A TEXT OF A PRESS CONFERENCE ORGANISED BY CIVIL SOCIETY LEGISLATIVE ADVOCACY CENTRE (CISLAC) TO ADDRESS THE STATE OF THE NATION ON 23RD JANUARY, 2018
The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, having observed the disturbing trends, events and occurrences in our dear nation; noting the responses from government, groups and different stakeholders in the Nigerian Project; worried that politics, ethno-religious sentiments and grandstanding rather than reason, restraint and desire for the common good has characterised and greatly influenced the utterances, actions and activities of various individuals, groups and organizations; concerned that the situation could escalate and degenerate into anarchy and jeopardise the lives and property of innocent citizens and our collective aspiration for a peaceful and just society; and mindful of the ultimate effect of this on our national unity as we approach the elections in 2019, have found it necessary to make the following statement:
- INCREASING THREATS TO THE NATION’S PEACE AND SECURITY
Although conflicts between farmers and pastoralists are not new phenomena as these goes back to the earliest written records in many parts of the world, in recent times, there have been a progressive deterioration in the symbiotic relationship between farmers and the pastoralists. These conflicts have become routine events in Nigeria. In the last few years, the nature of the conflicts is continuously shifting from demand for natural resources agitations but have moved to politically and religiously ignited conflict.
- In Nigeria, major introduced policies to solve the problems of farmers and pastoralists have woefully failed.
- Non- implementations of Panels and commissions of inquiries on conflicts between pastoralists and sedentary communities.
- The responsibility of government in protecting the lives and properties of farming groups in some places and pastoral groups in other places has completely been neglected.
- The collapse of traditional conflict resolution mechanisms to challenge negative attitude and atrocities further pave a way for the duo to take law into their hands.
- Kidnappings, cattle rusting and arm banditry have become the order of the day.
- There is the need for paradigm shift in policy making from conflict resolution to conflict prevention strategy. Conflicts could be prevented through collective understanding and acceptance of causes of conflict with inclusion of all resource users in the process. This could follow by establishment of rules over natural resource use and enforcing them, collective acceptance of such rules and continuous negotiation on divergent demands.
- Collective understanding and acceptance of causes of conflict with inclusion of all resource users in the process, collective acceptance of such rules and continuous negotiation on divergent demands.
- Providing legal assistance to conflicting parties and educating the parties on channels of challenging injustice and grievances including courts, police, army, vigilante groups, traditional leaders and even the pastoral and farmers associations.
- Overcome widespread marginalisation of both farmers and pastoralists in some societies in policy making and implementations.
- Livelihood support to conflict affected households.
- We call on the Executive, led by the President and Governors to be proactive, prompt and decisive in dealing with the pastoralists-farmer crisis engulfing the nation before it escalates to jeopardise our national unity, peace and security. They should be a consultative process with the federal, state, local governments and community leaders, to develop a long term policy that will address the concerns of all parties involved. Government and community leaders should be focused and not be overwhelmed by the distractions that the 2019 elections will present.
- We are worried over the increased kidnapping for ransom in the country where some victims are made to pay whopping sums to secure their releases while others are killed in the process.
- We are not unaware that the continued feeling of insecurity has posed a threat to both national and international investment opportunities. It is even more terrifying that the security agencies appear helpless in addressing the situation and curbing this menace.
- Revelations from Evans, the arrested kidnapper, showed that complicity and collusion by some elements within the security establishment, contributes to the seeming invincibility of these criminal groups.
- We call on the security agencies to deploy all the resources at its disposal to put an end to kidnapping of fellow Nigerians and other foreigners.
- The security agencies must be proactive and deploy intelligence to check this criminality to an end the impunity.
INSURGENCY IN THE NORTH-EAST
We are worried of the re-emergence of Boko Haram attacks on citizens in the North East. Though, the Nigerian state has made tremendous gains in taming the deadly sect in the country their recent attacks is a great concern to us.
