President Muhammadu Buhari has, through a letter of request read at plenary by Senate President Ahmad Lawan sought the Senate to approve a request to pay the total sum of about $800 million as judgment debt through the issuance of promissory notes. The $800 million is composed of $566,754,584.31, £98,526,012.00 and N226 billion owed by the Federal government through court judgments brought against them through its MDA’s and Ministries. Social Action condemns this obnoxious request and advises that the Nigerian Senate should exercise caution and refuse consent to such a request, while also criticizing the recurrent breach of contractual terms by government officials that result in judgment debts.
2023 LEAN SEASON: NIGERIAN GOVERNMENT PREPAREDNESS AGAINST FOOD INSECURITY?
Every year, countries in the Sahel region typically enter the precarious lean season; the period between harvests that lasts from May to August. Food insecurity is highly on the increase during this season and most households depend on different coping strategies to meet their food needs. Nigeria, especially its states in the extreme North, is at increased risk of food insecurity.
According to the October 2022 Cadre Harmonisé, a government-led and UN-supported food and nutrition analysis, about 25 million Nigerians would be at risk of facing hunger between June and August 2023 if critical action is not taken. This is an increase from the estimated 17 million people currently at risk of food insecurity.
The World Food Programme’s Nigeria Country Strategic Plan 2023-2027 Executive Board reported that 25.3 million people will need food assistance during the 2023 lean season, of which nearly 1.9 million people will be in the exigency phase. The November 2022 Cadre Harmonisé also projected that about 4.4 million people in the BAY states (Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe) would need food assistance.
This is an alarming trend that must be given attention with the needed urgency. Sadly, the governments at different levels seem unprepared for this exigency. Across the country, there have been increased violent conflicts which have further exacerbated the food crisis. According to a report from the Nextier Violent Conflict Database, food access has been affected by consistent violence in the north-east states of Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe and armed banditry and kidnapping in states such as Katsina, Sokoto, Kaduna, Benue, and Niger.
The nation’s capital is also reported to have the highest kidnap tally in April 2023 with 29 victims from one incident. Increased gunmen violence between the 2nd and 29th of April redounded in eight incidents; 12 casualties and five kidnap victims. This violent hotspot makes it difficult for farmers to transport their products within the country with each one concerned about his safety.
In states where there are fewer gunmen activities, farmers and herders clashes are experienced and the situation seems not to be getting better.
Climate change is another significant driver of food insecurity. In Nigeria, flooding is one of the effects of climate change. According to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), more than 676,000 hectares of farmlands were damaged by flooding in the 2022 rainy season. Crops were destroyed leaving little or nothing for farmers to harvest. The implication is the increased risk of food insecurity in the country this year.
Farmers and their crops, stranded due to the floods in Nigeria in 2022
The Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) has consistently predicted flooding even before it occurs. The flooding that turned the country into a mess in 2022 was no exception. More extreme weather patterns affecting food security are anticipated in the future. Yet, the governments in Nigeria have failed to put preventive efforts in place to mitigate the effects of flooding. Lives and properties are constantly destroyed by this disaster and even after the period, there are little or no food products to cater to the surviving masses.
The agricultural sector which generates about 24 percent of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is under threat by flooding and various violent crises. Our nation is currently ranked 103rd out of 121 countries in the Global Hunger Index. The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) 2022 Multi-dimensional Poverty Index (MPI) survey also estimated that 133 million Nigerians are multi-dimensionally poor with food as one of the indicators.
Despite the identified risks and alarming statistics, the government has not been able to fully prepare for the lean season. According to a situation report from Relief Web, the Nigerian government has banned NGO activities in Adamawa, disrupting humanitarian efforts which include food interventions in the state.
As we approach the lean season, the government needs to place food insecurity as a national emergency. The government must ensure that all citizens are adequately cared for and food security is a major dimension of any responsible government. This could be achieved by
- Agricultural Investment: The government should allocate adequate funds and resources to support agriculture, especially during the lean season. Investments can be made in irrigation systems, agricultural machinery, and technologies, and the provision of high-quality seeds and fertilizers. This will help increase agricultural productivity and minimize crop losses during the lean season.
- Diversify Agriculture: Encourage diversification of agricultural practices by promoting the cultivation of a variety of crops. This reduces reliance on a single crop and ensures a steady supply of food throughout the year. Promote the cultivation of drought-tolerant and quick-maturing crops suitable for the lean season.
- Improve Storage Facilities: Enhance storage and preservation infrastructure to reduce post-harvest losses. Construct and maintain warehouses, silos, and cold storage facilities to store surplus produce during the peak season for use during the lean season. This will help in maintaining a stable food supply throughout the year.
- Farmer Education and Training: Provide farmers with access to training programs and workshops that focus on modern and sustainable agricultural practices. Educate them on effective water management, soil conservation techniques, pest and disease control, and improved farming methods. Equipping farmers with knowledge and skills will enhance their productivity and resilience during the lean season.
- Support Small-Scale Farmers: Small-scale farmers play a crucial role in ensuring food security. The government should provide financial assistance, access to credit facilities, and agricultural subsidies to small-scale farmers. This support will enable them to invest in inputs, machinery, and technologies necessary for increased productivity.
- Proactive Actions on Early Warnings: While NIMET has been consistent with early warnings through weather patterns, climate conditions, and market trends, these warnings have hardly been heeded by the concerned agencies and tiers of government. The governments at all levels must work concertedly with and on the information provided by NIMET long before the floods let in. This will help anticipate and respond to potential food shortages in advance, allowing for timely interventions such as importation, distribution, or price stabilization measures, as the case demands.
