
  9. Realistic health budget composition through appropriate consultation with communities and relevant stakeholders by the media and civil society groups to promote effective implementation.

Action points:

  • Enlightenment advocacy to the traditional and religious leaders on maternal and child health issues by the media and civil society groups.
  • Utilize Bill Board to galvanize issues on maternal and child health.
  • Issue based approach to maternal and child health by the media.
  • Incorporate State Ministry of Information and National Orientation Agency to catalyze public awareness on maternal health.
  • Increase allocation to health sector.
  • Appropriate documentation of coverage and reportage to ease data accessibility and utilization.

Signed:

  1. Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani)

Executive Director, CISLAC

  1. Ibrahim Maiwada

Katsina State Ministry of Health

  1. Muhammad Kabir Barau

Katsina Ministry of Budget and Economic Planning

  1. Hajara B. Kankara

Katsina State Ministry of Education

  1. Ibrahim Sogiyi

State Primary Health care Development Agency

  1. Abdulaziz Imam Suleiman

Katsina State Ministry of Women Affairs

  1. Sabiu Laidi

Health Reform Foundation of Nigeria (HERFON)

  1. Buhari Ahmed Badi

Katsina State Radio

NEITI Audit Report: Experts devise strategies for impactful dissemination

By Abubakar Jimoh

The role of civil society has been described as paramount in active public debate on various disclosures and issues by the Nigerian Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (NEITI) to promote transparency, accountability and good governance in the extractive sector.

This was revealed by the Chairperson, NEITI Civil Society Steering Committee (CSSC) also Snr. Program Officer, CISLAC Mr. Kolawole Banwo, during Inaugural Meeting of the Committee held in Kano state recently.
He observed that civil society representatives are able to speak freely on transparency and natural resource governance issues, as it is evident that NEITI Reports play a significant role in contributing to civil society’s analysis, research and advocacy.

Giving the instances of the Remediation sub-committee of the CSSC which provides concrete recommendations to the government for reform of the extractive sector as a direct result of NEITI’s Reports, the Chair also did not conceal the fact that civil society has promoted and engaged in discussions around the revised Petroleum Industry and Governance Bill (PIGB) in July 2016.

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

He said while the right for civil society organisations to develop their independent programs to promote transparency in the extractive industries was explicitly recognized, there were no indications that civil society had been restricted from engaging in outreach to broader civil society, including related to discussions about MSG representation and the EITI process.

“Civil society is encouraged to be involved in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the EITI through participation in meetings of the NSWG, the CSSC and dissemination events. There are examples of broader civil society groups being engaged and asked to provide input to the development of the EITI in Nigeria,” Banwo explained.

He however, lamented lack of recent capacity building engagement by civil society outside Abuja and Lagos. “There do not appear to be recent examples of dissemination events in local communities by NEITI or civil society organisations, although this appears to have been more common in the past.
“Except as concerns dissemination, there is no evidence that the broader constituency is consulted or otherwise engaged in the design, implementation, monitoring or evaluation of the EITI process.

“Despite a favorable framework for civil society engagement, the impression from the stakeholder consultations is that civil society on the MSG does not in fact function as a link between the EITI and the broader constituency,” the Chair bemoaned.

In order to achieve meaningful progress, he further recommended the need to ensure full involvement of civil society in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the EITI process.

Explaining the concept of “resource curse”, Director of Communications, NEITI, Dr. Orji Ogbonnaya Orji, noted that merely possession of abundant natural resources neither guarantees economic growth nor socio-economic development. He said the tendency for resource-rich countries to be underdeveloped described the theory of “resource curse”.

Given the Dutch theory of “resource curse”, he said the menace featured in appreciation of the exchange rate of resource rich countries’ currencies comparing to those of the world which consequently reduced the global competitiveness of their manufactured and other tradable goods, and resulted in contraction of other tradable sectors of the economy.

On institutional challenges of “resource curse”, the Director observed that prevalence of poor economic policy or management, weak political, bureaucratic and economic institutions breed corruption.

