State of the Nation Address by Civil Society Organisations in Nigeria

State of the Nation Address by Civil Society Organisations in Nigeria

Civil society organizations, activists and concerned Nigerians invited you today to share with you our reflection on a number of issues of critical importance to the developments, security and prosperity of our country Nigeria.

CORRUPTION:
The fight against corruption is said to be on cause. Yet every day new Nigerian are inundated by allegations of corruption especially those in which government officials are alleged to be perpetrators. What is more, there are no signs that government is taking action to investigate these allegations so as to assuage the public that indeed it is committed to fighting corruption. In other countries, mere allegations of corruption would force government officials to resign their appointments; in Nigeria we are concerned about the allegations of corruption already preceding some of the recently cleared ministers into office.

While we reiterate our call for the strengthening and reinvigorating the anti-corruption organizations in Nigeria, we are worried by the recent calls for the merger of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). We are convinced that these calls are mischievous and engineered to derail the two organizations that have clearly distinguishable mandates. Instead of merger, we call on the Federal Government to work closely with the National Assembly to ensure that the two bodies are strengthened, well funded and staffed to fight the cankerworm of corruption that has become the bane of our national development.

Closely related to this, we decry the practice in which the findings from audit reports from the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation are simply filed for record purposes only without any action or remedial measures arising directly from the audit. We call on the Federal Government to strengthen the office by adequately funding, equipping and staffing it. We also call for reforms that will allow the Auditor General to be able to initiate prosecutions based on any discrepancies they might have observed in the accounts of the Government or any of its agencies. In the interest of transparency and accountability we call on the National Assembly to insist that the Report of the Auditor General be timely tabled before them for scrutiny.

AFFIRMATIVE ACTION:
We note and commend the efforts of Mr. President in redeeming his campaign promises for improved women representation in governance in line with the 35% Affirmative Action in our National Gender Policy to which all Federal and State Governments are committed to upholding. We note that 12 women out of the 41 were appointed to be ministers. We look forward to the 42nd outstanding minister being a female to move the President toward attaining the promised 35% affirmative action. We also implore Mr. President to deliver in the same manner in the appointment of other members of the support structures of administration and especially the Presidential aides and Advisors. While appealing for this we remain mindful of the need for the appointment of persons with proven integrity, expertise and excellent track records.

NATIONAL/PERSONAL SECURITY:
The civil society unequivocally condemns the recent and recurrent breeches to National Security in the country especially the recent abominable attack on the Nigeria Police Headquarters, as well as the incessant attacks on security formations and private business premises in Maiduguri and other parts of Nigeria. While we recognize that individuals and groups have the right to make claims and seek redress and justice, we note that there are constitutionally provided and guaranteed mechanisms for seeking redress that should be adhered to by all Nigerians. Any deviation from the constitutional dialogue resolution mechanism is not acceptable. We are also concerned about the incessant ethno-religious and communal conflicts that are threatening to become endemic in some parts of the country as well as the spate of armed robbery and the return of kidnapping for ransom.

We therefore call on the President, the Security Service Chiefs and other security agencies to urgently put in place mechanisms to secure the property and person of every Nigerian and residents of Nigeria. In this regard, the review of anti-terrorism strategies of the security forces is imperative along with the search for dialogue and political solution to the problems.

We also decry the response of the security forces especially the Army to the bomb blasts and other attacks in Maiduguri through extra-judicial killing of suspects, inability to charge arrested suspects to court, torture and destruction of properties, general intimidation of the populace and other violations of human rights meted out to Nigerians especially in Borno.

While we condemn terrorism in all forms and manifestations, we must reiterate that securing human life and property should not be pursued at the expense of the respect for human rights and law enforcement should not become a guise for the disregard of constitutionally protected rights of individuals and groups to life, privacy, dignity of human persons, housing and freedom of movement. While it is the constitutional duty of the State to ensure security and law and order, it is also its duty not only to protect the citizenry from human right violations but also to punish those who violate the guaranteed rights of its citizens. Therefore we call on the President to ensure that the reported violations of human rights by members of the security are investigated and those found guilty be punished in accordance with the laws. Government should also ensure that victims of such abuses are compensated.

We also wish to draw attention to the on-going trial of officers of the Nigeria Police accused of summarily and illegally executing Mohammed Yusuf, the late leader of the Boko Haram sect. While we believe that every crime should be thoroughly investigated and its perpetrators brought to justice, we are alarmed by the awkward timing of this trial. While the said crime was perpetrated in July 2009, it is only recently after the series of attacks said to have been perpetrated by the Boko Haram sect that the prosecutions suddenly resumed. We fear that the timing of this trial is likely to dampen the morale of the officers of the Nigeria Police and other security agencies.

While we support the resolve of Mr. President not to scrap the National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) scheme, we believe that the scheme requires a review not just in terms of an upward review of the allowances of the Corp members, but also to ensure that the security and welfare of the participating youths is guaranteed.

THE ECONOMY:
We are concerned about the sudden politicization of the commencement of the payment of the recently approved minimum wage for civil servants in Nigeria. While the said wage increase still falls below the minimum bank balance of some Nigerian banks and only applicable to the few Nigerians who are employed in the civil service, we are of the view that failure to pay the said salaries by the Federal and State Governments would amount to a betrayal of the confidence reposed on the government by the Nigerian worker and a sure invitation to series of strikes and strained labour relations that would have far reaching impact on the economy and the welfare of all Nigerians. More importantly it will amount to the violation of a law of the land since the Minimum Wage Act is an extant law which requires all employers to respect. We do not want believe that President signed the law just for election sake. It is equally mischievous for State governors to now link the payment of the minimum wage with deregulation.

In the context of the worsening standard of living, rising cost of food, shelter and other essentials, absence of social welfare and security the heightened insecurity and vulnerability of the country to attack, the worsening crime records, and the alleged inability of some states to pay the new minimum wage, we frown at the request of Mr. President for an upward review of the salaries of some of his advisers. After a careful review of economic and security indicators in the country, we are of the opinion that the Presidential Advisers should rather be sent to work to justify their current emolument.

CONCLUSION:
It is our conclusion that while the Government of the President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan enjoys popular legitimacy and support arising from the successful April 2011 General Elections, it is clear that the generality of Nigerians are living in difficult times and are counting on the government to provide the capable leadership that will lead to the prompt delivery of the dividends of democracy to all Nigerians.

We therefore call on the Government to pay close attention to the plight of Nigerians and put the interest and well being of Nigerians as the paramount objective of governance. We call on the government to lead the way in the transformation of Nigeria by eschewing all forms and manifestations of corruption at all levels and ensure that democracy, good governance, rule of law, human rights and human security remain the watchwords of the government.

SIGNED:
1. Zero Corruption Coalition (ZCC)
2. Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC)
3. Publish What You Pay (PWYP)
4. West Africa Civil Society Forum (WACSOF)
5. Transparency in Nigeria (TIN)
6. Centre for Democracy and Development, CDD)
7. National Procurement Watch Platform (NPWP)
8. PANAFSTRAG
9. Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD)
10. ActionAid Nigeria
11. Women in Nigeria (WIN)
12. Centre for the Development of Civil Society (CDCS)
13. Gender Affirmative Action
14. Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative( WRAPA)
15. Legislative Advocacy Coalition on Violence Against Women (LACVAW)
16. Raising Her Voice
17. Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP-Nigeria)
18. Civil Resource Development and Documentation Centre (CIRDDOC)
19. Transition Monitoring Group(TMG)
20. Alliance for Credible Election (ACE)

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