Press Statement on the State of the Nation

Press Statement on the State of the Nation

STATE OF THE NATION

 

We the undersigned Civil Society groups working on transparency, accountability and good governance in the country express utmost worries over the recent but unwary developments invading the nation’s socio-economic and political spheres with propensity to back-pedal progress in achieving a stable, secured and prosperous country.

  1. VIOLATION OF ELECTORAL GUIDELINES, INTERNAL POLITICAL PARTIES’ DEMOCRACY AND HATE SPEECH

We are worried by the persistent violation of the provisions of the Electoral Act with the improper use of electoral timetable as announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) by political parties and politicians who continue to engage in premature campaign activities.

We are not unaware of the violation of various regulations guiding political party financing including deliberate effort to take advantage of individual’s socio-economic situation and buying of votes that resultantly undermine free, fair and credible electoral process.

The on-going recurring unresolved leadership, congressional and conventional conflicts erupting within political parties remain serious concerns that, in the absence of immediate appropriate measures and intervention, may not only erode internal party democracy but also spell doom for electoral credibility in the 2019 General Elections. We are also not unaware that all forms of electoral malfeasance are being committed including undermining selection of candidates within the political parties, vote buying; electoral violence, amongst others.

While we understand that candidate selection is a vital activity to the existence of any political party, we are disturbed by the emerging undemocratic processes employed by political party members in the endorsement of political candidates outside laid down party constitution.

We express unreserved worries over the recurring but unhealthy and divisive verbal attacks and hate speeches which manifest in the utterances of politicians, political supporters, political party leaders, traditional rulers and religious leaders; which, if not holistically addressed, may pose grievous challenges to the electoral process, peaceful-coexistence, unity and diversity of our beloved nation.

We demand strict compliance to Section 95 (1-2) of the Electoral Act which forbids the use of political campaign slogan tainted with abusive language directly or indirectly, likely to conjure religious, ethnic, tribal or sectional feeling and the use of abusive, intemperate, slanderous or base language or insinuations or innuendos designed or likely to provoke violent reactions or emotions in political campaigns.

We urge  religious leaders to abide by the provision of Subsection 3 of the Act which emphasized that “Places designated for religious worship, police stations and public places shall not be used for political campaigns, rallies and processions or to promote, propagate or attack properties, candidates or their programmes or ideologies.”

We call on the media to, in the spirit of Section 102 of the Act, shun any “candidate or person or association who engages in campaigning or broadcasting based on religious, tribal or sectional reason for the purpose of promoting, opposing a particular political party or the election of a particular candidate.”

We encourage the media to: avoid publishing or airing political adverts, advertorials and sponsored political news that seek to create hatred or incite violence; reject any material intended for publication or airing by parties, candidates and other interests that contains hateful or inciting words and messages; refrain from publishing or airing abusive editorial comments or opinions that denigrate individuals or groups on account of disability, race, ethnicity, tribe, gender or belief.

  1. CORRUPTION, TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY IN ASSETS RECOVERY AND NON-APPOINTMENT OF THE NATIONAL PROCUREMENT COUNCIL  

As the issue of corruption remains pervasive in Nigeria, putting in place holistic approach towards tackling the menace remains urgent. Despite emphasis being placed in the public sector (which constitutes an estimated 70% of corruption cases in Nigeria), enthroning integrity and minimizing corruption in both public and private sector continues to remain a priority, featuring prominently in the form of programmes and policies of successive government administrations.

Corruption in Nigeria has assumed worrisome heights, entrenched in a systemic fashion and has become rather symbolic of a colossal failure as a people to devise workable systems. The brazenness of corruption in Nigeria is an indicator of years of immense rot and institutional collapse. With mind blowing effect, the menace has reduced most Nigerians to staggering poverty despite being blessed with vast natural resources and teeming youth population.

On transparency and accountability in asset recovery, in 2016 at the Anti-corruption Summit in London, the administration committed to strengthening asset recovery and management legislation through the passage 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.  Although the National Assembly has recently passed the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) Bill, if the Executive does not sign it into Law, Nigeria will be expelled from the EGMONT group. The implication for ordinary Nigerians is that our debit and credit cards will be suspended from the international payment system.

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 a successful anti-corruption fight.

Absence of legal requirement for Nigerian companies to maintain a register of Beneficial Ownership continues to provide a breeding ground for beneficial owners who hide behind legal person members of a company without being identified. There is no legal requirement for Nigerian companies to maintain a register of Beneficial Ownership.

