FUEL FOR THOUGHT: THE TRAGIC CYCLE OF NON-PERFORMING REFINERIES, FUEL SCARCITY, AND ENDLESS CORRUPTION

Nigerians are witnessing the starkest economic inequalities, social alienation and political despondency in the history of the country, and this is a product of a corrupt system that has dismantled the economic, social and political foundations of the country. This nauseating development has rubbed off on all sectors of the economy and the downstream sector is not immune to it.

Nigeria boasts of four state-owned petroleum refineries in Warri, Kaduna, and Port Harcourt, yet these refineries have been dormant and unproductive for many years. As a result, the country imports refined petroleum products from other countries like the Netherlands, etc. The saddening part is how the government claims to spend billions of naira annually on the purported maintenance these non-performing refineries. According to report by Business day, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) wasted N604.127bn in maintaining the refineries in 2017, this waste of taxpayers’ money was done without any meaningful output from the comatose refineries and this waste has continued even to present time. It is obvious that these refineries are used as a conduit to drain the national purse.

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“THE LEVEL OF CANCER IS TOO MUCH”: COMMUNITY REPORT OF OGONI POLLUTION CLEANUP AND REMEDIATION

Social Action presents the views of members of polluted  communities in Ogoniland who decry the failure of the Nigerian government to provide emergency services such as clean water a decade after the UNEP Report. Ten years after the UNEP found high pollution levels, including scandalous amounts of carcinogenic substances in groundwater in Ogoniland, the Nigerian federal government commenced some water projects in 2021, with implementation slow and tardy.

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GRANT LOCAL GOVERNMENTS POLITICAL AND FINANCIAL AUTONOMY; ACTIVISTS URGE NASS

GRANT LOCAL GOVERNMENTS POLITICAL AND FINANCIAL AUTONOMY; ACTIVISTS URGE NASS

Social and development activists in Nigeria have called on the Federal Government and National Assembly of Nigeria (NASS) to grant local governments in the country financial, political and administrative autonomy as a matter of urgency. This call was made on Monday during a one day virtual Town hall meeting on, “Addressing Obstacles to Local Government Independence in Nigeria” organized by Social Development Integrated Centre, Social Action with support from the United Nations Democracy Funds.

Speaking at the event, Comrade Akeem Ambali, National President of NULGE said the major obstacle to Local government autonomy in Nigeria is the lacuna in Section 162(6) of the 1999 constitution as amended; “Each State shall maintain a special account to be called “State Joint Local Government Account” into which shall be paid all allocations to the Local Government Councils of the State from the Federation Account and from the Government of the State”.

Operating a joint account with the state, according to the Comrade does not favour the local government as the state political actors cash into this opportunity for private enrichment. “The heavy corruption, greed and insatiable appetite for immense wealth by state political actors are major obstacles to achieving LG independence in Nigeria”, he said. To address this bottleneck situation, local governments should be funded directly from the federal allocation.

Comrade Ambali suggested a bottom-up approach to governance in Nigeria.  Along with financial autonomy, the local government should be given political and administrative autonomy. Rather than the state electoral commissions, Independent National Election Commission (INEC) should be allowed to conduct unbiased and transparent elections for local governments.

He further stressed the need for community policing and the entrenchment of Local Government Service Commission to ensure quality assurance and a proper audit system in LG operations. These strategies would not only break LGs from the shackles of the state governments but also strengthen democracy tenets in Nigeria and create employment opportunities at the grassroots, Comrade Ambali asserted.

In her summation, Comrade Hauwa Mustapha, a development activist, said it is sad to note that the local governments are seen as appendages to the states, rather than as a tier of government. This dis-functionality has led to a breakdown of governance and facilities, reduction in human capital and extreme poverty at the grassroots. She, therefore, called for a proper definition in the constitution on the roles and power of local governments as a tier of government. She also called for a collective movement for local government autonomy in Nigeria. This movement she stressed will advocate for citizens’ rights at the grassroots, gender empowerment, fiscal and resource control and an accountable Local government system.