- Tackle Insecurity: One of the biggest problems the country faces today is that of insecurity. As long as the situation remains with its multifaceted dimension, Nigeria will never attain food sufficiency, no matter the quality of policies and their implementation. Government must show the political will and the capacity to deal with insecurity decisively to ensure a safe environment for agricultural activities from the cultivation stage to final transportation to the retail market.
- Promote Agricultural Research: Invest in agricultural research and development to develop new crop varieties that are resistant to drought, pests, and diseases. Support research institutions and collaborate with international organizations to exchange knowledge and expertise in sustainable agricultural practices.
- Food Reserves and Strategic Stockpiling: Establish strategic food reserves to ensure a buffer against food shortages. These reserves can be used to distribute food during the lean season, stabilize prices, and meet emergency needs in times of crisis.
While the task before the upcoming administration remains enormous, ensuring an end to food insecurity is achievable. Priority should be given to food security and the many external forces that inhibit it.
With adequate preparations from the federal, state, and local government authorities, Nigeria can be better prepared to face not only the lean season but tackle food insecurity. We have over 34 million hectares of land area that can be used to grow different food to feed the populace and export. These lands should be harnessed and the lives of farmers protected against violent activities from groups and flooding.
SECURITY VOTES EXPENDITURE: BETWEEN DISCRETION AND ACCOUNTABILITY
Insecurity in Nigeria
Nigeria has been plagued by insecurity for decades, with the situation only getting worse in recent years. About a decade ago, the prime perpetrators of the acts of terrorism were the Boko Haram Islamic Jihadists in the Northeast Region of the country. Today the monstrosity has metamorphosed and mutated into ISWAP, bandits, armed herdsmen and IPOB factions terrorizing innocent civilians and causing mayhem all over the country.
Insecurity has become one of the biggest problems faced by Nigeria today and one of the highest inhibitors of development. 10,366 lives were lost to activities related to insurgency and banditry in 2021 according to SBM Intelligence; an increase of 47% from the number recorded the previous year. This is besides thousands of lives lost to other forms of criminality country-wide. Nigeria was ranked third, behind Iraq and Afghanistan, in the Global Terrorism Index (GTI) 2020, using the number of incidents, fatalities, injuries and hostages as a yardstick. Though Nigeria fared better in the 2022 rankings, it still falls within GTI’s 10 most terrorized countries, coming in at the 8th position.
Expectedly, Expenditure has heightened over the years for prosecuting the war against insecurity, but the results have been falling in terms of successes recorded, while casualty figures rise. Year after year the insecurity sector continues to gulp the highest chunk of the country’s budget expenditure. The budget for security rose from N920 billion in 2011 to N989 billion in 2015 and a total of N4.62 trillion in five years. The following seven years saw the budget increase to a total of N12 trillion, the actual expenditure having been shrouded in opacity. These are the budgets of the federal government, in whose purview lies the constitutional control over the security apparatus of the country. Despite the huge amount of money allocated to security, the country still suffers from terrorism, kidnapping, armed robbery, and other forms of criminal activities.
Security Vote: Illegality and Corruption
The prevailing milieu is the excuse behind the collection of huge sums of money by the federal government, some state governors and local government chairmen, monthly, in name of security vote. So, though security vote is not captured anywhere in our constitution, billions of public funds are being appropriated by the Chief Executives of the three tiers of government in the guise of fighting insecurity. In 2021, the state governors and local government chairmen in the country reportedly spent a total sum of N375 billion naira under the cloak of security vote. This is more than the combined annual appropriation for Osun, Nasarawa and Ekiti states for the same fiscal year. Since one cannot tell the composition of items that form the expenditure, it is difficult to evaluate the performance of the ‘vote’. But one sure and basic way to look at it is to appraise the current situation of security (or insecurity) in the country vis-à-vis the expenditure.
While it is unclear who started the practice of security vote, it could be traced to the military regime of General Yakubu Gowon who granted state military administrators small “out of budget” funds for pacifying some influential civilian elites. It has now become a convention among the governors and the local government chairmen, who make discretional expenditures without accounting for the huge sums from public funds. The funds, which are frequently collected in cash by governors, are distributed at their whims because they are not subject to legislative supervision or independent audit. Sadly, despite the vast quantities of money, they appropriate to themselves from the public coffers, state governors have not been able to improve on or make any meaningful impact on the security situation in their states. Instead, abductions, mysterious security breaches, religious intolerance and violence, ethnic conflicts and communal clashes and other criminal activity in their states continue to increase.
In some cases, the security votes (often separate from the budget on security services) have been used to finance personal and political activities of, and on behalf of, corrupt politicians. The former Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Mr Ibrahim Magu had alleged that some state governors deliberately fuel insecurity in their states to collect more money vide the slush funds, drawing a connection between corruption, banditry and terrorism. This has further led to the growth of organized crime in the country, with criminals operating with impunity and little fear of being caught or punished. This is evident in instances where known criminal elements were found in the company of and on the properties of state governors who provide protection for them. Some of these elements are instruments in the hands of politicians for perpetrating thuggery and electoral fraud. It is, therefore, little wonder that the governors would prefer to keep the procurements from the security vote in perpetual opacity.