The country lacks Central Register of Beneficial Ownership information and clear rules on access for all law enforcement and tax agencies to Beneficiary Ownership information are not available. Nigeria lacks legal framework for prosecution of non-disclosure of beneficial ownership.

We appreciate the development and adoption of a National Anti-Corruption Strategy. However, we are concerned that this strategy has not been operationalised. We urge the government to ensure that this strategy is not seen as a government paper but a living document that will be engaged by every Nigerian citizen and other citizens resident in Nigeria in order to minimise corruption. We call on the government to 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 the recently passed Unexplained Wealth Order in UK to expose Nigerian illicit financial flows.

We demand immediate development of clear policy actions on asset recovery as recommended by Global Forum for Asset Recovery in 2017 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.

We also encourage the administration to 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 judicial officials.

We call on the government to 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.

Moreover, the violation of the Public Procurement Act 2007 continues to be done through the non-appointment of the National Procurement Council as required by law. The Federal Executive Council (FEC) continues to arrogate to itself the powers to approve contracts in clear violation of the Public Procurement Act. This act of FEC does not show a government ready to abide by the rule of law and ensuring transparency in contract awards.

We therefore call on the government to follow the law and set up the National Procurement Council as the Act stipulates.

The fight against corruption cannot be properly won in the absence of the non-compliance of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) as presently observed by various government agencies. The judicial pronouncement that the FOI Act applies to states is very much welcomed. The judiciary must do more in applying sanctions on erring officials on the FOI Act.

  1. UNRESOLVED CASES OF HIGH PROFILE CORRUPTION ALLEGATIONS

While we are aware of the various commitments including the 2016 Anti-Corruption Summit in London, Open Government Partnership, and campaign promise by the present administration to combat corruption in all ramifications without fear or favour, we find it disturbing that official corruption is deeply embedded and fast becoming a permanent feature whose subculture melts seamlessly into the public office holders’ daily life.

We are worried over the administration’s continued unwillingness to exert appropriate sanction against high profile erring officials amongst others which include:

  • Salient 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;
  • Babachir Lawal, former Secretary to the Government of the Federation attributed to the diversion and mismanagement of about N12 billion North East humanitarian intervention fund;
  • The controversial effort by Amb. Babagana Kingibe-led Presidential Review Panel to siphon $44 million Intervention Fund belonging to the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) that apparently led to the unjust and unconstitutional removal of the immediate past Acting Director General of the Agency, Amb. Mohammed Dauda;
  • Former DSS boss, Ita Ekpenyong who allegedly partook in corruption and mismanagement of fundsamounting to $9million of $30 million operation fund from Sambo Dasuki, former National Security Adviser and who is enjoying protection from the DSS from arrest; and
  • The alleged diversion of over $21million into private pocket by the Director General of the Department of State Security, Lawal Musa Daura.

We are concerned over 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.

We observe that the manner in which systemic corrupt practices are encouraged and celebrated, especially in the public sector, if not rapidly addressed will ultimately erode citizens’ trust and confidence in governance and eventually reverse the gains and recorded progress from anti-corruption fight in the country.

  1. POORLY MOTIVATED SECURITY PERSONNEL, FAULTY RECRUITMENT AND SELECTION PROCESSES IN THE SECURITY SECTOR

We are bothered that personnel of the Armed Forces, the Police and other Intelligence agencies wallow in poor working conditions and inadequate equipment combined with poorly paid salaries without adequate insurance, in spite of the enormous work they do and risk to their lives on a daily basis. This creates low morale for personnel to fully engage in their duties.

We are not unaware of the faulty recruitment and selection processes in the nation’s security forces leading to situations whereby influential individuals determine who is recruited throwing competence and qualification to the dust. Where this is not happening, the leadership of the security agencies monetise the recruitment process. This leaves us with a cash and carry security apparatus.

Given the spate of kidnappings, massacres and destruction of property across the country by insurgents, armed bandits and other hoodlums, we observe that just upgrading arms and ammunition for the nation’s security agencies will not help address the security challenges without getting citizens who are qualified, properly trained and have passion for the job got into the security institutions.

 

  1. INADEQUATE SECURITY PRESENCE IN COMMUNITIES AND POLITICALLY MOTIVATED KILLINGS

We are disturbed that in spite of low security presence to effectively secure citizens’ lives and property at national and state levels, a large number of security personnel and equipment are endlessly attached to politicians, government officials and net-worth individuals. This inadequacy of personnel and limited equipment have continued to pave way for recurring politically and other socially motivated conflicts as exemplified by farmers and pastoralists’ violence across Benue, Taraba, Adamawa and Kaduna states; cattle rustling in Zamfara State; militancy in the Niger Delta and kidnapping all across Nigeria.

