Say urgency needed to restore situation

CISLAC, NECAN express view about Nigeria’s 60 years of nationhood

By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja

The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, and Nigeria Electricity Consumers Advocacy Network, NECAN, x-ray Nigeria’s 60 years of nationhood.

The Executive Director, CISLAC, doubling also as Chairman Transparency International Nigeria, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, said, “On Anti-corruption; In Nigeria today, systemic corruption constitutes a serious challenge to efficient delivery of social services to common Nigerians. It permeates our socio-economic and political atmospheres with the alarming dreadful consequences backpedalling growth and development, while at the same calling for global concerns and discouraging investment opportunities.

“Despite various administrative promises and commitments to combat corruption, corruption remains a menace crippling Nigeria socio-economic development including the fast-falling educational standard, dilapidating healthcare, bad roads, rising unemployment that precariously breeds social vices like crimes, vandalism armed robbery, kidnapping, and youth agitation, poorly motivated security personnel, youth under-development, bad governance, and the eroded public services.

“Lack of operational independence of the various anti-graft institutions make their efficiency exceptionally difficult. This is largely due to the system of appointments dependent on the Presidency. There is also a general culture of the perceived right of those in power to use state institutions for power preservation and personal enrichment. Until this is changed, no law or policy will dramatically improve the chances to fight corruption.

“While we are aware of the various commitments including 2016 Anti-Corruption Summit in London 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 fixture whose subculture melts seamlessly into the public servants’ daily life.

“The administration’s emerging dwindling capability to constructively and conclusively handle high profile corruption cases, gives chances to culprits to walk freely on the street and positive signal to potential culprits to freely engage in corruption. We observed that the manners 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 backpedal the gains and recorded progress from anti-corruption in the country.

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“Public procurement is one of the government activities most vulnerable to corruption. In addition to the volume of transactions and the financial interests at stake, corruption risks are exacerbated by the complexity of the process, the close interaction between public officials and businesses, and the multitude of stakeholders.

“It has been revealed that more than half of foreign bribery cases occurred to obtain a public procurement contract with almost two-thirds of foreign bribery cases occurring in sectors closely associated with contracts or licensing through public procurement.

“On insecurity; It is worrisome that violence extremism currently thrives in Nigeria as a result of exploitative governing structures, unhealthy political struggles, states predation, weaponised fight against terrorism and defense corruption. Poor intelligent gathering, inefficiency, and inadequate response capacity by the security forces have largely paved the way for pervasive criminal activities and other social vices that remain unaddressed despite ceaseless public outcries.

“The growing rate of kidnapping for ransom, banditry and insurgent attacks with delayed response and poor proactive measures by the government is a major concern to security of lives and property in the country. In spite of the security agencies investment in intelligence gathering to get advance information to nip their activities in the bud and also the formation of the various special Task Force on kidnapping, the business still strives. This happens despite persistent public outcries on its accelerating unpleasant effects like killings, physical and psychological trauma, and socio-economic setback, on the victims and their families.

“Transparency International Defence Anti-Corruption Index has shown how lethally armed criminal networks, operating with the tacit support of local and foreign business mafias, and chaperoned by the powerful military “Godfathers”.

“It is a serious concern that hitherto lacks adequate justice for the prevalent extra-judicial activities has discriminatorily enhanced unchecked dehumanisation, arbitrary arrests, human rights violation, disproportionate response as well as shrinking of civic space by security forces who continue to enjoy unjustified political support, especially civil cases.

“An instance is an unlawful statement issued by the authorities of the Nigeria Police Force threatening to prosecute organisers of the peaceful rallies in Nigeria; as against the relevant constitutional and statutory provisions and judicial authorities which have recognised the fundamental right of the Nigerian people to convene and participate in rallies, demonstration and protest marches to express their freedom of association through peaceful and non-violence manner.

“While the security forces have a fundamental mandate to secure and protect the citizens, the persistently unjust physical and mental torture experienced and extensively reported by innocent citizens across the country demonstrate otherwise and call for immediate operational review and re-alignment to accommodate well-defined rule of engagement in their dealing with civil cases.

“We are worried about the ruthless and ill-thought response by the security forces in addressing civil cases, just as we are unaware of needless brutalities leading to the untimely death and dehumanisation of innocent citizens and arrogant display of lawlessness by security operatives in various parts of the country.