He listed as consequences of “resource curse”, weak institutions, absence of infrastructure, docile population unable to demand accountability, emergence of parasitic elites, poor and ineffective tax culture, violence and social conflicts, agitation for identity and resource control.
As part of the efforts to avert “resource curse”, Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) was introduced to promote transparency and accountability around payments made by extractive industry companies and revenues received by governments.

According to him, the Initiative is designed to stimulate debate on public priorities; empower citizens to hold their governments to account for the use of revenues accruing from natural resources; promote transparency, accountability, sustainable development and eradication of poverty; help governments attract direct foreign investments, secure support and cooperation of global enterprises; build trust among host communities and the operating companies; prevent corruption; help countries succeed in improving their tax collection systems.

Recounting the benefits of implementing EITI in Nigeria, Dr. Orji explained that the Initiative has created a framework for reporting and disclosure of receipts and payments in the extractive industry; enabled publication of accurate and credible data on revenue flows; led to acceptance of the need for due process and transparency in the operations of the extractive industry companies; enhanced transparency and accountability by government in the application of revenues from the extractive industries; improved credit rating and higher level of credibility for Nigerian government within the international community.

Highlighting the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders in the dissemination NEITI reports, the Team Leader, Outreach, NEITI, Obiageli Onuorah, noted that civil society has the responsibilities towards community participation, social mobilisation, advocacy for remediation, public education, enlightenment and dissemination, monitoring and oversight, whistle blowing and feedback.

She mentioned as part of civil society’s expectation from the process: good governance, transparency and accountability, comprehensive reforms in the extractive sector, economy diversification, poverty alleviation, effective dissemination and simplification of the reports, social harmony, environmental justice, corporate Social Responsibility, generational equity, strong political will, enforcement and sustainable development.

The Executive Director, Centre LSD, Dr. Otive Igbuzor, explained that while the challenge of transparency and accountability, especially for countries that depend on revenue from mineral resources, is a global one, according to him, it is only through the efficient management of resources that such countries can deliver social and economic benefits to their citizens.

He said: “There is significant evidence that corruption is widespread in Nigeria. The main revenue source for the country is oil and is therefore prone to the political economy of oil. The idea of revenue transparency has gained currency with the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI).”

Reviewing the impacts of implementation of the NEITI’s Strategic Plan 2013-2017, he commended the Strategic Plan for opening, especially the oil and gas sector to greater public scrutiny, reducing discrepancies between receipts and payments, improving quality and speed of data collection.
The Executive Director however, did not hide the fact that NEIT has been unable to deliver timely audits in a way that would maximize the currency and relevance of its audit reports with limited impact and stakeholders.

“The review showed that remediation remains the weakest link in NEITI’s operations is majority of issues raised in the audit reports which are yet to be resolved.

“While NEITI has performed considerably well in its reporting and dissemination responsibilities, the fundamental assumption that increased openness would lead necessarily to greater accountability in the management of extractive has not materialized. This is evidenced by the huge gap between the volume of revenue earned over time and Nigeria’s development indices. It is also evidenced by the weak governance indices that the country has recorded both in the governance of the extractive sector and the economy.

“The reality therefore calls for a review of the underlying assumption of the relationship between transparency, accountability and ultimately shared prosperity for the citizens,” he said.

Identifying remedial issues in 2014 Report, Michael Uzoigwe representing the Facility for Oil Sector Transformation (FOSTER) observed weak arrangements around the domestic crude oil allocation; opaque and discretionary license and lease award processes; weak arrangements for monitoring and measuring crude and liquids, from well-heads to terminals; 2000 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)-fiscal terms- between NNPC and Joint Venture Companies; Petroleum Profit Tax (PPT) underassessment and issues with other taxes and income; loss of gas income for the Federation and Production Sharing Contract (PSC) Gas Agreement.