The Excuses for Security Vote
There’s the feeling in some quarters that the use of security funds requires some measure of discretion from the managers to the extent that the matter of security requires considerable confidentiality. The argument is that of the positive element of secrecy and surprise that security operations need to make incursions to the den of the criminals causing problems in society. It, therefore, requires the funds to be disbursed from the first line of charge of the state and not subject to budget and legislative approval. Again, many state governors have justified the collection and expenditure of the security vote on the support they have been extending to the federal security agencies like the Police, Army, Navy, DSS, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) etc, deployed in their states with logistic and operational facilities. The Chairman of Nigeria Governor’s Forum and Ekiti State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi declared that the state governors provide more funding to the Police than the Federal Government does. He asserted that “We buy them vehicles; we pay them allowances. In some cases, we even buy ammunition; of course, under the authority.”
Even if this line of argument of disclosure is excused, discretion does not preclude accountability. If the funds are excused from the budget, they could still form part of the Accountant General report giving light on how the funds were expended. And also, while it may be admirable for state governors to support security organs deployed to their respective states, security votes lack transparency, making it impossible for state authorities to separate their discretionary security expenditures from the federal government to determine whether the costs they are covering have already been covered by federal funds. The government at all levels, therefore, owe it as a matter of duty to give an account of the expenditure of these huge sums which make up a substantial percentage of the budget and concerned citizens have been calling for the governors to tow the path of honour and do so. After all, they are public funds. The most disheartening is that the governors are all too quick to give excuses for lingering insecurity in their state to the fact that the security outfits are controlled by the federal government and that they are only the chief security officers in the state by mere nomenclature and not in practice. If that is the case, then the governors have no business collecting funds which they know would not impact the purpose for which they are being appropriated.
Measures Taken to Curbing the Corruption
Rising from the recent outcry for the accountability of security votes from civil society, the federal government barred state and local governments from operating security votes with commercial banks. It also directed governors to open a special account with the Central Bank of Nigeria if they desire to obtain cash for expenditure from the security vote. This is part of the measures to implement the directive of the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) prohibiting cash withdrawals from public accounts with effect from March 1, 2023 with an extended window for cash withdrawals for security vote until May 29 2023. It is, however, left to be seen if this directive would yield the desired results, considering that similar instructions given by the federal government have failed to live up to its purpose. One such case is the guidelines on the withdrawal of funds from the State Joint Local Government Account which has failed to instate financial autonomy in the local government as the state governors are still in control of the funds that accrue to the local government from the FAAC account. To date, we have not heard of anyone being sanctioned for flouting the directive which is backed by section 162 (6) (8) of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution and affirmed by Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court.
Many watchers have viewed this latest move by the Mohammadu Buhari administration as cosmetic. Questions are being asked why the federal government allowed the state governor to muscle them to put forward the implementation of the ‘no cash’ withdrawal deadline to May 29th, at which time, the government would have handed over to a new administration, leaving implementation to the decision of the new administration. This concern is also amplified by the actions of the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, who granted presidential pardon to persons like, Joshua Dariye and Jolly Nyame, the former governors of Plateau and Taraba states respectively, who were jailed for appropriating billions of naira from public funds without accounting for them.
Some states have made policies aimed at making the expenditures from the security vote more open for public scrutiny to improve transparency. For instance, the Lagos State government has introduced the Lagos State Public Financial Management Law, which requires all government agencies, including the governor’s office, to submit regular reports on their financial activities. The law also mandates that all government contracts, including those related to security, must be awarded through a competitive and transparent bidding process.
Similarly, the Ekiti State government has established a Security Trust Fund to manage the state’s security vote. The trust fund is managed by a board of trustees, which includes representatives of civil society organizations and security agencies. The board is responsible for the allocation and expenditure of the security vote, and it is required to submit regular reports to the public on its activities.
A Better Way Forward
1. Total reformation of the security vote system,.
While the measures taken by the state governments mentioned above are commendable, more needs to be done to ensure transparency and accountability in the allocation and expenditure of security votes in Nigeria. The federal government should take the lead in reforming the security vote system, by adopting a national policy on the allocation and expenditure of security votes. The policy should stipulate clear guidelines on how the funds should be allocated, managed, and accounted for, as well as the consequences for any abuse or mismanagement of the funds.
2. Pass a Federal Law outlawing security votes at all levels.
Notwithstanding the fact that security votes lack any statutory or constitutional support, it is doubtful that federal, state, and municipal governments would quit using them unless they are forced to. Legislation that specifies budgetary guidelines and standards for security spending should go hand in hand with a restriction on the use of security votes.
3. Obtain legal backing for the enforcement of accountability of security votes
As an alternative to points 1 and 2 raised above, Civil Society should approach the competent court of jurisdiction to compel the state governor to account for the humongous amounts of money they collect in their respective domains in the guise of a security vote. A similar case filed in the Federal High Court, Lagos in 2020 by Legal Defense and Assistance Project, Legal Resources Consortium was struck out for want of jurisdiction. The court pronouncement should also include guidelines to enable monitoring by specially approved lawmakers and government auditors for truly secret procurements. If keeping some of the federal and state security budgets secret is so crucial to maintaining national security, then it should be as crucial that the money is used wisely. Effective supervision procedures must be put in place if this is to be ensured.