- STATE OF CORRUPTION IN NIGERIA
- We decry the persistent shocking levels of corruption in Nigeria. Since 1960, Nigeria lost an estimated 400 billion USD to unimaginable levels of corruption and embezzlement, mostly stemming from gas and oil revenues. The natural resource ‘curse’ will add to other vast leakages in public spending and revenue collection, which will cost around 37% of GDP by 2030 if rampant graft is not addressed.
- Nigerians are perplexed by daily occurrence of corruption scandals of seemingly detached political establishment hiding behind impunity and absurd privileges. Conservative estimates indicate that 70 % of the nation’s revenue is used to maintain less than 20% of the Nigerian population that are public servants and politicians.
- It is astonishing to note that Nigeria as one of the richest oil producers in the world cannot lift more than 61% of its citizens out of abject poverty. While around 116 million of Nigerians live on less than 1.25 USD per day, in 2016 Nigeria recorded 23 billionaires with collective wealth reaching almost 78billion USD and 43 000 individuals owning assets worth at least 1 million USD. Not all, but too many of these millionaires are public servants who enjoy proceeds of corruption with impunity and even perverted pride.
- We are worried over the Government’s failure in delivering on anti-corruption commitments made to Nigerians and the international community.
- We acknowledge achieving important milestones such as the drafting of the first-ever National Anti-Corruption Strategy in 2017. However, nothing or little has been done to put the strategy in motion. The strategy has not been disclosed to the public, no implementation plan approved and no concrete steps taken. Strategy valid only on the paper will not make any difference.
- One of the rare successes has been the signing of the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill into Law. This legal provision has sent an important signal to the international partners and has made tangible difference in the exchange of information between Nigerian anti-corruption authorities and their international partners.
- The Government of Nigeria pocketed an agreement with the Government of Switzerland in December 2017 during Washington summit on asset recovery that 321 million USD of the Abacha loot will be returned to Nigeria. However, further 5 billion USD of Nigerian assets are frozen in foreign jurisdictions. This volume of finances would be sufficient to run the projected 2018 budget for almost three months as this figure amounts to 20% of projected Nigerian governmental expenditures in 2018.
- The stalemate of the Proceeds of Crime Bill, which seeks to regulate the management of recovered assets as well as the rivalry amongst the anti-corruption authorities does not convince the Nigerian public and international partners that recovered assets will not be ‘re-looted’ yet again.
- It is disappointing to witness that so many corruption cases are not prosecuted till the end and VIP convicts are rarely sentenced on anti-corruption charges. A report by the EFCC claims that in 2016/17, 286 cases were brought to conviction, which would signal a remarkable improvement to 53 convicted cases in 2012. However, this nominal improvement disguises the fact that Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) have been too often acquitted on dubious grounds. Various studies and anecdotal evidence suggest that the justice system is not impartial and not immune to corruption. Some former state governors who have cases to answer have brazenly come back to political reckoning. Judicial officers and judges are not able or willing to apply conviction- and non-conviction based forfeiture of proceeds of corruption.
- We are concerned that while many brave individuals in the anti-corruption agencies confront the corruption empire, the empire strikes back. Anti-corruption agents and civil society activists do not enjoy necessary level of protection and unanimous political support. As a result, rhetoric, political and even physical attacks threaten the life-and-death fight against corruption in Nigeria.
- We urge the Government and security agencies to render the highest level of protection and unconditional political and state support to anti-corruption agencies and civil society activists.
- Whistle-blowers must be provided with robust legal provision and assurances from the highest political level that their life is protected and their actions glorified while exposing corruption.
- International commitments stipulated during the Anti-corruption summit in London in 2016 and anchored in Open Government Partnership must be fulfilled if international community is to be convinced about the seriousness of the Government to fight corruption.
- Anti-corruption legal framework must be strengthened through the adoption of the Proceeds of Crime Act and standing laws must be applied to grand corruption as well as petty bribery.
- Adequate resources and funding must be provided for anti-corruption agencies.
- Immediate appointment and prompt inauguration of the National Procurement Council as provided in the Public Procurement Act must be accelerated to curb continued systemic corruption in the nation’s procurement process.
- STATE OF ECONOMY AND THE LINGERING FUEL SCARCITY SCAM
- We are worried by the on-going endless fuel scarcity rocking the nation and crippling economic activities triggered by lack of sufficient reserve, low clearance speed of petrol at the ports and diversion of products.