Uzoigwe noted the effort and improvement in addressing the 2014 remedial issues when he said through civil society advocacy, the delayed payment for domestic allocations received by Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) had been resolved with a joint monitoring framework developed by OAGF, Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission and NNPC to ensure payments were made by Corporation as at when due.

He explained that the civil society engage with Department of Petroleum Resources and MPR to fast track pending out of court settlement with Shell had helped to prevent loss of revenue from some oil blocks.

Uzoigwe added that the civil society’s engage with DPR to define industry standard production point to serve as standard benchmark for the purpose of computing royalty has resulted in the provision of a uniform basis for measurement of crude oil, and the proposed new measurement guideline.

Stressing the roles of civil society in NEITI process, Executive Director, Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), Rev. David Ugolor noted that active participation of civil society in EITI Process is key to ensure that EITI leads to greater accountability.

“The participation of civil society in the EITI process is formally assessed at two stages of EITI Implementation—during the candidate assessment and validation, and hoc basis in response to special request. Civil Society provision in the EITI Standard remains consistent at every stage of EITI Implementation and the evidence changes according to the situation of the Country, stage of implementation, and availability of information.

“The NEITI Act and the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Civil Society and National Stakeholder Working Group (NSWG) provides a robust framework for civil role in the NEITI Implementation. The civil society representatives in the NSWG are expected to reflect the perspectives of their constituency in the meetings.

“Civil society can also provide input into the Work Plan through their representatives in the NSWG. Civil Society can also undertake research and advocacy around the implementation of the Work Plan. Civil Society can use their various network like the Publish What You Pay Campaign to support the implementation of concrete outcome of the annual audit report. Civil Society can also build alliance with other stakeholders to influence the NSWG to adopt concrete measures that will improve the EITI Standards. Civil Society can also use the annual audit report to engage in evidence based advocacy to end corruption in the oil sector,” Rev. Ugolor added.

Osinbajo and the lapses in United Nations’ Counter-terrorism Efforts

By Abubakar Jimoh

Recently, while meeting with members of the United Nations Security Council led by the United Kingdom’s Permanent Representative, Ambassador Mathew Rycroft at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa in Abuja, the Nigerian Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo had called for global support towards the review of the international legal instruments and conventions on warfare and conflicts, primarily to curtail the on-going unconventional and brutal operations of terrorists and insurgents around the world.

In recent times, the gruesome attacks by terrorists and insurgents have received global attention with the world’s most developed countries witnessing a dramatic increase in deaths from terrorism.

In 2015, the Global Terrorism Index reveals that ISIS had claimed responsibility for 6,141 deaths through various attacks in more than 250 different cities in the same year including high-profile attacks on major cities in Belgium, France and the United States, setting the world on edge.

A report by the World Economic Forum in April 2016 exposes a new kind of protracted guerrilla war stretching from the Americas and Europe across Africa, Asia and the Arab world, warning that “the group is irregular, hybrid and networked, involving a constellation of terrorist organizations such as ISIS and Al Qaeda”.

“Rather than hitting specific groups of people or symbolic sites, cities themselves are coming under siege. Complicating matters, violent extremists are recruiting directly from poorer and marginal neighbourhoods across the West. The extent of local recruitment and so-called extremist travelling from Western countries is certainly cause for concern,” the Forum noted.

A study titled “Foreign Fighters in Syria and Iraq” by Soufan Group estimates that as many as 31,000 people from 86 countries had made the trip to Iraq or Syria to join ISIS or other extremist groups since June 2014.
Similarly, report by International Journal of Arts and Humanities in 2015 recounts that insecurity has been a major dare to the Nigerian government with the actions and activities of the insurgents leading to enormous loss of lives and properties, particularly in the Northern part of the country.

According to the report, “some of these activities include intimidation, bombings, suicide attacks, sporadic gunfire of unarmed, blameless and innocent Nigerian citizens, burning of police stations and churches, kidnapping, raping of school girls and women”.