4. Constitutionalize State Police
Currently, the police force in Nigeria is centralized and controlled by the federal government. This means that the federal government is responsible for the recruitment, training, and deployment of police officers across the country. However, the security challenges in Nigeria vary from state to state, and there is a growing concern that the federal police have not been able to effectively address these challenges. Therefore, proponents of state police argue that allowing each state to have its own police force would enable a more localized approach to security, with officers who are more familiar with the local terrain and culture. And again, if this is done, it will not be difficult to vindicate or censure the collectors of funds meant for the purpose of security by the performance of their respective state policies in their ability to curb insecurity and maintain law and order. While the wider apprehension that it could lead to abuse of power by state governors cannot be dismissed casually, the federal government have also been accused of manipulating the instruments of coercive force for political and personal purposes and obstructing free speeches. And so, that does not imply that the concept of state police as a whole should be abandoned.
5. Strengthen the Security Structure and Enhance Synergy Among them and with Citizens
To address the worsening security situation in Nigeria, there is a need for a multi-pronged approach that involves both short-term and long-term solutions. The Nigerian security system is characterized by a lack of coordination and synergy among the various security agencies. This has led to a situation where the different security agencies operate in silos, with little collaboration or information sharing. Even where there are, the different forces still lack proper synergy. Better collaboration and information sharing among the various security agencies by putting in place mechanisms that facilitate communication and coordination among the agencies is necessary. Nigerian security agencies need to invest in technology that can help them to better monitor and track criminal activities. This could include the use of drones, CCTV cameras, and other surveillance equipment. In addition, there is a general lack of trust between the citizens and the security agencies, which has further compounded the security challenges in the country. Many Nigerians see the security agencies as being corrupt, ineffective and unfriendly, leading to a situation where citizens take matters into their own hands, often resulting in violent clashes and further worsening the security situation.
 CAMOUFLAGED CASH How ‘Security Votes’ Fuel Corruption in Nigeria, Matthew T. Page, May 2018, Transparency International
 Fayemi justifies security vote, says governors spend more on police than FG – Daily Trust
NIGERIA’S INCOMING GOVERNMENT AND THE BURDEN OF INCREASING DEBT STOCK: IMPLICATION ON ECONOMIC STABILITY AND GROWTH:
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and the largest economy is facing a debt burden that has been increasing steadily in recent years. With declining oil revenue, the country’s main source of foreign exchange, the government has been borrowing heavily to fund its budget, leading to a worrying debt-to-GDP ratio and an even troubling debt-to-revenue ratio. The incoming government, led by Bola Ahmed Tinubu, will have to grapple with this issue, as the country’s economic stability and growth prospects are threatened.
Nigeria’s debt burden has been a major challenge for the outgoing government led by President Mohammadu Buhari as it accumulated a total of $12.56 trillion in seven years with very little development to show for it. Deficit financing has risen by 402% from N2.41 trillion in 2016 to N12.1% in 2023. For a government which piggy-backed on its promise to tackle the monster of corruption sequel to its ascension to power, it is a big disappointment, therefore that the country has slipped further in the world corruption perception index. This slip is judged by many as a total failure of the administration of Buhari.
The current debt situation in Nigeria is alarming, as the country’s total public debt stock stood at N46.25trn as of December 2022, according to the Debt Management Office (DMO). This figure is an increase of N6.694 trillion year on year representing a 15% increase and 5% from the N44.06 trillion in just three months. The bulk of Nigeria’s debts is owed to multilateral institutions such as the World Bank, African Development Bank (AfDB), and International Monetary Fund (IMF), which account for over 50% of the debt stock. The rest is owed to bilateral lenders such as China, France, and Japan, as well as commercial banks and Eurobonds.
The debt burden has become a pressing issue for Nigeria, given the increasing cost of servicing it. According to the DMO, Nigeria spent over N3.63 trillion ($4.5 billion) in debt servicing in 2022, which is about 68% of the capital expenditure (infrastructural development). A breakdown shows total domestic debt stock stands at N27.55 trillion (61.42 billion USD), while the entire external debt stock was N18.70 trillion (USD 41.69 billion).
The debt burden has far-reaching implications for Nigeria’s economy and its citizens. The increasing debt servicing cost means that there will be less money available for public spending, including social services such as education, health, and infrastructure. This will have a negative impact on the quality of life of Nigerians, as the government will have to make tough choices on what projects to prioritize.
There is also the risk of Nigeria’s debt becoming unsustainable, as the country’s debt-to-GDP ratio has been increasing rapidly. According to the World Bank, Nigeria’s debt to GDP ratio stood at 22.0% in 2011 but had risen to 23.2% by 2022 coming down from a rise of 34.6% in 2019.
The debt burden also puts Nigeria at risk of debt distress, which would make it difficult for the country to access new loans, as lenders become cautious about Nigeria’s ability to repay its debts. The IMF has already raised concerns about Nigeria’s rising debt levels and has urged the government to adopt a more prudent borrowing approach. This is because borrowing, when not properly managed, can lead to a debt trap, where the country finds it difficult to repay its debts and is forced to borrow more to service existing debts.
New governments are billed to take over at the federal level and in 28 states of Nigeria on May 29, 2023, and the responsibility of charting a way forward for more sustainable revenue generation mechanisms is a huge one the president and state governors would have to shoulder.
