In a frantic effort by the President Muhammadu Buhari’s government to increase Nigeria’s debt profile, he has again, requested from the National Assembly, the approval of another $4 billion and EUR 710 million loan. The request was contained in a letter read by Senate President Ahmad Lawan on the Senate floor Tuesday 14th September 2021. It could be recalled that this request is coming shortly after the National Assembly approved $6.18 billion foreign loans.
The concluded forensic audit report on the Niger Delta Development Commission- NDDC, highlights failures related to accountability, including financial mismanagement, chronic underperformance and service collapse of the agency. These fundamental gaps in accountability and transparency at the heart of NDDC activities result in underperformance. The devastating effects of the deficiency in the operations of the Commission have continued to ravage the Niger Delta with compounding hardship, and thus call for a pragmatic shift for a change in the narrative.
From its inception, the NDDC could be described as a cesspit of corruption, abandoned projects and political patronage. It is disheartening that the NDDC has remained in the same claws of mismanagement that has left the Niger Delta people to suffer, evidently seen in the poor accountability profile within the NDDC structure. This kind of system no doubt makes stealing easy. The NDDC has displayed long-standing weaknesses in how poorly it uses funds meant for the development of the Niger Delta region for personal gains, which falls short of standards for spending public money.
Clearly, this shows that there is a lack of accountability in the operations of the NDDC. This has enabled repeated failures in service delivery such as abandoned projects, poor procurement practices, embezzlement and wasting public money. Accountability lies at the heart of masses-owned and service delivery institutions such as the Niger Delta Development Commission. The current system in NDDC displays critical management weaknesses, quantum corruption and lethargy that trail the need for prosecution where necessary. However, the good thing is that these can be addressed. The government must, therefore, begin to shift from the culture of blame and piling of reports to prosecution of those culpable, recoveries of illegally acquired wealth from culprits and returning same to the public coffers for the improvement and development of Niger Delta.
Matters of accountability and transparency in NDDC are sacrosanct because when it works, it benefits everyone. It will enable the people of Niger Delta to know what the NDDC is doing, and how to gain redress when things go wrong. It would ensure that the interventionist agency is acting in the interests of the people that they were appointed to serve. Consequently, accountability remains critical to the management and delivery of NDDC mandate and this will increase the trustworthiness and legitimacy of the agency in the eyes of the people of Niger Delta.
While accountability and transparency are not the only panaceas for solving the numerous challenges that NDDC faces in a complex environment, it can improve its service delivery, generate incentives for responsible individuals within the agency to act in the interests of the Niger Delta people. Even if this means those untouchable are prosecuted following the rot in the agency; what is important is a healthy system of accountability and transparency that makes it effortless for the agency to meet its mandate to the people of Niger Delta.
To rigorously pursue the good principles of accountability and transparency in NDDC, the agency should periodically publish transparent, authoritative information and data that underpins the spending process. They should publish financial statements at the end of each spending period and also declare details of all projects before and after they have been agreed upon and how these projects would be delivered in practice. This should also be subject to concerned communities’ scrutiny and validation. This would provide the people with information to inspect these projects as they are implemented. We also demand that the federal government inaugurate the NDDC Board which is in consonance with the law establishing the agency. The board would provide a forum for strategic discussions on service delivery, how to develop the Niger Delta and exert effective oversight, ensuring that policies work as intended.
The necessity to overhaul the prevailing system of corruption in NDDC is not negotiable. It is an effort towards redefining the working patterns of the agency to imbue it with sanity imperative for Niger Delta to begin to enjoy the benefits of good service delivery against the experience of untold hardship which has been a product of administrative deficiencies and corruption.
Social Action will continue to be at the vanguard of expounding sanity with impeccable standards, to reveal the pervasive culture of corruption, perceivable ill practices and echoing gaps of accountability and transparency in NDDC until justice is done and the people of Niger Delta are better off.
In widely publicized reports, the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) is proposing to grant fresh approvals to Electricity Distribution Companies-DisCos to increase electricity tariff, which will commence 1st September 2021.
As society evolves and new changes occur, it brings about different phenomenon that affects how we relate and accept these changes. In the past few decades, the role of women in public life and the social context has drastically changed. These changes have had different controversies and consequences. As a policy to encourage gender inclusion and participation in social development, the Social Action Camp 2021 dedicated a session on discussing Nigerian women and analyzing their role in the struggle for social change in Nigeria.
According to statistics made available by Nigeria Security Tracker, and Amnesty International, since President, Muhammadu Buhari took office on May 29, 2015, his administration has allocated approximately N5.081tn for defence, supposedly used for the purchase of military equipment to execute the war against insurgency and other forms of security related issues. Despite this large allocation, the country has recorded the loss of 11,420 civilians and security personnel to Boko Haram insurgency and attacks by herdsmen and bandits between May 2015 and July 2021.
By Peter Mazzi
The Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari is a slap on the face of Niger Delta communities. It shows an utter lack of sensitivity to the suffering of the people who, despite being responsible for 90% of the country’s export earnings are still impoverished and suffering from environmental devastation and loss of livelihoods.
Nigeria’s long-standing huge foreign debt architecture reared its ugly head once more as the World Bank audited financial statements released on Monday 9th August 2021 rated Nigeria fifth on the list of top 10 countries with a high debt risk exposure of $11.7bn debt stock. As captured in the financial statement, Nigeria faces two types of credit risk; country credit risk and counterparty credit risk. While country credit risk is the risk of loss due to a country not meeting its contractual obligations, and counterparty credit risk is the risk of loss attributable to a counterparty not honouring its contractual obligations.