Other members of the panel, Barrister Che Oyinatumba of Kubwa Express and Dr Udy Akpan of Youth for Change Initiative also called for behavioural and structural changes in Nigerian local governments. According to them, a lack of accountability in the local government will continue until its structure is unattached to the State.

Participants also suggested that pressure be put on the state Houses of Assembly to assent to bills regarding local government autonomy.

Responding to this, Prince Edegbuo of Social Action said the campaign for local government autonomy continues and hinted that a massive campaign will be launched on Twitter. Edegbuo, therefore, encouraged all to join Social Action and partners in this “storm” as well as other social and traditional media campaigns for local government autonomy. This he believes will give room for accountability of the local government system and improved service delivery.

While the moderator of the event, Comrade Jaye Gaskia thanked panellists and participants for their contributions to the program, he reminded all that local government autonomy is a must and so is inclusive governance. He, therefore, urged all to rise up and defend the local government.

 

 

 

COMMUNIQUE OF THE REGIONAL ACCOUNTABILITY CONFERENCE 2022: BEYOND THE FORENSIC AUDIT – REPOSITIONING THE NDDC

Communique of the Regional Accountability Conference 2022: Beyond the Forensic Audit – Repositioning the Niger Delta Development Commission for Inclusive and Effective Service Delivery

 

PREFACE

Social Development Integrated Centre (Social Action) with support from the MacArthur Foundation successfully organized the 2022 Regional Accountability Conference with the theme, Beyond the Forensic Audit – Repositioning the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) for inclusive and effective service delivery. The conference, which was held at Visa Karena Hotels, Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, on Thursday, February 24, 2022, was attended by various stakeholders from anti-corruption agencies and committees, traditional rulers, civil society groups, community groups, and the Media.

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POOR OVERSIGHT AND SUPERVISION BY THE PRESIDENCY/MND/NASS: THE BANE TO ACCUNTABILITY IN NDDC

At the just concluded Social Action’s Regional Accountability Conference on “Beyond The Forensic Audit”, development experts, anti-graft agencies, duty bearers, academia and community groups have all identified poor oversight and supervision by the Presidency, the Ministry of the Niger Delta and the National Assembly as main enablers of corruption and are primarily responsible for the failure of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to live up to its mandates. This view is contained in the Communique issued at the end of the conference and released to the media by Social Action in Port Harcourt on Thursday 24th February 2022. The conference which aimed at ensuring how effective collaboration between duty bearers, anti-graft agencies, civil society and other critical stakeholders can contribute to repositioning the Niger Delta Development Commission to the path of prudence and accountability, urged the citizens to take up the responsibility of fighting corruption in NDDC by working closely with relevant anti-graft agencies and public institutions like the Bureau of Public Procurement.

Launching of the Citizens report on budget and projects of the Niger Delta Development Commission by the Director Advocacy of Social Action flanked by dignitaries from the public and private sectors

While presenting the welcome address, Vivian Bellonwu of Social Action noted that the NDDC has lost its purpose of creation and has failed to keep up with its social contract. She, therefore, calls for all hands to be on deck to bring about a complete overhauling of the NDDC system. In the same vein, the Public Relations Officer of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC),  representing the Zonal Commandant, Mr. Dele Oyewole noted that “there is no way we can achieve effective service delivery in NDDC without the participation of everybody in the Niger Delta”. He emphasized the need for public ownership of the fight against corruption, citing the fact that abandoned projects are sited in environments where people lives and so should collaborate with relevant authorities to end the menace posed by corruption. Corroborating the statement of the EFCC representative, Mrs. Ekere Usieri, the Zonal Director of Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offenses Commission (ICPC) affirmed that her agency is willing to work with the citizens and the NDDC to put an end to the deep-rooted level of corruption in the NDDC.