- We are bothered that the reported improvement in the economy is still largely reflected in government figures and statistics. The high level of unemployment at 18.8% generally and 33.10% for youths, backlog of unpaid salaries, epileptic power supply and recently the crisis hardship created by the non-availability of petroleum products are sad reminders of a poorly managed economy.
- The poor level of budget implementation of the 2017 budget is lamentable. Apart from the delay in the passage of budgets, an implementation level of less than 20% calls for serious concerns. It is bad enough that capital allocations are usually inadequate and frivolous. Wasteful provisions, poor disbursement and utilization only create economic uncertainties and negatively impacts on the welfare of citizens.
- As at this day, the 2018 budget is not close to being passed and the month of April is being projected for its passage. For a pre-election year, this is a recipe for economic crisis and avenue for corruption and unapproved spending which could be diverted for political party or selfish uses by the various MDAs. This administration promised Nigerian a zero-budget system to promote efficiency, cost-effectiveness and project delivery. This has remained a mirage.
- We note that Nigeria continues to lose millions of naira due to the absence of a defined legal framework to manage our oil and gas sector. While we welcome the passage of the PIGB by both chambers of the National Assembly, we are mindful of the fact that other relevant and indeed more strategic components of the renowned PIB remains elusive. The Fiscal Framework and the Host Community components are inevitable or the necessary changes and reforms badly needed in the sector. They must therefore be addressed for passage while the momentum in the process to secure presidential assent to the PIGB is sustained.
- Immediate and holistic action by relevant authority to address discrepancy in the issue of pricing including landing cost and cost of petroleum product must be expedited.
- We must overhaul our budget making process to make it more open, transparent and result-oriented. The adoption of open budget, open data and open contracting, as committed to in our Open Government Partnership Action Plan must fully take effect as a matter of urgency.
- We call on the Federal Government to device constructive means and come up with policies that would turn around the economy and make it create opportunities for citizens and enhance their welfare.
- We call on National Assembly totreat the 2018 budget with a sense of urgency. They should scrutinize it vigorously to eliminate all frivolous and wasteful allocations in the budget and expedite the process of passage to allow for implementation to commence as soon as possible
- The National Assembly should follow through with the confirmation of all outstanding executive appointments by carrying out constructive and objective scrutiny of appointees without prejudice and political sentiments or selfish interest. This is to ensure that institutions are able to function optimally.
- They should ensure effective oversight of the MDAs to avoid wastages, leakages, abuse of office and misuse of public funds for any purposes other than serving the interest of Nigerians.
- 2019 AND THE GROSS VIOLATION OF ELECTORAL PROCESS
- We are worried by the gross violation of the provisions of Electoral Act arising from improper use of the released electoral time tableby politicians and political parties that engage in premature campaign activities as against provisions of Electoral Act.
- We are not unaware of the persistent violation of various regulations guiding political party financingthat has hitherto undermined free, fair and credibility in the electoral process.
- We are concerned by thedwindling internal democracy across political parties. We are not unaware that all forms of electoral malfeasance are 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 spate of party members endorsing candidates outside laid down party constitutionresulting in undemocratic processes.
CISLAC recommends as follows:
- Imposition of appropriate sanction against perpetrators of electoral violence and electoral fraud to sustain sanity and sanctity while promoting credibility in the nation’s electoral process.
- Increased citizens’ concern and awareness on the procedure on the selection of candidates by political parties, as the political party structure remains today the only means of engaging in elective position in the country.
- Strict compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act as Amended in the 2017 in regulating financing activities of political parties.
- Prompt creation of Interparty Advisory Council across all political parties to promote proper compliance to the provisions of the Electoral Act, dealing with the electoral time table released by INEC.
- Strengthen relevant machineries by INEC with holistic mechanisms to ensure candidates’ imposition, parallel congresses, and undemocratic conduct in political parties are nipped in the bud.
- Appropriate sanction by INEC against erring political party or politician flouting existing legal provisions campaigning outside electoral time table.
