In March 2017, Social Action will join other organisations in two Break Free rallies in Port Harcourt and Bori, as part of the annual ‘global wave of people taking a stand against dirty energy’. In solidarity with Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), Environmental Rights Action (ERA), Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), Kebetkache, Ogoni Solidarity Forum, Egi Joint Action Congress (EJAC) and other organisations, we will be “joining forces to protect communities in vulnerable situations from extreme weather, and from fossil corporations that have polluted our air, grabbed our land, and captured our governments.”
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.
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.
As part of its Popular Education programme aimed at social awareness, building skills and creating spaces for citizens’ actions towards social change, Social Action has trained over 150 young activists on various social advocacy expertise and tools. The training took place at the Nigeria Social Action Camp 2016 which held in Benin City between 13th and 17th September 2016.
Women and men from over 20 Communities in Delta State Nigeria, have charged the Nigerian government to urgently take steps to put an end to the continued degradation of their environment, rights violation and destruction of their health and livelihood sources through continued gas flaring by oil and gas companies in the area or be prepared to face strong resistance to this evil act by community men and women.
In line with its mandate to ensure that government policies meet the needs of citizens in a transparent and accountable manner, Social Action and partner Edo Civil Society Organizations Forum organized a citizens’ town hall meeting aimed at providing an opportunity for citizens to interact with candidates seeking election to the office of governor of Edo state. Top on the agenda was to extract commitment from the candidates to maintain certain standards of transparency and accountability which include open budgets, citizens’ participation and public access.
The Social Action Open Budget cluster has commended the government of Delta state for takings steps towards greater transparency and accountability in its fiscal processes. The commendation was made during a courtesy call on the Delta state Commissioner for Economic Planning Dr. Kingsley Emu for responding to Social Action’s demand for Open Budget and accessible budgets. Following sustained campaigns including Freedom of Information requests, the Delta state government in August 2016 became open with the state budget and placed it on the state official website.
On the 31st of August 2016, Social Action’s Open Budget Cluster carried out a Citizens’ –Government Roundtable meeting on Open Budgets. The event aimed at ensuring that state annual budgets are open and available to citizens. This accessibility of state budgets will kick-start other forms of citizens’ engagement which will lead to more participatory and prudent fiscal practices.