While presenting a paper on Strengthening Service Delivery through Effective Procurement Process in Public Institution, the representative of the Director-General of the Bureau of Public Procurement, Mr. Adebowale Adedokun referred to the CSOs as credible drivers in the process of strengthening service delivery in the NDDC. He called for a change of approach and the need for citizens to acquire prerequisite skills in carrying out projects monitoring and to stop unscrupulous contractors from stealing public resources.

The occasion of the Regional Accountability Conference was used to launch a report by Social Action, “Pond of Crocodiles: Citizens Report on Budgets and Projects of the Niger Delta Development Commission”. The report contains the analysis of the NDDC 2019 Approved Capital Budget and reports of coordinated field monitoring of NDDC projects across five states of the Niger Delta. The findings of the budget monitoring exercise by Social Action, its partners and community monitors, revealed several issues inhibiting the effectiveness of the NDDC including questionable funds allocations, project abandonment, delay in annual budget passage and over-ambitious and unrealistic projects pursuits, oversight and supervision complacency among others.

While summarizing the findings of the report, the Programmes Coordinator of Social Action, Isaac Botti revealed that some 172 projects were monitored across five states of the Niger Delta, out of which 47% were not existing, 38% abandoned, 22% completed and 4% still ongoing. He further stated that frivolous expenditures in the regional allocation in the 2019 budget of the NDDC amounted to N31 billion. Social Action’s, Vivian Bello while unveiling the report, charged attendees to take advantage of the veritable information contained in the publication to engage the government and the NDDC on inclusive and effective service delivery. She stressed that the report is a detailed, well-researched document with pains-taken field observations that should not just grace the table or shelves in our offices and home but should be used as advocacy tools.

Key recommendations from the report include the overhauling of the NDDC by constituting the substantive board, ensuring open budget and transparency of operations, strict adherence to procurement procedures laws and standards and active monitoring of financial and procurement activities of the NDDC by anti-graft agencies. Others are an improved legislative and administrative oversight of the Commission, strengthened community engagement and participation in budget and project implementation and multi-stakeholder partnership to constantly monitor the activities of the NDDC.

The Conference advised the President Muhammadu Buhari government to take decisive action on the forensic audit of the NDDC and prosecute those found culpable for malfeasance and collusion leading to the abandonment of over 12,000 projects and diversion of trillions of naira meant for the execution of development projects in the Niger Delta.

POND OF CROCODILES- CITIZENS REPORT ON THE BUDGETS AND PROJECTS OF THE NIGER DELTA DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION (NDDC)

POND OF CROCODILES contains analyses of the 2019 budget of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) as approved by the National Assembly to identify trends and patterns in budgetary allocations. The report also contains findings of participatory monitoring of NDDC projects to determine the level of implementation and the effectiveness of such interventions and their impacts on the social existence of beneficiaries, particularly women and other vulnerable groups.

This report identifies several contributing factors to explain the massive corruption in the NDDC and the failure of the federal agency to deliver on its mandate, revealing that 22% of the tracked projects are abandoned, over 47% are non-existent. So far, the NDDC is only able to complete 26% of its projects while 4% are ongoing.

Read Full Report Here

Synopsis of the CITIZENS REPORT on Budgets and Projects of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC)

Synopsis of the CITIZENS REPORTon Budgets and Projects of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) is a summary of the detailed Citizen Report on the capital projects embarked on by the NDDC in their 2021 budget.

The report is a simplified, summarised finding of capital projects executed by the Commission in Akwa Ibom, Delta, Imo, Ondo and Rivers States

Read Full Report Here

DIRTY FUEL AND FUEL SCARCITY: THE AD NAUSEAM OF GOVERNMENT IRRESPONSIBILITY

The intractable dysfunctionality in the Nigerian downstream sector reared its ugly head when the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited (NNPCL) through its four consortia of direct sale, direct purchase (DSDP) of refined products came to public knowledge. Through these proxies, the NNPC imported 170 million litres of adulterated petroleum, which led to public outcry and has equally created artificial fuel scarcity and a hike in the pump price. The results are several cases of engine malfunction reported by users of this bad product and an expected hike in transportation costs which is draining the purchasing power of citizens and bleeding the economy. 