- RISING POVERTY LEVEL, DILAPIDATED HEALTHCARE SECTOR, AND DELAYED IMPLEMENTATION OF THE SDGS
- We are worried over the delayed implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at national and sub-national levels about three years after the world convened in the United States of America to adopt the 17 Goals.
- While the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on SDGs currently lacks budgetary allocation for implementation of the SDGs, we are concerned by lack of Costed strategic plan of action for implementation at national and state levels. There is also no harmonisation of efforts on SDGs at National and state levels
- While the development of a country is measured by its health indices, the 2017 World Health Statistics places Nigeria’s Maternal Mortality Ratio at 814/100,000 LB with under-5 mortality rate, 108.8/1000LB; and neonatal mortality rate 34.3/1000LB (WHO).
- We are disturbed that more than three year after the passage of the National Health Act and the provision therewith of 1% of consolidated revenue to fund basic health care package for Nigerians, Nigeria continues to lose women and children from childbirth, malnutrition or immunization related issues. Primary health care is virtually moribund and inaccessible and under funded
- We are not unaware of the inadequate budgetary allocation, delay in release and poor utilisation of the existing funds for the health sector, despite the 2007 Abuja Declaration requiring each member state in Africa to allocate at least 15% of their total budget to health. We are aware that most countries that were signatories to this declaration across Africa have already keyed into this provision and exceeded the 15% provision. We find it worrisome that Nigeria is yet to reach as little as 7%.
- Over 2.1million Nigerian children under-5years are severely acute malnourished with the immediate need for the procurement of ready-to-use-therapeutic food by the government for their survival.
CISLAC recommends as follows:
- Increased policy focus on the implementation of SDGs at national and state levels through the development of an all-encompassing strategic focus that will include sub-national interventions which will be harmonized and budgeted for implementation.
- Holistic implementation of the SDGs to address the nation’s developmental challenges such as poverty, hunger, poor healthcare system, education, inequalities, instability, injustice, weak institutions, and corruption.
- Fulfilment of various commitments by the government including the 15% budgetary allocation to the health sector to promote adequate, accessible and affordable healthcare system.
- Harnessing local potential for adequate and sustainable resource mobilisation for financing health sector to mitigate the impacts of dwindling donor resources. Urgent need for mobilising and sustaining financing in the health sector.
- We call on government to urgently implement Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPP), and also quickly pass and assent to the Gender and Equal Opportunity Bill, as well as the Child’s Right Act. All states must quickly adopt the Child Rights Act
- Strategic provision of adequate budgetary allocation for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and increase allocation to the health sector while ensuring strict implementation of the National health Act.
We note with concern that the progress rate of the Ogoni Clean-up is painfully slow. The environmental situation in Ogoni which touches on health and livelihoods affects real people whose lives and future are threatened. We reject the reduction of life-threatening issues to politics and call on the federal government to expedite action on both the emergency measures and actual clean up.
They should expedite the process of adopting a comprehensive policy on Internal Displacements to ensure that the rights, safety and welfare of IDPs are adequately protected in line with global best practices.
All citizens have equal stake in the Nigerian nation and are entitled to live peacefully and benefit maximally from her government and resources. It is fatal to allow selfish individuals and groups through their actions, utterances and activities, to plunge the nation into chaos and anarchy. We must therefore rise above ethnic, religious and sectional interests and sentiments and put the interest of all Nigerians above every other. We call on leaders at all levels to act as statesmen, avoid the use of inciting language, provocative pronouncements and vindictive gestures to promote unity, healing and soothing which our nation needs desperately. As we sympathise with all who have lost loved ones and relations, pray for the repose of the souls of those killed in conflicts across the country, we call on our elected officials to provide focused, purposeful, firm and oriented leadership.
There is also very importantly trend towards the abandonment of governance in the country. The very reason and purpose of government is the welfare of citizens and protection of life and property. When the political leaders sacrifice these basic fundamental of its being and move over to the realm of politicking, the citizens’ welfare suffer. Social and economic well-being of the people are jeopardised and security of life and property are put to risk.
Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani)
Executive Director, CISLAC