By Chioma Kanu and Abubakar Jimoh
Effort to complement current effort by Nigerian government in advancing the fight against corruption brought to the fore, a ‘Shadow Report’ developed and launched by Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) at the UN General Assembly 72 Session Side Event in New York.
Apart from the launched Report, the event also availed CISLAC the opportunity to deepen advocacy and launch her ‘Global Office’ in New York.
As emphasised in the opening address of the Executive Director, CISLAC, Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani), the shadow report focuses mainly on the anti-corruption agenda, in particular on SDG 16, which specifically addresses illicit financial and arms flows, bribery and other forms of corruption, and access to information.
He said: “We are very much aware of the harmful of effects of corruption as it relegates development efforts to the background plunging countries into underdevelopment. A society free of corruption is healthy, wealthy, well respected and well developed.
“We are well aware of the religious, socio-cultural, political and ethnic turbulence threatening to tear apart the fabrics of the society we live in. For this purpose, it has become imperative that as civil society organizations, we take up the mantle of our constitutional mandate to steer the tide of peaceful and just society.
“As civil society organizations, our key mandate to our communities is to pursue and advocate for peaceful, inclusiveness and corruption free society that will in turn translate to the sustainable development that we seek.
The Executive Director stressed the need to harness local and international institutions to strengthen efforts in promoting peace and unity including traditional and religious institutions which drive the conscience of the common man.
“We need to conscientize these institutions to exude and imbue peace in their followers for the purpose of a peaceful society. The entertainment industry is not left out of this. As much as possible, we need to utilize every media that attract the people to spread this joy of peaceful co-existence.
“We call on other civil society groups and media across Africa and beyond to lend their voices to the clarion call on peace and stability and to promote justice and fairness irrespective of class or race,” he highlighted.
On the new Global Office, CISLAC’s boss explained that the launching coincided with the UN General Assembly 72 and the International Day for Peace which happened to be “a critical period in our national and regional lives as Nigerians and Africans”.
He added: “Today we are happy to officially announce the presence of CISLAC in the American soil. The idea of setting up an office in the US is not just for the drive for expansion but also for the need to galvanize efforts and energy to deepen the work we do on policy and legislative advocacy and to further tap into the wide range of resources that abounds internationally.
“We call on other civil society groups and media across Africa and beyond to lend their voices to the clarion call on peace and stability and to promote justice and fairness irrespective of class or race.”
In his welcome address, the Permanent Representative to Nigeria in the UN, Prof. Tijani Muhammed-Bande, commended CISLAC on her giant strides and efforts at strengthening her legislative and policy.
He said corruption was the bane of underdevelopment and social unrest in the country, making it the worst epidemic among religious, ethnic and socio-cultural factors hampering the country’s development.
The Permanent Representative lamented that Nigeria has been plunged into conflict for the past three years and peace will be unattainable in presence of injustice.
“Nigeria has had a string of leaders without transparency, and that paradoxically, where there has been strong leadership, everything revolves around the leader but not around creating strong institutions.
“Yet, strong institutions should be everybody’s business. I urge Nigerians to launder their image abroad by highlighting the great achievements made by Nigerians while not losing sight of the challenges,” Prof. Tijani Muhammed-Bande added.
The Chair, House Committee on Poverty Alleviation and member of the SDGs Committee, Hon. Muhammed Ali Wudil commended CISLAC’s effort in setting up a global office, stating that any form of government without a legislature is not a government.
He gave a highlight of the government’s pro-poor program on social investment and urged CISLAC as a foremost civil society group working on legislative advocacy to support the program and further lend its voice to the Poverty Alleviation Bill at the National Assembly.
The Africa and Middle East Coordinator of the UN SDGs, Mr. Hilary Ogbonna expressed satisfaction on Nigeria’s strongly interest in engaging with the SDGs.
He identified SDG 16 as a development enabler that will propel Nigeria, if effectively implemented, to become the leader in Africa and not just a middle income country.
The Coordinator feared that the achievement may be eroded since implementing SDGs is costly. He observed the need for Nigeria to attract technical expertise and reiterated the pivotal role of the civil society in bridging the gap between the executives and the legislature.
Presenting the impacts of CISLAC in Nigeria’s policy and legislative realms, Member of CISLAC Global Trustee, Dr. Afia Zakiya noted that CISLAC has spearheaded advocacy for the passage of laws such as Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007, Public Procurement Act 2007, Freedom of Information Act 2012.
“CISLAC advocates for compliance with international agreements in sectoral allocations, e.g. 10% of budget to Agriculture (Maputo Declaration) and 15% for health (Abuja Declaration); produces guides to the budget process; contributes expertise and independent analysis of the budget; engages open budget survey.
“Its programmes and activities at promoting peace and security in the country has resulted in the establishment of National Peace and Security Forum.
“Meetings and advocacy sessions by CISLAC with the House Committee on Public Accounts and Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation resulted in the adoption and utilization of the CSOs-developed budget reporting template,” she narrated.