The new government needs to improve its debt management framework to ensure that borrowed funds are used only for productive projects and that debt servicing costs are kept at a sustainable level. But rather than resort to more borrowings to bridge the enormous yawning infrastructural gaps, the government need to think out of the box to diversify its revenue sources and reduce its expenditure, especially on non-essential projects. With a budget already running at 57% deficit, the recurring problems of the overdependence on crude oil for its foreign exchange and the weak value of the naira against other international currencies, the new government is already faced with a huge fiscal mountain to climb. The country needs more funds than it currently generates to fund its budget, which is still inadequate to drive economic growth and stir the nation into positive social development.
The new government also needs to address the issue of corruption, which has been a major factor contributing to Nigeria’s debt burden. Corruption has led to the mismanagement of funds, resulting in inflated contracts, uncompleted projects, and embezzlement of public funds. This has been one of the major contributors to Nigeria’s rising debt, as the government has had to borrow more to fund projects that have not yielded any results. Other measures the new government can employ include
Diversify the economy: Nigeria’s economy is mostly reliant on oil exports and is thus susceptible to changes in oil prices. The government must promote diversification by making investments in other industries including manufacturing, agriculture, and technology.
Reduce wasteful spending: By eliminating unused costs and enhancing the effectiveness of public expenditures, the government may eliminate wasteful spending. The cost of funding the high, opulent and frivolous lifestyles of political office holders at the executive and legislative arms of government has been a huge burden on the scarce resources of the country to the detriment of the general citizen who lives on an income of less than a dollar per day.
Improve public sector governance: Reducing corruption and enhancing openness, inclusiveness and accountability are three ways the government may strengthen public sector governance.
Manage debt effectively: The government can manage debt effectively by prioritizing debt repayment and avoiding excessive borrowing.
Implement structural reforms: The government can implement structural reforms to improve the efficiency and competitiveness of the economy. Examples include improving infrastructure, deregulating key sectors, and improving the ease of doing business.
Failing to implement these actions will result in more borrowings by the incoming administration to implement the 2023 and subsequent years’ appropriation. This will plunge further the nation into more debt which will have devastating effects on Nigeria’s economic stability, development prospects, and citizens’ quality of life.
SAND MINING AND THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS ON COASTAL COMMUNITIES IN NIGERIA
Sand Mining Activities in Africa
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) defines sand mining as “the removal of sand from the environment to meet an increasing demand for sand for construction purposes, mainly for the production of concrete and asphalt”.
Sand mining has become a widespread and lucrative business in Africa. The continent is home to some of the world’s largest sand reserves, which have been used for construction, and land reclamation. It is also commonly used in construction, especially in urban areas where there is a high demand for housing and infrastructure. The construction industry is booming across the continent, fuelled by rapid urbanization and population growth. This has led to a massive increase in sand mining activities, which have become a significant source of income for many people. However, the uncontrolled and often illegal extraction of sand has led to severe environmental and social impacts, including the destruction of ecosystems, loss of livelihoods, and displacement of communities.
Illegal sand mining is a significant problem in Africa, particularly in countries such as Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Sierra Leone. In many of these countries, the lack of effective regulation and enforcement has allowed for rampant illegal sand mining to occur.
The Dangers of Sand Mining in Nigeria
Sand mining has severe environmental consequences. It can cause erosion and sedimentation, which can alter the flow of rivers and affect the habitats of aquatic organisms. Sand mining can also reduce water quality and quantity, which can affect agriculture, fishing, and other industries that rely on water resources. Furthermore, sand mining can cause the loss of biodiversity, as it can destroy habitats and disrupt ecosystems.
In Nigeria, sand mining has had severe consequences for local communities. One of the most significant impacts is the displacement of communities that depend on natural resources for their livelihoods. Sand mining often involves dredging and excavation, which can damage or destroy crops, fisheries, and other sources of livelihood. Additionally, sand mining can cause environmental pollution, as it often involves the use of heavy machinery, which releases emissions and noise pollution.
Another impact of sand mining in Nigeria is the damage to infrastructure. It can cause erosion and sedimentation, which can affect bridges, roads, and other infrastructure and lead to costly repairs and even accidents, such as bridge collapses.
Moreover, sand mining can contribute to climate change. The process of sand mining releases large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which contributes to global warming. Furthermore, the loss of vegetation due to sand mining can reduce the capacity of natural ecosystems to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Instances of the direct impact of the activities of sand mining in Nigeria
- Lekki Beach Erosion: Sand mining at Lekki Beach in Lagos has been blamed for the erosion that has affected the beachfront, causing damage to buildings and infrastructure. In 2017, the Lagos State Government banned sand mining in the area, but it has been difficult to enforce the ban, and illegal mining still continues.
- Environmental degradation in Cross River State: Sand mining has caused extensive environmental degradation in Cross River State. The activity has destroyed farmlands, aquatic habitats, and forests. The government has set up a task force to enforce the ban on sand mining, but it has been difficult to curb the illegal activity.
- Flooding in Anambra State: Sand mining in Anambra State has led to flooding in the state, which has caused the displacement of people and damage to property. In 2020, the government ordered the closure of all illegal sand mining sites in the state, but the problem persists.
- The activity has damaged fishing grounds, making it difficult for fishermen to make a living. The government has set up a committee to investigate the issue, but no concrete action has been taken.
- Destruction of a royal palace in Osun State: Sand mining caused the destruction of the Olojo of Ojo’s palace in Ojo, Osun State. The activity caused the collapse of the palace walls, and the government has since banned sand mining in the area.
- To address the dangers of sand mining in Nigeria, several solutions can be implemented. One approach is to promote sustainable sand mining practices that minimize the environmental impact of sand mining. This can be achieved through the use of environmentally friendly technologies and practices, such as the use of dredging machines that minimize sedimentation and the restoration of mined areas to their original state.