It is troubling to know that seven years into this current administration; a government that promised Nigerians change, Nigeria still imports refined petroleum products. A government that promised to fix the ailing national refineries and build new ones has spent and is still spending more funds to sustain the subsidy scam. Nigerians still spend hours in the queue to buy fuel at N200, thereby creating brisk business for the black market that sells between N400 and N1000 per litre. According to Sahara Reports, Abuja residents, workers were stranded as fuel sold for N1000 per litre

Almost 2 weeks into these regrettable events, there is no retribution to those found culpable for this malicious racket, besides the usual retorics. Meanwhile, the President, Muhammadu Buhari doubles as the petroleum minister and still junkets the globe, proffering solutions to other countries problems while his own people suffer. The failure of this government to arrest the situation, carry out a conclusive investigation to bring out and punish culprits that imported this large quantity of methanol-blended petroleum into the country reeks of irresponsibility and lack of accountability to the masses. It further shows how little the government regards the people. The country boasts of four refineries with billions of naira sunk into them for yearly turn-around maintenance, yet no evident result but has remained a conduit for generational corruption by few individuals given to debased appetites. There is a vicious circle of bad leaders, devoid of purpose, that runs public institutions against public interest, presenting the anti-masses face in the governance system while impunity continues unabatedly.

The unfortunate events of importation of dirty fuel, fuel scarcity and other state-sponsored social injustice should not be treated with nonchalance; the masses should hold the government to account. For a government that shies away from transparency and accountability, the masses are the only people to remedy the situation and drive out bad leaders in government. It is increasingly recognized that greater accountability and responsiveness on the part of government can only be brought about by the people.

It is evident that one of the reasons for accountability failures in Nigeria is the unfortunate quality of leaders that represent the people and manage public institutions. The 2023 general election is drawing close, election remains a critical political mechanism that allows citizens to choose their government, and form a democratic political system, and this electoral process determines the quality of political representation. The people must be circumspect on electing people with the capacity and willingness to respond to calls for accountability. Election periods should not be used to self-sabotage, but citizens should begin to see it as a viable means to correct these anomalies and elect leaders that are competent, transparent and accountable.

 

ELECTORAL ACT AMENDMENT BILL 2021: REFUSAL OF PRESIDENT BUHARI TO ASSENT, A DELEBRATE ATTEMPT TO SHRINK DEMOCRATIC SPACE

President Buhari delays again to assent to the Electoral Amendment Act. Photo credit CKN News

Election is crucial to sustaining democracy and it remains one of the means through which the citizens are empowered to elect competent people to lead and to effectively manage resources for the common good and development of the people. It follows that an efficient legal framework and electoral process will strengthen democratic institutions. However, Nigeria’s elections have often been marred by consistent and avoidable irregularities; the defective electoral law in Nigeria has served as an instrument for electoral fraud and subversion of the will of the masses and has over the years produced unsatisfying outcomes. The vagaries of the faulty electoral law have continued to produce far more arbitrariness than the electorates are willing to stomach, hence the demand for amendment in Electoral Act. 

There is already mass demand from a different section of the country for the President to be swift with assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2021, which belies the mood of the country as a whole. It is unfortunate that the President would wait to be reminded of his responsibility and its importance to the electoral process before he acts. President Muhammadu Buhari has declined assent for a record five times to the bill, even after the National Assembly had bent over to make amendments to some clauses of the bill, like Clause 84 which deals with the mode of primary election to be used by political parties to select candidates. Some provisions of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2021 include; early release of funds to INEC captured – clause 3(3), the inclusion of persons with disability – clause 54(2). Others are, legalizing electronic accreditation of voters – clause 47, power to review election results declared under duress – clause 65 and the controversial electronic transmission of results in clause 50. No doubt, these provisions and others will engender a more transparent and credible election in Nigeria.