Explaining the rationale for the establishment of the global office, Dr. Zakiya said the creation was justified by the need to: consolidate on CISLAC’s huge experience and expertise in implementing regional and global outreach programmes and partnerships; strengthen global networking as Africa faces governance challenges that need to be tackled internationally (e.g. illicit financial flows, asset recovery).
She added: “CISLAC needs to increase its advocacy and partnerships with UN Missions/Institutions, Development Partners, Diplomatic Community and Relevant Committees in the US Congress.
“It recognizes its competence to mobilize the African diaspora and other entities and individuals to leverage their expertise and spheres of influence to the benefit of the African continent.
“CISLAC seeks to position itself as a global stakeholder in parliamentary advocacy, capacity building and partnerships building on its experiences working with parliament at parliamentary bodies working at national, regional and global levels.”
Dr. Zakiya said the new office would in functions, serve as a focal point on African Civil Society affairs to the United Nations and other international institutions working on UN affairs; promote partnership between Permanent Missions of African countries to UN and Civil Society that will encourage public participation in foreign relations especially in UN affairs; provide technical and liaison services to African CSOs and development partners with interest in engaging with UN Institutions; mainstreaming African civil society perspectives on issues of international affairs for effective participation and inclusiveness; mobilize African and African diaspora resources and technical expertise to promote socio-economic development in the continent.
Presenting the Shadow Report, Program Manager (SDGs), CISLAC, Chioma Kanu lamented that cost of corruption amounts to 1000 USD per capital in 2014 and “will go up to nearly 2000 USD per capita in 2030”.
According to her, while in 2015, 78% of Nigerians claimed that the government was doing “badly in fighting corruption”, in 2016, Nigeria had 23 billionaires with collective wealth reaching almost 78billion USD when 39% of Nigerians live below poverty line.
She said as part of the effort to combat corruption in the country, CISLAC had complemented effort of the government with specific focus on SDGs 16, aimed at promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provision of access to justice for all, and building effective, accountable institutions at all levels.
“The SDGs 16 ‘Shadow’ report offers an independent review of the government-led ‘National Voluntary Review’ (NVR) of the SDGs process in Nigeria.
“The SDG 16 ‘Shadow’ report focuses mainly on the anti-corruption agenda. More specifically, targets 16.4 (illicit financial and arms flows), 16.5 (reduce bribery and other forms of corruption) and 16.10 (access to information) are analysed,” she added.
Giving assessment of the Nigeria’s government SDG’s progress, the Program Manager credited that the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President (OSSAP) on the SDGs for a compelling NVR, stating that high political will and ownership to the SDG agenda in Nigeria were demonstrated.
She noted: “OSSAP has established formalized structures such as the inter-ministerial team, CSO advisory group and SDG desk offices in 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.”
Kanu observed the need to: develop a costed Implementation Action Plan for all SDGs at the national and subnational levels; strengthen existing National Information Management System for data collection in collaboration with the National Bureau of Statistics and state SDG counterparts; and develop strategy to harmonize the SDGs with the national and State Development Plans.
Recounting the challenges encountered in the assessment process for development of the Shadow Report, she reported that sheer number of policy areas covered (e.g. beneficial ownership which is different from illicit financial flows) obstructs efforts at delving deeper into each focal area.
“Competition among CSOs working on SDGs (OSSAP-SDG established CSOs working group on SDGs which removes the CSO independence in the entire process).
“No specific commitment on the advocacy front for the shadow report – this activity has been a stand-alone project and not tied to a broader advocacy engagement, which made it impossible to delve deeper on some advocacy focal areas to be able to identify advocacy policy areas Zero budgeting,” she reported.
In a paper titled “Parliamentary Engagement in SDG Implementation”, the Coordinator, Gambia National Think Tank, Sering Falu Njie, said parliamentary engagement remained paramount as parliamentarians were legitimate representatives of their electorate and therefore represent the will and voice of citizens; played leadership roles in policy formulation, the development of legislation and most importantly its implementation at national level.
“They have fiduciary powers; they have the power to define the fiscal and budgetary policies needed to allocate national resources for financing development;
“Parliamentarians have the legitimacy, authority and means to ensure oversight; accountability, transparency and the strengthening of the institutions of good governance at country level.
“The Agenda was premised on transparency, openness and participation of all stakeholders having the opportunity to participate and provide inputs into implementation and monitoring,” the Coordinator noted.
On the role of parliamentarians in effective implementation of the SDGs, Njie explained that parliamentarians have the responsibilities to: raise awareness of the goals among citizens; promote ownership of the agenda amongst all stakeholders; galvanise action in parliament to build capacity and create awareness and ownership of the SDGs within parliament; formulate credible laws and establish relevant institutions; build partnerships with multiple stakeholders; engage and support parliaments at sub-national; foster collaborative work with other parliaments across countries, regionally and globally; regularly engage with the executive for consistent review of implementation; and promote citizens’ feedback on implementation.
The event had in attendance other eminent personalities like the Deputy Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the UN, HE Mr. Sunday Itebode; representative of the United Nations Environment Programme, New York, Ms. Hauwa Umar; CISLAC Global Trustee Member Mr. John Francis as well as other development partners, civil society organizations and media within and outside the United States.