- Another solution is to strengthen the regulatory framework for sand mining in Nigeria. The government can enforce existing laws and regulations to ensure that sand mining activities are carried out in a sustainable and responsible manner. Additionally, the government can develop new policies and regulations that promote sustainable sand mining practices and protect the rights of local communities.
- Community engagement is also essential in addressing the dangers of sand mining in Nigeria. Local communities can be involved in the decision-making process regarding sand mining activities in their areas. This can help to ensure that their rights and interests are protected and that sand mining activities are carried out in a sustainable and responsible manner. Furthermore, community engagement can help to raise awareness about the environmental and social consequences of sand mining and promote the adoption of sustainable practices.
 Mugabi, F., Kakembo, V., Buyinza, M., & Wafula, G. (2021). Illegal sand mining and its environmental impact in selected peri-urban areas of East Africa. Environmental Development, 37, 100610. doi: 10.1016/j.envdev.2020.100610
 Nwachukwu, M. A., Uzomaka, J. E., Njoku, P. C., & Okoye, N. O. (2021). Impact of Sand Mining on Riverine Ecosystems: A Review. Journal of Environmental Science and Resource Management, 12(1), 1-12
 Okereke, C. E., & Eze, F. N. (2020). Environmental degradation from indiscriminate sand mining in Cross River State, Nigeria. Journal of Environmental Science and Public Health, 4(2), 63-73.
 Nkwocha, E. E., & Opara, C. E. (2018). The Effects of Sand Mining on the Fishing Grounds of Selected Rivers in Delta State, Nigeria. Journal of Geography, Environment and Earth Science International, 15(3), 1-10. doi: 10.9734/JGEESI/2018/42241.
SOCIAL ACTION AND THE CRC TO COLLABORATE WITH THE NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION AT NATIONAL LEVEL
Social Action paid a courtesy visit to the office of the Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission in Abuja as part of its effort to build alliances and strengthen collaboration with stakeholders in advancing the needed social change. The visit, made on Wednesday, March 1, 2023, was led by its Policy advisor, Dr. Uche Igwe was mainly to familiarize the NHRC with the workings of Social Action and build a formal relationship between both organizations.
The Executive Secretary, NHRC, Mr. Anthony Okechukwu Ojukwu (SAN) expressed gratitude to the team, whose visit coincided with his recent reappointment as the Executive Secretary of the NHRC. Mr. Ojukwu thanked Social Action for the stride they have made, and the successes recorded in championing the protection of human rights and respect for the rule of law across the country. He recognised the areas of mutual interest and committed to putting mechanisms in place for NHRC to partner with Social Action and its sister organization, the Civil Rights Council (CRC) to reach grassroots citizens, educate them on their rights and also solve some of their problems.
Fruitful deliberations between the Social Action team and the Secretary, NHRC and his team
The Executive Secretary also suggested collaboration in holding joint Town Hall Meetings in rural communities and any other project relating to the core objectives of the National Human Rights Commission.
Speaking on the human rights campaign of Social Action, Dr. Igwe mentioned how the Civil Rights Council (a progeny of Social Action) handles criminal and civil cases in the country and how they have worked with the Human Rights Commission at regional levels, especially in Rivers state. He concurred that more can be done and Social Action and the CRC are ready to upscale the work of the NHRC for the betterment of the country.
Mrs. Halimat Oyedele, Director, Corporate Affairs and External Linkages of the NHRC also recounted similar partnerships with CSOs where the Human Rights Desk was established in communities to address cases of human rights abuse and violations. She hoped that when a concrete proposal is on the ground, the NHRC and Social Action would work hand-in-hand for success.
POLICY BRIEF ON POLICY OPTIONS FOR ADDRESSING THE FAILURE OF THE NIGER DELTA DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION (NDDC)
Given the challenges that bedevil the NDDC, there is a need for a holistic approach towards repositioning the
Commission for accountability and effective service delivery. In doing so, the issue of undue interference by the
National Assembly and effective oversight need to be addressed. There is also the need to return the NDDC to the constitutionally recognized budget cycle that allows for sufficient time to implement the budget
FEDERAL AUTOCRACY, ONE OF THE CAUSES OF THE FAILURE OF DEMOCRACY IN NIGERA
The African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL), in collaboration with Social Development Integrated Centre (Social Action), on Thursday, February 16, 2023, held a symposium on Federalism, Democracy and the 2023 Election. The event was held at the Rockview Hotel Royale, Wuse 2, Abuja, Nigeria.
In his opening remarks, Dr Chido Onumah, coordinator of AFRICMIL said the conference was taking place amid heightened calls for a review of Nigeria’s federal system, which has continued to provoke questions about what the federating entities should be, citizenship rights and fiscal federalism. He further encouraged all to participate effectively in the conference, especially as the 2023 Elections is around the corner.
THE NIGERIA SOCIAL ACTION CONFERENCE 2022 – CLIMATE ACTION: ADDRESSING LOSS AND DAMAGE FROM FLOOD AND DRAUGHT IN NIGERIA
With communities and countries around the world experiencing the severe impacts of climate change, the Nigeria Social Action Conference 2022 served as a platform to promote dialogue around advancing local solutions to addressing the Nigeria climate crisis through collective actions. The Conference brought together climate activists, civil society organizations, government officials, parliamentarians, and academia to chart the ways and options for strengthening government policies and responses to the climate crisis in Nigeria. Coming at a period when Nigeria is reeling from unprecedented flooding that resulted in massive destruction of properties and livelihoods, and the recently concluded 27th Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Nigeria Social Action Conference 2022 promoted awareness about the need for Nigerians to examine our national and sub-national responses to loss and damage, as well as adaptation to climate change.