While we condemn the lack of proactive initiative or appropriate measure by the concerned state governments to curb regular attacks and killings of innocent citizens, we call for urgent recruitment, better equipment and training for security personnel, especially the police.

We demand appreciable proactive and innovative interventions by the state governments in partnership with the Nigeria Police Force in addressing the growing security challenges in their respective states.

  1. POOR IMPLEMENTATION OF THE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS (SDG)

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which was adopted by 189 countries on September 2015 during the 70th session of the UN General Assembly, are a set of 17 goals and 169 targets levelled at improving development across the globe. Nearly three years after the adoption by world leaders, Nigeria is yet to fully commence implementation. There is still no strategic plan of action on implementation and harmonization of various state efforts on SDGs. The SDGs is still inadequately funded and it appears from the 2017 National Voluntary Review Report that there are no concrete indicators for monitoring progress. We call on the Nigerian government to speedily expedite action towards the development of a harmonized strategic plan of action that will incorporate states efforts. We further call for adequate funding of the SDGs to enhance effective implementation.

 

  1. SLOW IMPLEMENTATION OF REFORMS IN THE EXTRACTIVE SECTOR

The implementation reforms in the extractive sector has been rather slow and not deep enough considering the absence of effective policy and legislative reforms that would institutionalise and make it sustainable. We call on the government to expedite the implementation and institutionalisation of reforms in the sector by ensuring that:

  • The President assentsto the PIGB,
  • The Federal Government reconstitutesthe Inter-ministerial Task Team and empowers it to implement recommendations from reports of the NEITI.
  • The government should also expedite action for the clean up of Ogoni land.

 

  1. DELAYS IN LEGISLATIVE ACTION BY THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY

 

  1. We are disappointed at the apparent disproportionate refusal by the Nigerian Senate to confirm the substantive Chief Executives and Boards of critical Anti-Corruption Agencies (EFFC, ICPC and CCB).

While expressing deep concern over the position of the Upper Chamber—which has the fundamental mandate to protect and allow citizens’ interest prevail in its legislative activities, we however, frown at the seeming arbitrary use of the power of confirmation constitutionally granted the Senate to withhold the confirmation of the statutory governance structure of these bodies thereby undermining the institutional capacity to effectively carry out their mandate.

We, therefore, call on the Nigerian Senate to refocus and carry out its legislative and constitutional responsibility with a sense of patriotism towards supporting efforts in fighting corruption by confirming the Chief executives and Boards of these anti-corruption agencies to enable the institutions fully carry out their mandate.

  1. Furthermore, it is sad that five (5)months down the year, the national budget is not yet passed by the National Assembly. This is a statutory function of the National Assembly. Nigeria cannot grow its economy and provide for citizens’ welfare without a national budget passed, assented and fully implemented. The delay in the passage of the budget or using it for political gains is both unpatriotic and sabotaging the country’s growth and development.

We call on the National Assembly to consider the passage of the budget as a matter of URGENT national importance after due diligence and proper scrutiny.

  • We also find the delay in the passage of some key anti-corruption legislations worrisome. Such bills as the Proceeds of Crime Bill, Whistle Blowers Protection Bill and other pending Bills in the Extractive sector,among others, which will further enhance the fight against corruption, needs to be urgently passed by the National Assembly.

 

  1. THE COMMENDABLE PROGRESS BY JUDICIAL INSTITUTIONS:

The Judiciary has made efforts to clean up its ranks by taking disciplinary action by erring judges. We commend it for this action, but these judges should face the full weight of the law just like other citizens. We also commend the judicial institutions for the appreciable progress in the recent trial of high profile corruption cases. We call for more proactive and vibrant judicial system for judicious prosecution of politically exposed persons and proper interpretation of anti-graft legislations.

 

 

 

Signed:

 

  1. Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC)
  2. Partners for Electoral Reforms (PER)
  3. State of the Union (SOTU)
  4. Say No Campaign
  5. Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD)
  6. Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD)
  7. Zero Corruption Coalition (ZCC)
  8. Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA)
  9. Civil Society Network Against Agenda (CSNAC)
  10. Accountability Mechanism for Maternal New Born and Child health in Nigeria (AMHiN)
  11. Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED)
  12. Youth Initiative for Advocacy Growth and Advancement (YIAGA)
  13. Protest to Power
  14. Centre for Democratic Research and Training (CRDDERT)
  15. Organisations of Trade Unions of West Africa
  16. National Procurement Watch Platform (NPWP)
  17. African centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL)
  18. Borno Coalition for Democracy and Progress (BOCODEP)

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