“Also, the level of corruption in Nigeria’s security sector cannot be quantified, and undeniable fact is the unforgivable damage it has done to the socio-economic development and well-being of the citizens.

“Similarly, a number of scandals have been recorded around the so-called ‘security votes’, which allow politicians to appropriate millions of dollars behind closed doors simply by evoking ‘national security’. As a result, funds that are meant to buy equipment and even pay salaries go missing, leaving the military badly equipped, demoralized, and incapacitated.

“Apart from the unaccountably questionable security votes, in spite of the huge budgetary allocation to defense and security in the country, the sector records severe systemic underperformance, poor personnel appraisal and encouragement, and a dearth of appropriate incentives. The increasing budgetary allocation and other financial considerations attributable to the security sector are not judiciously utilized to effectively upturn situations and efficiently address the prevailing security challenges bedeviling the country.

“Excessive secrecy and needless confidentiality are typically employed to halt the disclosure of Defence budget and procurement process, including the weak and exceptional legislative oversight activities associating with the Defence financial system.

“The direct costs of Defence procurement corruption include loss of public funds through misallocations or higher expenses and lower quality of goods, services, and works. Those paying the bribes seek to recover their money by inflating prices, billing for work not performed, failing to meet contract standards, reducing the quality of work, or using inferior materials, in case of public procurement of works. This results in exaggerated costs and a decrease in quality.

“On political activities; Nigerians continue to await a review of critical issues that will positively shape the nation’s political institution for prosperous efficiency like the creation of Constitution Review Committee to address critical and contentious issues in the Constitution; and the review of the legislative framework for Electoral Reforms Amendment Bill, particularly electronic voting as Section 52(2) of the Bill, to give credibility and transparency to the electoral process.

“Amendment to the Electoral Reforms Act must be prioritised to address current trends and challenges, promote credibility and transparency in the electoral process. The Covid-19 pandemic has, without doubt, reshaped the existing format of electoral processes. Also, at this point in time, electoral voting should not be limited to Smart Card Reader; the Amendment must cover the entire process including registration, accreditation, vote counting, collation, and announcement chain. This will improve the responsiveness of electoral processes to public desires and expectations.

“The electoral process is still dominated by series of provocative statements, destructive arguments and negative utterances that can impair our national democracy, as observed in the emerging verbal attacks and derogatory statements trending among political parties in response to political issues. We are also not unaware of the reported electoral violence with resultant killings and destruction of property as witnessed in some states. The continued inaction of security agencies to ensure appropriate justice for arrested perpetrators and apprehend other suspects without fear or favour, is a serious concern to democratic principles and values.

“Elections are still dominated by an undemocratic attempt by some unpatriotic politicians to accomplish their electoral ambitions. The impeachment process predominantly targeted at members of the opposition party poses a threat to the nation’s democracy and sow seeds of crisis in an already violence-charged Nigerian polity.

“As some State Houses of Assembly neglect the spirit of independence and succumb to all manner of external interference into their activities; this clearly positioned them as use any means and break any rules in the quest for power and wealth. The State legislators have neglected their primary duties—representation, law-making, and oversight, and are preoccupied with externally motivated plan to unseat their executives.

“We must not lose sight of the fact that sustainable policy-making in Nigeria is impeded by various challenges including improper planning, political instability, and bureaucratic bottleneck, conflict of interest, the deliberate imposition of policy.

“We are still surprised at verbal approval of the $29.96 billion loan request forwarded to the Senate by President Muhammadu Buhari in November, without due diligence and thorough scrutiny by the Senate.

“We must also recall the emerging effort by the Assembly to provide a legal backing in shrinking civil space in the country through legislative frameworks in the Senate like Hate Speech and Social Media Bills.

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“On economic activities; Nigeria’s public service is characterized by excessive bureaucracy. Recurrent expenditures always surpass capital expenditure. It impedes socio-economic development and has a negative impact on macro-economic stability, job creation, and other socio-economic activities that drive growth and development.

“Also, where a huge proportion of government budget is used to support the administrative structure of government, poverty is bound to be pervasive as economic growth slows down or even stagnate. Furthermore, there are duplication and overlap of responsibilities in the public service. This was what informed the decision of the federal government to set up several committees in the past to make recommendations aimed at minimizing the excessive bureaucracy or merging some Ministries, Departments, and Agencies in order to reduce the cost of governance in Nigeria.