The Acting Executive Director of Social Action, Anino Arsekurubu, made the charge in a welcome address at the Nigeria Social Action Conference 2022 which was held at Rockview Hotel Royale, Abuja on Monday 5 December 2022. Ms Atsekurubu stressed the need for state and non-state actors to work together to actualize national commitments in the mitigation and adaptation of loss and damage. According to her, the flooding situation in Nigeria and other countries is a clear manifestation of inadequate government and social mechanisms to combat the endemic impact of climate change, as several lives and properties were lost to the floods, which also displaced about .3 Million Nigerians.
Solidarity Messages of Stakeholders
Angela Odah from Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, in her goodwill message, commended all involved in the organization of the conference as well as all who have taken the time to attend the event. She urged attendees to engage in the conference, which is apt, given the devastating effect of the recent flood in the country.
David Okafor, who represented the Director General of the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMET), commended Social Action for the event and encouraged all to pay attention to the event as it was not one for celebration but deliberation on how to address the damage by flood and drought in Nigeria.
Timothy Ogbotobo, a representative from the House Committee on Human Rights in the National Assembly of Nigeria, in his goodwill message, noted that climate change is not only a local but also a global issue. Hence, immediate solutions must be sought to prevent further devastating damages. He thanked the organizers for inviting the National Assembly because lawmakers must be involved in changing the narrative and ensuring climate justice for the country.
Honourable Abdulmumin Abdulsalam, the Senior Legislative Aide on Environment, Climate Change, and Disaster of the Senate, called for synergy of purpose from CSOs and the Government on the issue of climate justice. As Nigerians prepare for the elections, gubernatorial candidates must be asked about their plans for addressing climate change challenges in the country.
Zainab Umara, Assistant Chief Geologist of the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA), also commended the organizers of the program and wished participants a fruitful deliberation.
Keynote Presentation- Barrister Chima Williams
According to Barrister Chima Williams, Nigeria has all it takes to address the issue of the climate crisis. Sadly, most of our environmental challenges are caused by the activity and inactivity of the citizenry and the inability of the Government to come up with concrete climate laws and implement them for the benefit of the people. Barrister Williams charged Nigerians to speak up about the damages done to their environment. He urged CSOs and media players to amplify the voices of those at the grassroots and come up with mitigation plans on how these individuals can survive climate change while compelling the government to do the needful. He further charged the Federal Ministry of Environment to collaborate properly with NiMET, NEMA, and the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs to address climate change challenges in the country. Rather than focusing on palliatives, the government should implement lasting solutions to floods and drought damaging the country.
Paper Presentation- Kolawole Banwo
Kolawole Banwo, Programs Director at Water Aid presented a paper on “Climate Change and Flooding Disaster: Evaluating the Loss and Damage to Communities”. According to him, addressing loss and damage in Nigeria requires a high-level political commitment and long-term development planning with long-term disaster management. He added that the plan should be built around homegrown capacity and resources, innovation, and place a premium on human rights to life and community rights to existence. He also urged the government and representatives of the National Assembly of Nigeria to carry out regular evaluations of loss and damage from flood and drought in Nigeria.
Community Intervention Session
Madam Faith Nwadishi, Executive Director of the Centre for Transparency Advocacy, emphasized the need for Climate Action discussion to be contextualized and consider the vulnerable as they are at the most risk in mitigating crises resulting from climate action.
Ambassador Onoja called for a multi-dimensional approach to addressing the climate crisis. He urged the government to consider climate SMART policies, which must be implemented in time and ensure members of the community are induced into governance.
Mr. Gerald Esemonu, Executive Director of Environmental Friendly Initiative admonished stakeholders to focus on education and sensitization as this will raise awareness of people on the climate action crisis. He suggested using the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme to blow the trumpet of the Climate crisis ravaging the world today. NYSC Corps members should be trained and mobilized to sensitize members of the grassroots on these issues.
Mr. Bala Rufai, a representative of the Department of Climate Change, Federal Ministry of Environment, explained the role of the department in carrying out vulnerability mapping. According to him, this mapping is a measure to address loss and damage resulting from climate change in Nigeria.
Summary of the Contributions by Panelists
Comrade Hauwa Mustapha suggested that Nigerians should track the root causes of the climate crisis as it is a global problem. We must be careful while seeking local solutions to a global problem. All must take critical actions to stop the burning of fossil fuels. The government should transform ecological funds into loss and damage funds which must be managed by representatives of the people who have been made vulnerable due to the climate crisis.
Mr. Daniel Okafor called for synergy between Civil Society Organizations and NiMET to educate the masses on impending climate actions. According to Mr. Okafor, NiMET does a lot of forecasting about climate change and actions. These messages have to be simplified and taken to the masses in the language they understand. For this to happen, CSOs must be involved.
In her contribution, Dr Priscilla Achakpa emphasised the need for language simplicity. In her view, CSOs and the government must simplify the terms ‘climate action’ and ‘climate crisis’ so that communities would understand the implications of some of their activities that impact negatively on the environment.