By April 2016, no fewer than 20,000 lives were lost while 2.8 million persons were displaced from various attacks in the Northeast with estimated $9 billion economic loss. Consequently, Nigeria has been included amongst one of the terrorist countries in the world. This without doubt has serious implications for national development, as no nation thrives in presence of endemic and unfavourable insecurity indices.

The severity of increasing attacks by the insurgents on innocent Nigerians with resultant development implications had triggered the global call by the Vice President for the review of relevant legal instruments and conventions on warfare and conflicts to address emerging terrorist attacks
“We must, on a global scale look again at how to deal with these new challenges. We need to look at the governing conventions, what type of legal categories, recognition of law we should give them (to the perpetrators of terror and insurgents). We need to re-examine how to deal with these individuals according to law,” he said.

As part of the efforts to provide globally aligned legal provisions in combating various acts of terrorism, the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings and the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism were adopted in 1997 and 1999 respectively. While the former “creates a regime of universal jurisdiction over the unlawful and intentional use of explosives and other lethal devices in, into, or against various defined public places with intent to kill or cause serious bodily injury, or with intent to cause extensive destruction of the public place”, the latter requires parties to take both direct and indirect steps to prevent and counteract the financing of terrorists.

A recent assessment of the various adopted counter-terrorism efforts by the United Nations by Centre for Policy Research of the United Nations University had classified the UN’s counter-terrorism work in recent years into three—a norm-setting role that includes the development and promotion of a Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and efforts to counter violent extremism; capacity building activities to help countries meet these obligations; and Security Council-mandated sanctions, in the 1990s, against state sponsors of terrorism.

The review therefore, reveals that the treaties suffer from lack of a monitoring and follow-up regime; insufficient conditions for effective counter-terrorism leading to no statistically significant reduction in the post-treaty number of attacks; inability by UN members to unable to agree on a definition of terrorism, raising serious human rights concerns, as this allows some governments to justify their prosecution of legitimate political dissent as combating terrorism; security-based counterterrorism measures, which alone have not been sufficient to prevent the spread of violent extremists; the weakness in the UN’s norm development to offset the negative effects of counterproductive counter-terrorism policies by Member States that ultimately exacerbate the terrorist threat.

Abubakar Jimoh is the Head of Communications at Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Abuja

2017 Appropriation Bill: Between National Assembly and Civil Society

By Abubakar Jimoh

It is no more news that the Nigeria’s budgetary process has hitherto been faced with inherent systemic secrecy, resulting in inadequate allocation to the social sector of the economy and grossly neglect of citizens’ democratic expectations.

Appreciating the fact that effective participation and contribution of citizens in the budgetary process remain paramount to achieving proper monitoring, transparency and accountability in the appropriation, release and utilisation of funds, the National Assembly in collaboration with Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), UK Department for International Development (UKAID) and Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC) recently organised a first ever 3-day Public Hearing on 2017 Appropriation Bill.

The Public Hearing, which for the first time brought under one roof all stakeholders involved in the budget process, provided an enabling platform for public analysis, discourse and enlightenment on the basic recommendations and budget policies of the nation as contained in the 2017 Budget Proposal by the President Muhammadu Buhari; and the fiscal, financial and economic assumptions used as basis in arriving at total estimated expenditure and receipts.

In his opening remark, the Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, did not conceal the importance of citizens’ participation and contribution in the budget process when he noted that public budget, “if well-crafted and implemented, remains the most potent fiscal policy instrument of government in delivering socio-economic benefits in an all-inclusive manner; and, the best way to achieve this is to ensure that all stakeholders are made a part of the decision-making process especially as it relates to the provision of public services and distribution of social benefits”.

The Senate President continued: “It is therefore, in line with this belief that the 8th National Assembly deemed it necessary to bring Government, Civil Society Organisations, Private Sector, and other key actors in the economy to deliberate on the Budget proposal. Through this engagement, and others to come, we hope to increase the efficiency of government and its responsiveness to citizens needs as well as improve overall transparency and accountability in governance.”