“High cost of governance has grave implications for resource availability for investment into critical sectors that will drive development and the increasing urgency to increase funding for capital projects in annual budgets becomes evident.  The high cost of governance in the country must not be limited only to expenditure, the revenue side needs to be effectively interrogated as there are huge losses accruing to the country by the day considering that there is poor policing of the country’s revenue.

“Despite the alarming recurrent expenditures with resultant high cost of governance that backpedals development of the critical sector in Nigeria, many states are caught in ill-thought efforts to needlessly legalise increased pensions and remunerations for retired public officer holders. At this point, the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) must address pending but critical issues like reviewing jumbo pay to public officers, giving the existing budgetary reality, and dwindling revenue capacity at all levels.

“The Commission must also revisit and review the numerous jumbo salaries, allowances, benefits, and public paid expenses enjoyed by the governors, their deputies, former speaker and their deputies throughout and after their tenures. This includes former governors who enjoy double payments from Senatorial positions. It is worrisome that the increasing clamours for life-time pension and benefits accrued to public office holders across the states constitute major sabotage to effective and efficient governance, hence exacerbating electoral violence and discredited the electoral process.

“We are worried by the continued silence of the Assembly on the long-delayed Petroleum Industry and Governance Bill (PIGB), which seeks to increase government revenue from oil and lay down a strengthened legal and regulatory framework for the Nigerian oil industry.

“On inclusion; Nigeria has the highest population of in African continent with 38 percent of its women lacking formal education as against 25 percent for men and only four percent of women have higher education against the seven percent of their male counterparts.

“In Nigeria, the majority of girls and women face real-time poverty, gross inequality, molestation, and injustice, denying them an effort to acquire meaningful skills and contribute positively towards the nation’s development.  Series of discrimination and atrocities against women include poor education, poor nutrition, violence and brutalization, vulnerability, and low pay employment.

“Nigeria records one of the lowest rates of female entrepreneurship in sub-Saharan Africa; with the majority of women concentrating in casual, low-skilled, low paid informal sector employment.

“Since democratic rule in 1999, women are under-represented in all key political decision making bodies in Nigeria, as only 25 out of the 360 members of the Nigerian House of Representatives and about 4% of local government councillors are women.

“We are concerned at the widening gender gaps in political structures and processes including low numbers of women in political party decision making structures; limited involvement of women in household, community and political spheres; unclear rules and procedures on recruitment and conduct of primaries. There is constant neglect and poor consideration for Affirmative Action across key elective, appointive positions in both public and private spheres in Nigeria.

“Also, the public policy measures throughout its formulation and implementation process must be all-inclusive to promote greater trust between citizens and government. Governments’ priority should be to build a policy-making process conducive to trust.  Concerns over the undue influence of vested interests over decision making have led to increasing demands for more transparency and a greater commitment to safeguarding the public interest. Efforts to guarantee that the policy making process is open, inclusive, and fair would improve the quality of policy decisions.

“We are not unaware of the habitual menaces and dreadful impacts of the growing youth unemployment to the execution of the nation’s social, economic, and political development planning with minimal practical and immediate efforts to address youth unemployment towards ensuring progressive, productive and secured nation. It is heart-rending to see able-bodied men and women who have applied themselves diligently to prescribed training roaming the streets unsuccessfully for jobs. They become subjected to receiving charity or are forced to engage in economic activities that they would not be able to own up to an indecent society.

“On infrastructural development; In our contemporary world, stable electricity is a sine qua non for industrial production and the good life. To keep the businesses that will produce goods the consumption of which would keep many in gainful employment, electric supply must be stable, i.e., taken for granted. After the day’s work, many of the amenities that provide recreation to man are dependent on electricity. To keep citizens and legal aliens in balanced states they must be able to unwind after a hard day’s work. That means electric supply is not a luxury that they can afford to do without.

“While Primary Health Care is the cornerstone of the health system, effective Primary Health Care services remain out of the reach of the people in many communities across Nigeria. Despite the tremendous efforts and resources allocated to reforms, in Nigeria, adequate access to Primary Health Care services is hindered by poor governance and accountability, unethical attitudes or dearth of healthcare personnel, low maintenance culture, ill-equipped and poor infrastructural services; exacerbating maternal and child mortality and morbidity across the country.