She also suggested the inclusion of CSOs in the Climate Change Council for the effectiveness of purpose and mandate. Dr Achakpa called for the engagement of policies on climate change, adding that to address the issue of climate, we need to move from the national to the sub-national, engage and build the capacity of leaders at each level for change.
According to Comrade Jaye Gaski, the biggest challenge in addressing loss and damage in Nigeria is the distance between the government and the people. Hence, the government must look for a way to build the trust of the people. They must be ready to collaborate if this menace will be addressed.
At the end of the conference, participants unanimously agreed that the climate change crisis in Nigeria is a national emergency and all are involved in mitigating this menace.
RECLAIMING THE CIVIC SPACE FOR TRANSFORMATIVE GOVERNANCE AND POLITICAL CHANGE IN NIGERIA
Social Action organised the Nigeria Social Action Camp 2022, with the theme “Reclaiming the Civic Space for Transformative Governance and Political Change in Nigeria”, at the Citizenship and Leadership Training Camp, Aluu, Rivers State, from the 8th of November to the 12th of November 2022.
The Camp, a yearly weeklong programme, is an alternative space for anti-neoliberal political education and solidarity among Nigerians. The camp provides an opportunity for over 100 grassroots members of Social Action-supported Civil Rights Councils (CRCs) from different states of Nigeria and other Nigerian youths to meet and build solidarity to bring about social change in Nigeria. 2022 Camp participants included members of the CRCs, labour union activists, university students, journalists and activist scholars. Camp activities included lectures, workshops, group discussions, film shows, sports and games and other group activities.
The Camp Program commenced with a welcome charge by Professor Sofiri Peterside with a focus on reclaiming the civic space for transformative governance and political change in Nigeria. Professor Peterside x-rayed the concepts of the civic space from various scholarly perspectives and emphasized that in Nigeria, the civic space has come under attack by a desperate ruling class seeking to gag the media, civil society actors, political activists, left elements and social critics.
Dr Nelson Okene spoke on the topic, “Identity Politics And The 2023 Elections – Any Hope For Nigeria”. He held that the desperation among the political class to win power at all cost is the bane of development in Nigeria. The hope for Nigeria, he said, would be for civil society actors and pro-left tendencies to begin to champion the cause of national politics with an emphasis on nationhood and national unity.
A lecture under the topic, “Fundamental Human Rights, Procedures and Applications in the Context of The 1999 Constitution”, was delivered by Honorable Justice Simon Amadubuogha, a High Court Judge. The honourable justice carefully examined the fundamental right provisions of the 1999 constitution as amended and the attendant rules of applicability and enforcement under the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. With the aid of judicial and statutory authorities, he showcased the attitude of the courts in human rights cases and the special provision in the rules of the courts to give special attention to such litigations when filed before the court of law.
A brainstorming session moderated by Sabatine Kpalap was deliberated by Comrade Omobude Left Agho and Frank Nornobari under the theme: “The Role of Nigerian Youths in the Struggle for Political Change”. Comrade Nornobari, while acknowledging that the Nigeria youths have played a historical role in the struggle for political change, however, maintained that in contemporary times the youths seem to have been co-opted in the structure of the various political parties where they act as state agents and pro-establishment thugs. To redeem this, there is a need for re-awakening the consciousness of the youths to their self-interests.
On his part, Sabatine Kpalap emphasized the training of youths and building organizations with adequate conscientization and political education. He believes that such a movement will play a cardinal role in the restoration of sanity and political change in society. Comrade Omobude Agho blamed ignorance on the side of the youths as a major concern.
In a panel section on the topic: “The 2023 Election and The Role of the Civil Society”, Adejoh Sunday argued that civil society has a fundamental role to play in ensuring credible and smooth elections. Beyond monitoring the election, and leading sensitization on various aspects of the election, it is the role of civil society to create platforms for the citizens to interrogate the political actors and aspirants from various political platforms.
The camp also witnessed a workshop on the practical application and use of the Freedom of Information Act 2011 for holding public officers accountable. The workshop section was moderated by Comrade Kelechi and Sabatine Kpalap. Peter Mazzi and Elizabeth Michael also took participants in a workshop on the efficient use of images in story-telling in promoting campaigns and advancing advocacies.
In his various presentations, Comrade Jaye Gaskia took a swipe at the decadent Nigeria ruling class bedridden in political corruption and lack of initiatives. He held that to reclaim the civic space and enthrone transformative governance, the Nigerian youths must organize and ensure solidarity under strong platforms of national movements in order to challenge and contest for power with the ruling class.
Other speakers were Rita Kigbara, Comrade Nyengi, woman rights activists and Barr Arochukwu Paul Ogbonna. They looked at the various statutory and judicial authorities that deal with gender equality, gender-based violence and the right of the girl child to inheritance. Starting from the Nigerian Constitution, which abhors discrimination of any type against the girl child, to Supreme Court judgments and legislations of various State House of Assembly, they spoke on the need to protect the girl child and vulnerable persons. They also lauded the enactment of the Violence Against Persons Act and encouraged its full implementation in order to punish violators and curb or reduce abuses.
The camp came to an end with the National Convention of the Civil Rights Council (CRC). The convention was attended by all the CRC units across the country, and the Convention made very conclusive decisions. Newly created units were ratified, and old executives dissolved in Delta State. The Conference also reestablished Bayelsa, Owerri, Akwa-Ibom and Enugu Civil Rights Council units.