He said the 2017 Budget Proposal of N7.298 trillion submitted to the Assembly was designed based on a medium-term recovery and growth plan and planned expenditures would be objectively reviewed, as related to their feasibility and relevance in delivering the broad objectives of the budget—to pull the economy out of recession; invest in the people of Nigeria; and lay the foundations for a diversified, sustainable and inclusive growth.

In order to enhance the aforementioned objectives of the budget, Sen. Saraki added that the Assembly under his leadership will continue to focus on priority legislation that will loosen the structural bottlenecks impeding the ease-of-doing business in the country. The priority legislation in his words will include: National Transport Commission Bill; National Road Fund Bill; National Road Authority Bill; National Inland Waterways Bill; Nigerian Ports and Harbours Authority Bill; Infrastructure Development Commission Bill, Petroleum Institution and Governance Bill; Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Bill will unstiffen the investment climate in critical sectors of the economy.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara explained that the Public Hearing was organised in fulfilment of one of the major transparency and accountability goals enshrine in the 8th Assembly’s adopted Legislative Agenda in 2015 with commitment that “[t]he House shall examine the efficacy of conducting public hearings on the Budget before legislative approval as this exposes the National Budget to increased citizen and stakeholder participation”.

He reiterated the explicit power of the Assembly in control over public funds as contains section 80 of the 1999 Constitution, which asserts in principles that all monies received from whatever source by any part of the government are public funds; lays down the principle of Appropriations Control; and prohibits expenditure of any public money without legislative authorization.

The Speaker encouraged the stakeholders to effectively utilise the opportunity offered by the legislature to interrogate the budget document and ensure that the needs and priorities of the people hold sway. “Stakeholders in their various fields of expertise and active players in all aspects of the economy are invited to make their inputs and assist the National Assembly in passing a truly peoples’ budget that will set us on the path to sustainable economic recovery,” he urged.

Hon. Dogara further noted that being an advocate for transparency and accountability in budgetary process largely informed his famous position that “[s]ubjecting the annual budget to public scrutiny at National Assembly will give stakeholders opportunity to make their inputs and challenge incorrect assumptions in the Budget. This process will involve the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and other professional bodies. The National Assembly will benefit from the research skills of various CSOs and the technical expertise of professional bodies at the enactment stage of the Appropriations Bill. Many CSOs scrutinise the Budget yearly and usually point out areas of duplications and wastage. We need to institutionalise this mechanism.”

In a memorandum, the Primary Healthcare Revitalisation Support Group represented by its Chair also Wife of the Senate President, Mrs Toyin Saraki, called for implementation of the National Health Act 2014 by setting aside not less than 1 percent of the Consolidated Revenue Fund to the Basic Health Care Provisions Fund.

“The Guidelines for the administration, disbursement and monitoring of the Fund is virtually completed. The 2017 budget should prioritize this, setting aside 49bn as statutory transfer,” she said.

The Chair urged the Assembly to back the provision for the revitalization of 1 Primary Health Centre per ward (10,000) with the right budget, noting that N3bn for 1000 PHCs in 2017 would lay a good foundation for an ambition that ends in 2019.

Mrs Saraki noted: “Although Primary Health Care is not the primary responsibility of the Federal Government, it should provide resources in form of grants to States and LGAs given that over 70% of disease burden in the country lies at the primary level. Specifically, given that rehabilitation of just 1,000 out of about 10,000 PHCs in the Country is largely insignificant.

“The Federal Government should provide for additional N6b in the 2017 budget to enable her rehabilitate at least 3,000 out of about 10,000 PHCs in the Country ear marked for rehabilitation. Funding options for this could include: additional funding from the PROPOSED INCREASE IN OIL BENCHMARK PRICE in the 2017 budget; and deduction from source of money from the next round of Paris Club Refund to States to enable them budget for the rehabilitation of some PHCs in 2017, 2018 and 2019.”