Nigeria is a federal system made up of a three-tier government. While the federal and state governments have been active and prominent, exerting their rights and roles in governance as specified by the constitution, the local governments, on the other hand, have been kept in the cool, ostensibly, by the operations of the other two tiers. The need to bring government to the people has always been the idea behind the creation of the local government.
To this end, Social Action, with the support of UNDEF, organized a workshop in continuation of its advocacy campaign to strengthen individuals, groups and CSOs to engage Local Government officials on good and inclusive governance. The workshops with the theme “Capacity Building for CSOs and Community Groups on the Need for Community Development and Service Delivery”, were organised in Enugu
Resource persons including Sampson Jaja, Kentebe Ebiaridor and Franklin Olaniju took participants through different topics on local government autonomy, openness and inclusivity in government, NEEDs assessment and citizens participation in the budget system
Prince Edegbuo, Senior Programs Officer at Social Action addressing participants during the workshop
Local Government Autonomy
The Senior Programs Officer of Social Action, Prince Edegbuo welcomed participants and pointed to the fact that the local government is facing serious constrictions and lacks the freedom to pilot its affairs hence one of the purposes of the workshop is to galvanize support for the independence of the local government and put an end to the anomalies suffered by the people. According to him, the separation of local government from state government is necessary for any change to take place. Inclusion and citizens participation in the local government affairs is the way forward as citizens cannot continue to keep quiet and leave the government to carry on with the business of governance the way they want. Participants all agreed on the need for an autonomous and independent local government to achieve laudable development, abate redundancy in the LGAs and make it easier for checks and balances.
The workshops also provided a platform for CSOs, NGOs, Community Chiefs, women groups and People Living with Disabilities (PLWD) to deliberate on the topic and create a strategic work plan to hold Local government accountable to its people. Stakeholders deliberated on the role of gender mainstreaming and social inclusion in achieving accountable local government areas. They argued that social inclusion and exclusion of gender especially the female gender has been one of the societal challenges. The drivers of such exclusions were identified such as ethnicity, indignity, gender relations, religion, physical disability, place of residence, HIV/AIDs and age.
A cross section of participants at the workshop
Citizens participation in the budget system
Programs Coordinator, Social Action, Botti Isaac further charged participants on the need for participatory budgeting. In his remarks, Botti argued that citizens must be aware before any project is allocated to the community. Having noted that the budget process is flawed, he posited a bottom-top approach. The citizens must first identify their needs before a project is awarded and such project must be tailored to meet their needs. He assured participants of Social Actions assistance to active citizens and organisations who want to be involved in ensuring proper monitoring and tracking of Local government financial administration and spending.
At the end of the workshops, participants expressed their willingness to engage the local government and ensure their needs are met. During the group workshop coordinated by Bukola Adedeji, work plans and agenda were set. Attendees discussed ways to mainstream gender and ensure there is social inclusion of all groups in their organization.
The Civil Rights Council Bori Chapter recently saw the emergence of a new leadership that brought an end to the existing leadership. The congress/election took place at the Paul Naakuu Birabi Conference Hall in Bori, Rivers State. While giving account of his stewardship, Comrade Prince Dukan enumerated the human rights interventions the Bori Chapter has recorded in LGAs and senatorial district. He reminded members of the sole purpose of CRC while charging them to ensure justice prevails wherever they are.
The National Coordinator, out-going chairman and the incoming chairman
The National Coordinator of CRC, Arochukwu Paul Ogbonna gave a solidarity message on behalf of the Executive Director, Social Action. He appreciated their resilience of CRC Bori Chapter and their doggedness in human rights intervention and assured them of support from Social Action. He emphasized the need to document and keep track record of all human rights interventions as this is a determining factor in monitoring the progress of CRC. The National Coordinator encouraged members to work unanimously with security agents while also awakening human rights consciousness among the Ogoni territory as the Ogoni struggle also centres around human rights advocacy.
Representatives from the Gokana, Tai, Eleme and Bori zones also gave their solidarity speeches that centered on the various interventions carried out in their chapters and the progress made so far. Nkpordee Basil gave a review of interventions made by CRC Bori zone which include recovery of stolen properties, stoppage of various forms marital abuse, freeing victims of SAR illegally arrested and help them get justice
Elections to various executive positions was conducted by head count and winners were immediately announced by the adhorc electoral committee. The Chairman elect who gave his opening speech in behalf of his executives thanked members for the opportunity to serve. He assured them that the organization will continue to uphold its purpose to avoid any form of abuse as there is now better access to the people as a result of past interventions.
Group photograph of EXCOs and members after the congress
The National Coordinator addressed the new executives and tackled questions on the nitty-gritty of human right intervention and how to apply diplomacy when engaging people and security agencies. “Facts and not hearsay is important” he said. He concluded by urging the zone to expand its scope to universities and secondary schools as these youngsters can act as CRC agents in recording and reporting cases of human rights abuses as a lot of ills happen in such environment.
The local government is the third tier of government closest to the people. Sadly, the level of apathy shown by citizens to the affairs of this tier of government is a pointer to the fact that activities of the local government, in most cases, do not reflect the people’s interest.