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In 2017, Social Action carried out analyses and monitoring of the budgets of the states of the Niger Delta, as part of the process of monitoring development goals and tracking corrupt practices at the subnational level.
A detailed report will be published early in 2018.
Social Action’s budget advocacy activities are aimed at calling attention to the need for citizens to get actively involved in the processes of fiscal governance and engaging the government on incipiencies observed in the budget and the actual performance. Evidence indicates that where this is the case, the performance of governments have significantly improved, thereby enhancing accountability and transparency and reducing corruption.
In the last quarter of every year, Social Action selects up to 150 young activists from different parts of the country to participate in its camp meeting. The Annual Camps are part of Social Action’s programme for Political Education and Mass Mobilisation for Nigeria and have been designed to restore alternative education, build solidarity, and provide skills and tools required to campaign for social change. Discussions focus on the connections between local concerns and global issues and explore alternatives to neoliberalism.
Recently, the conversation on the need or otherwise of restructuring the Nigerian state has gained renewed prominence in contemporary Nigerian discourse, especially with the emergence of groups seeking various degrees of structural changes, including the Indigenous People of Biafra and the Niger Delta Avengers. In response to the need to interrogate the different contending issues, Social Action and the Claude Ake School of Government, University of Port Harcourt jointly organised the Nigeria Social Action National Conference in December 2017 in Port Harcourt.
This collaboration stemmed from the need to provide space for serious and constructive dialogue between scholars and thought leaders in the civil space, as a measure to provide clarity and understanding of the critical issues bordering on the restructuring of the Nigerian state. Specifically, the Conference provided space for leading scholars and civic activists to present papers and lead conversations on various sub-themes relevant to the restructuring question with the purpose of engendering a new perspective to the issues as well as developing literature on the subject.
The National Conference which held on the 11th of December 2017 in Port Harcourt, brought together leading Nigerian academics and civil society actors including Prof. Adele Jinadu, Prof. Basil Nwankwo, Prof. Andrew Efemini, Prof Eme Ekekwe, Prof Okey Ibeanu, Dr. Sofiri Peterside, Dr. Yakubu Jae and author of the book We are All Biafrans, Chido Onumah.
Professors Eme Ekekwe and Adele Jinadu
Declaring the Conference open, Acting Executive Director of Social Action, Ken Henshaw said “every year the Social Action National Conference is organised to provide spaces for critical voices to discuss one topical issue facing the Nigerian state. This year, the question of restructuring is by far the most contentious of them all. Since the end of the civil war in 1970, never has Nigeria been so deeply divided along the lines of separation and secession. This Conference aims to dive deeper into the various issues toward creating clarity, understanding and policy alternatives in approaching the issue”.
The representative of the Claude Ake School of Government, Dr. Sofiri Peterside in his welcome address stated that “in recent time the call for a restructuring of the Federation had been swelled with two of the dominant ethnic nationalities leading the demand. This brings to the fore some thought-provoking questions about the nature of Nigeria’s federalism: What is the problem with federalism in Nigeria, and what ought to be done about it? Is the problematic the reference to federalism, as such, or to its Nigerian variant? Or is the problem not with federalism, as such or with its Nigerian variant, but with the underlying causative factors that gave rise to it and with which it interfaces, like the antinomies between identity and authority? What should be the federating entities in Nigeria – regions, states, zones or nationalities? What are the salient and historically deep-seated characteristics of the country’ political economy? The preceding questions underscore the complexity of the problem, which federalism poses to the future of Nigeria. Recent calls for a return to an undefined ‘true federalism’ has complexified the ongoing national debate in the context of federalism as an ideology, a political system or as a form of government, or even in the specific context of Nigeria’s constitutional theory or political history. It is in the above-stated context that this Conference is both timely and essential”.
Papers presented at the Conference will be edited into a book on the theme of Restructuring of the Nigerian State, to be published in 2018.
Professor Andrew Efemini, Chido Onumah and a cross-section of participants
Without a doubt, one of the most significant challenges confronting Nigeria is corruption. The stealing of public funds by persons entrusted with public offices and other forms of mismanagement of public resources has unfortunately become a key reference point when Nigeria is in the conversation. By some estimates, up to 80% of public revenues end in the private accounts of less than 1% of Nigerians who are linked to the structures of political power. In the Niger Delta region where most petroleum exploitation takes place, widespread corruption has ensured that most residents in the urban areas and rural communities live in poverty and misery. Countrywide, about 70% of Nigerians live in poverty, as a result of corruption. Consistently on global corruption index, Nigeria ranks as one of the most corrupt countries on earth. The cost of corruption reflects in public institutions that cannot deliver services, dwindling standards of education, international disrepute and embarrassing beggarliness.
2017 Anti-corruption Rally held in Port Harcourt
Social Action’s response to this problem is a regional anti-corruption campaign aimed at ensuring that those responsible for addressing corruption, do their jobs and that corruption is criminalised in Nigeria.
The anti-corruption rally which held on the 11th of December 2017 at the Mile 3 Motor Park in Port Harcourt City purposed to create awareness about the problem of corruption leveraging on the 2017 global Anti-Corruption Day and recruiting volunteers for a mass anti-corruption movement which is grassroots-driven and benefits from information and supports citizens.
2017 Anti-corruption Rally held in Port Harcourt
The rally which was organised in conjunction with the local branch of the National Union of Road Transport Workers featured speeches, distribution of flyers and stickers as well as a march around the Park. Alongside the building of awareness, the rally created the opportunity for Social Action and other partners to mobilise volunteers for an anti-corruption movement being established. At the rally, 103 persons enlisted to join the Anti-Corruption movement.
The Open Budget Week 2017 of Social Action included activities aimed at educating the citizens on the need to support the call on the state governments in the Niger Delta to ingrain an open budget culture and enshrine the practice of citizens participation in all the phases of the budget cycle. The week-long budget advocacy campaign was targeted on the one hand at ensuring that citizens become interested in fiscal issues while pressuring subnational governments to become more engaging, transparent and accountable in the management of public resources.
In November 2017, Social Action and partner organisation, YARAC organised citizens’ dialogues in Maiduguri and Yola as part of the ongoing effort to identify alternative solutions to social and ecological crisis in north-eastern Nigeria.
Participants comprising civil society groups, development experts, academia, governmental and non-governmental actors have identified the correction of structural imbalances embedded in the socio-economic, political and ecological configuration of north-east Nigeria as fundamental to engendering genuine and lasting development in the region. They said any effort to sustainably re-build the region must incorporate concrete mechanisms for tackling ecological issues while incorporating solid frameworks for socio-economic development and sound governance principles with active elements of citizens-focused accountability mechanisms.
By Isaac Botti, Programme Officer, Social Action, Abuja.
The Nigerian federal government on Tuesday, November 7, 2017, presented its 2018 Appropriation Bill to the National Assembly for consideration and approval. The 2018 federal budget is tagged “Budget of Consolidation”, developed to consolidate on the achievements of the 2017 “Budget of Recovery and Growth”. Taken together, the impression is that the government crafted the earlier budget to revamp and stabilise the economy, while the current proposal is to solidify those gains.