The Chair further warned on the severe impacts of shortfall in the immunization funding urging sustainable strategic plan and adequate budgetary allocation to ensure a biennial funding mechanism for routine vaccines is made in 2017. “While funding for 2017 is largely taken care of (but for a funding gap of N1.5bn), the provision for 2018 was ignored, which could create procurement challenges to meet immunization needs for Nigerian children in 2018. FGN should put in place the policy and legal framework for sustainable immunization financing and develop a transition plan to address the accelerated loss of GAVI support in the next 5 years,” she advised.

In a presentation to the Assembly, the Executive Director, African Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development (Centre LSD) Dr. Otive Igbuzor, lamented lack of participatory budgetary process, where citizens and communities do not participate in formulating policies and agreeing on projects that go into the budget.

He noted: “The budgetary process is not open. Corruption in any country starts from the budgetary process. In very corrupt countries, the budget is done in secret. Releases are done without the knowledge of citizens. Procurement information is not made available to citizens and corruption is guarded and protected. This is why civil society organisations in Nigeria have been advocating for an open budget system.  A budget is regarded as open if citizens have access to the key budget documents; have high level of involvement in the budgetary process and have access to procurement information.

“The priorities of the budget are not in accord with the development challenges of the country and there is no synergy between plans, policy and budget. We have always argued that there is the need for better public finance management across the world because of increasing inequality and non-inclusive growth. The past five decades have witnessed monumental changes in the world. Global economic wealth has increased sevenfold and average incomes have tripled.  Yet, poverty has increased to record high levels. The major problem is that wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few people while majority of the people live in abject poverty.”

The Executive Director continued: “There are several frivolous expenditures in the budget that will not stand any reasoning and logic. For instance, the Centre for Social Justice documented N668.8 billion frivolous expenditure in the 2016 budget. They include N3.91 billion allocated annual reporting maintenance of villa facilities; N322.4 million for linking of cable to drivers’ rest room at the villa; N213.8 million for linking of cable from guest house to generator house etc.

“The institutions and mechanisms for oversight of the budgetary process are weak. In any modern democracy, the legislature, civil society and media are expected to play oversight functions in addition to the internal control system put in place by the executive.  There is also the need for synergy and co-ordination between the Executive and NASS in budget preparations.”

Commenting on main issues in the 2017 Budget Proposal, he bemoaned low budgetary allocation to sectors that will have impact on the lives of citizens such as agriculture, 1.69%; health, 4.17%; education, 4.17%.

The Centre LSD’s boss observed that frivolous expenditure has continued over the years. Examples are foodstuff and cateral materials had a budget of N92.6 million in 2016 and N123.2 million in 2017; newspapers had a budget of N10.2 million in 2016 and N28.3 million in 2017 (This translates to 387 newspapers per day at N200 per newspaper for 365 days).

Dr. Igbuzor, however, commended the special initiatives in the proposed budget with social inclusion benefits including provision of N100 billion for a new social housing programme; N50billion for each geopolitical zone to set up special economic zone; N20billion to revive export-expansion grant; N15billion to recapitalise Bank of Industry (BOI) and Bank of Agriculture (BoA) and N500billion special intervention programme.

Compared to the past, there are some positive improvements in the 2017 budget. There is a slight improvement in capital budgetary allocation although the change is not big enough. There are some progressive initiatives in line with the ideological commitment to social democracy including social protection initiatives and social housing.

In another presentation to the Assembly, the Executive Director, Centre for Social Justice, Barr. Eze Onyepere, explained that though the National Health Act 2014 provides for 1% of the Consolidated Revenue Fund to be appropriated as a statutory transfer to the Basic Health Care Provisions Fund, the missing Basic Health Care Provision Fund since the introduction of the Act remains a major challenge.

“For the past two years, the executive and legislature have ignored this provision and this has continued in the 2017 estimates.”

The Executive Director observed the frivolities, inappropriate, unclear and wasteful expenditure when he questioned the repetitive demand for computers and software, vehicles, furnishing of offices, which should not have space in a budget to get Nigeria out of recession.

