Ken Henshaw, Programmes Manager of Social Action, reflects on efforts to promote public finance accountability in the states and local governments of Nigeria
In Nigeria, quite often, accountability in the management of public resources is sacrificed on the altar of cronyism. This state of affairs may be more established at the sub-national levels where about half of all public revenues in the country are expended. While there is a justified focus on the federal government and the office of the President, in particular, many citizens do not tend to pay attention to the 36 states and 774 local governments which together receive almost 50 percent of all federally collected revenues – not to mention internally generated revenues. However, the significant allocations to states and local governments from the Federation Account on a monthly basis hardly translate into real benefits for the majority of citizens. Even more worrisome is the breeding of citizens’ apathy towards sub-national governments – the local government councils, in particular. Rather than the tier of government closest to the grassroots promoting participation, what we find is alienation, which further reinforces non-accountability of public officials.
Uncertainty pervades some Ogoni communities over ownership and access to farmlands that had been the subject of land grabbing by the Government of Rivers State.
In 2011, the government confiscated community farmlands for a private banana plantation, developed by a Mexican company. After six years of killings, human rights abuses by state security services, community resistance and legal battles, the Mexican company has abandoned the land. With a change of government in the state following elections in 2015, the company was not sure of continuous patronage. By 2016, community members had retaken the land and planted cassava and other local staples.
Social Action is working with citizen groups to mobilise community activists towards tackling corruption at the sub-national levels of government in Nigeria.
In the last quarter of 2016, activists and volunteers connected with Social Action’s Community Budget Advocates Committees (CBACs) went around monitoring the implementation of budgets in six states of Nigeria. In Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, Kano and Nasarawa States, community budget advocates in the various locales visited project sites, interviewed project beneficiaries and government officials with the aim of ascertaining whether public funds were being deployed as appropriated in the budget.
Following a one-day roundtable conference on the above topic, participant cutting across various civil society organisations in Nigeria have come up with the following resolution: –
• That the humanitarian crisis in the Sahel region of Nigeria should not be seen purely as a religious or ethnic problem; rather, the crises in the Sahel, including the Lake Chad Basin are manifestations of serious ecological challenges that should be addressed as a matter of urgent national importance.
• That the core ecological and attendant social challenges confronting farmers and pastoralists in the Sahel region manifests as desertification; water shortage and drought; the issue of livelihood; climate change; migration; maladaptation (inappropriate government response to adaptation); good governance deficits at the federal, state and local government levels, etc.
This new Social Action briefing presents findings of research into the extent to which 5 states of the Niger Delta- Akwa Ibom, Delta, Rivers, Edo and Bayelsa- operate their fiscal processes in line with the principles of open budget. It equally examines how citizens in these states relate with and perceive government and its officials on fiscal matters.
With the Sahel region of Nigeria experiencing some of the worst forms of poverty and violence in the world, a roundtable conference organised by Social Development Integrated Centre (Social Action) will contribute to promoting awareness about the urgency of the ecological and development issues that provide a background to the crises. Academics, civil society actors, representatives of government agencies, pastoral and farming communities will meet in Abuja, the federal capital on 29 November 2016 to share insight and experiences on the theme of the conference: Addressing the Crisis of the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin: Developing a Pan-Nigerian Civil Society Agenda.
The Cross River basin in south-eastern Nigeria contains the largest remaining natural rainforests in Nigeria. Most of the forests have been protected by the government and through community initiatives. However, a new Super-Highway project by the government of Cross Rivers State could open up the forest to more land grabs for property speculation, commercial agriculture and logging. This briefing paper examines how the road construction is violating the livelihood rights of several forest dependent communities whose rights to land and access to the forests for food, medicine and energy is being threatened. The Super-Highway also calls to question the viability of the controversial United Nations-backed Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (UN-REDD+) scheme in Cross Rivers State. Read Full Report
This briefing paper by Social Action highlights the challenges of addressing the enormous environmental and social costs of artisanal crude oil refineries and related crude oil theft in southern Nigeria. The briefing is based on a year of monitoring of artisanal refining sites and the responses of government agencies and the state security apparatus in Rivers, Delta and Bayelsa States. The Briefing concludes that security measures have been inadequate and often compounds pollution and human rights abuses. It recommends that effective policing of the creeks should be accompanied with actions to ameliorate the problem of inadequate access to energy services, scarcity and the high cost of consumer fuels, poor environmental standards of oil and gas companies, impoverishment and youth unemployment in communities, and corruption in the security services. Read Full Report
The year 2015 witnessed unprecedented economic downturn in Nigeria. With the price of crude oil in the international market dropping steeply, the Nigerian economy shrank and the government considered activating austerity measures.