“In the education sector, the present practice where only those that cannot afford to send their wards abroad keep them in Nigeria is not one that would lead to transformation. The farce has reached the extent that Ghana, Togo, and the Benin Republic have become more desirable destinations for Nigerian students. Draining a huge amount of foreign exchange to provide formal education to Nigerian children and youth certainly cannot be the way to go.

“At present, the majority of transportation of men and materials from one point of Nigeria to another is conducted through road transport. This the roads to go into disrepair as soon as they are built. Moving heavy goods by road, at all hours of the day and night, every day of the year in tropical Nigeria is a good example of how not to do things. Every nation that has successfully industrialized has relied almost exclusively on the rail. To give Nigeria a chance of growing its economy, the railway system must be extended across the county.”

Speaking on national unity the CISLAC boss said, “National unity is enabled by equal participation, representation and strict adherence to the rule of law injustice system, socio-economic and political decisions. Rule of law is effective regulatory machinery that brings order, unity, and good governance to any society. In the process of democratic sustenance, the rule of law remains the guiding principle of justice and good governance. Strict adherence to the rule of the law enhance democratic values such as accountability, transparency, and human rights promotion and protection. Without rule. The core element of democracy without the rule of law is likely to be endangered.

“Poor implementation of the rule of law results in recurring but unhealthy and divisive agitations for separation by different groups from respective geo-political zones in the country with growing threats, precarious verbal attacks and hate speeches which if not holistically addressed may pose grievous challenges to the peaceful-coexistence, unity, and diversity of our beloved nation.”

In another assertion about Nigeria’s 60th independence anniversary the National Secretary, Nigeria Electricity Consumers Advocacy Network, NECAN, Uket Obonga, said, “What are supposed to be the gains of independence for Nigeria are daily eroded as the days go by.

“We have watched with dismay how the lofty ideals of an independent, progressive, industrialized and prosperous Nigeria being sabotaged by the most wicked and self-serving elites, who have run the nation aground over the years.

“It is even worse under the current government of Muhammadu Buhari. He has demonstrated the worst form of impunity, nepotism, clannishness, promoted ethnoreligious preference to national unity and cohesion. The drums of sectarianism and agitation for self-determination are beating louder by the day.

“The Vice President, Yemi Osibanjo, and the Secretary to the Federal Government, Boss Mustapha admitted that much, during the Christian service last Sunday to commemorate Nigeria at 60, that the Country is on the brink of disintegration if nothing is done urgently to save it from total collapse.

“Insecurity has remained untackled. Insurgency, banditry, herdsmen killings, the ethnic cleansing going on in Plateau, Southern Kaduna, and the Middle Belt clearly defined the Nigeria of today. A highly endowed nation with enormous human and natural resources has assumed the inevitable title of the poverty capital of the world.

Corruption is everywhere in government. Ministries Department and Agencies, as the government pretends to be waging war against the menace. Unemployment among youths who are yearly turned out from tertiary institutions remains a recurrent decimal.

“Nigeria has become a laughing stock and an embarrassment to the international community.60 years after independence and over 65years of crude oil exploitation and export Nigeria still import refined petroleum products for domestic consumption.

“The electoral system is been hijacked by buccaneers who make it impossible for Nigerians to freely elect those to govern themselves in a free, fair, and transparent contest.

“The nation is being run by cabals who careless of the people but their greed and selfishness. Do we celebrate 60 years of independence in the face of this wickedness? My answer is capital NO!

“We have nothing to celebrate under a mindless and wicked leadership which has visited the worst form of atrocities on Nigerians.

“The Buhari administration has increased the pump price of petroleum products three times since its inception. They were in denial of the existence of subsidy in petrol when in opposition only to re-brand it under-recovery and now telling us they are removing the same.

“External borrowings by the Government keep rising by the day while the nation’s infrastructures remain in decay and dilapidation. The promises made to Nigerians at electioneering campaigns have all been jettisoned by the leaders. So rather than celebrate pains, hunger, frustrations oppressions, and victimisation we should be sober mourn and pray for God’s intervention.”

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