“Voting money in an unclear way that does not tell the story of what exactly the vote is for is not a best practice. Agriculture for instance votes lump sums running into billions for value chains of maize, potato, cassava, etc. The meaning of this is only known to the person who crafted the budget. Voting N237.9 million for subscription to professional bodies under the SGF’s office raises the poser of how many staff works in the office. These estimates should be removed from the budget and the sums saved should be reprogrammed to capital expenditure,” he requested.

Barr. Onyepere recommended that the budget’s Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) should be anchored on high level national policies and planning frameworks such as Vision 20:2020 and its implementation plans. “With the expiry of Vision 20:2020’s First National Implementation Plan 2010-2013, and the absence of a follow up implementation plan which should have been the NIP 2014-2017, the budget seems to rests on nothing. However, there is a reference to the Strategic Implementation Plan (SIP) which for all intents and purposes is not a policy or plan stricto sensu to qualify as the anchor of the budget,” he added.

Speaking from the perspective of youth development, the Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth, and Advancement (YIAGA) noted that the Ministry of Youth Development have over the years been constrained in actually delivering its mandate of formulating, monitoring and review of the National Youth Policy; articulating relevant programs of action for youth development; coordinating youth and monitor youth development activities at the three levels of government an collaborating partners; collaborating with all stakeholders for the funding of youth activities; creating opportunities for the youth to be involved in decision making process in matters that affect them, the environment and the society; and inculcating in the youth human rights values, social justice, equity, fairness and gender equality.

YIAGA observed over-concentration on National Youth Service Corps, resulting in poor budgeting for youth development. “Interestingly, the budget for the Ministry of Youth in four (4) consecutive years from 2014 to 2017 proposed budget reveals that the in each fiscal year, the larger percentage of the budget for the Ministry is gulped by the national Youth Service Corps which is an agency under the oversight of the Ministry at an average of  91%.

“An estimated 250,000 Nigerian youths participate in the NYSC program every year – compared to the Nigerian youths, between the ages of 18 – 35, as defined in Nigeria’s National Youth Policy and the African Youth Charter who constitute approximately 70% of Nigeria’s 180 million population – there is an urgent need to increase budgetary allocations for youth development,” it explained.

Similarly, a memorandum presented by the National Youth Council of Nigeria noted lack of coordination and synergy in the budgetary implementation for youth development, as majority of Ministries Departments and Agencies implement programmes on Youth Development without the involvement of Federal Ministry of Youth Development, thus making effective monitoring, evaluation, and adequate record keeping difficult

The Executive Secretary, Legislative Watch, Hon. Ngozika Ihuoma, in his submission said the proposed budget could not be acknowledged as a true reflection of the Federal Government accruals from the Consolidated Revenue Fund as it failed to address the leakages contained in the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007, when over N4trillion budget of Corporations, Agencies and Government-owned Companies which got zero allocation in 2016 following failure to capture them in the 2016 Appropriation Act or laid as Supplementary Appropriation Bill 2016 and payable from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federal Government in line with Section 81(4) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

The Executive Secretary advised the Assembly as custodian of the 1999 Constitution to ensure the States and Local Government Councils get their fair share as provided by the Constitution.

The Nigerian Medical Association in its submission urged the legislature to declare a state of emergency in the health sector in view of the on-going disastrous nature of the health care delivery environment.

“This should not only be verbalized in the usual way, but backed with appropriate budget line. Health is security. Health is development. Health is wealth’. Thus Nigeria should work to own its health rather than abandoning it to development partners whose priorities may not be in line with our national interest,” it warned.

The Association encourage Nigeria to avoid over-reliance on donor agencies with critical consideration for alternative and independent sources of funding health sector in the face of declining donor funding, adding that the nation can afford to allocate 15% of her national budget to health as contained in the Abuja Declaration of 2001.

Averting pervasive insurgency

By Abubakar Jimoh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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