It is unclear whether the President is willing to sign the bill or not, going by the silence from his office, other than a statement from one of his aids that he is consulting widely. He ought to understand that failure to assent to the bill would not only impoverish the democratic space but also reduce the 2023 general election to an exercise in futility because electoral fraud would persist amidst a faulty electoral law. Repeated decline to assent to the bill is an indication of the unwillingness and lack of commitment by this administration to a free and credible election in Nigeria and assault on democracy. 

We call on President Muhammadu Buhari to show courage and commitment towards improving the integrity of elections in Nigeria by signing the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2021 into law. Nigeria is eager for a more robust electoral space, but refusing assent is nothing but democratic backsliding. The President’s promise of change should be backed up by his assent to the bill which reckons with fundamental values of democracy.

The unprecedented level of public awareness concerning the importance and benefits of the bill and a desire for lasting reform in Nigeria’s electoral law should not be undermined by the President’s refusal to assent and the needless shenanigans, because the will of the people must prevail. A transparent and credible election is non-negotiable if Nigeria must achieve good governance that will lead to sustainable democracy and the development of the country. 

 

THE NIGERIAN GOVERNMENT LIFTING OF TWITTER BAN: SOCIAL ACTION CAUTIONS ON PRIVACY CONCERNS

On January 12, 2022, the federal government announced the lifting of the ban on Twitter, which was placed on it due to a perceived attempt by the microblogging site to destabilize the country. This action has been met with mixed reactions from different sections of the country. Seven months ago, precisely on June 5, 2021, in brazen contravention of the fundamental human right of freedom of expression as contained in the 1999 constitution as amended and recognized in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government took its authoritarian style of governing to a new and unparalleled height, shattering every illusion of hope Nigerians had by abruptly placing a ban on Twitter and turning up the dials on freedom of expression and media censorship.

This was protested by the masses as it constitutes a grave restriction on the fundamental rights of the Nigerian people. Social Development Integrated Centre (Social Action) and members of other civil society organizations also echoed the same concerns. Unsurprisingly, President Muhammadu Buhari-led government has no compunction about this draconic decision to suspend the activities of the micro-blogging site Twitter in Nigeria. Such extreme, restrictive, anti-masses and insensitive decisions are intended to alienate the people whom the current government claims to represent. Citizen engagement and freedom of expression are eternally accepted norms of good governance. Any government that fails to protect them is no less than an autocratic government. The ban affected small businesses and cost Nigeria N546.5 billion, according to media reports.

While the timing of the lifting of the ban bears a political undertone, the shadiness surrounding the conditions met by Twitter raises significant privacy concerns and the absence of independent oversight to ensure that users’ privacy is protected. Announcing the lifting of the ban, the federal government disclosed that Twitter has agreed to all the conditions the Nigerian government outlined. If the privacy of users is tampered with, it may expose Nigerian users to threats, intimidation, and actual violence by the state, something the current government thrives on.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s government and his change mantra are plagued by undeniable contradictions, evident in many anti-masses policies churned out, the Twitter ban included. Given the high-handedness of this government, Twitter should not be bullied into allowing the government access to their backend, sensitive data, or information about users. It would be abused in a way that interferes with people’s constitutional rights and endangers the very foundation of democracy and other factors compatible with good governance. More so, it would further fuel the Nigerian masses’ mistrust of this government.

The Social Action reiterates its stance on the need for open and good governance in Nigeria and is genuinely concerned about protecting and promoting the fundamentals of democracy. Freedom of expression is a fundamental right, and the benefits of a free and diverse society are endless. Good governance and democracy thrive in an atmosphere of openness and accountability. We call on this government to show unadulterated commitment and support participatory democracy by allowing citizens to engage the government in every medium necessary and hold the government accountable. The government cannot continue to gag the masses in the name of “national security.”

Social Action will continue to oppose all forms of suppression and gag designed by this government to alienate and render the masses ineffective. We resolutely believe that good governance is centred on the principles of accountability and transparency, and we will continue to uphold these principles.