Social Action notes with serious concern that Nigeria seemed to have been trapped in another web of indebtedness barely fifteen years after the Paris Club debts cancellation under the debt-buy-back deal. The insatiable quest and penchant for borrowing has again reared its ugly head under the current administration with the nation’s debt profile skyrocketing with each passing day. Despite public outcry, the Buhari-led administration has continued on a reckless trajectory of borrowing that has seen the country’s debt profile rise to $86billion with external debts component soaring to $33billion. In what appears to be another display of flagrancy, the Senate on April 21st approved a whooping sum of $1.5billion and €995m loans for the Federal Government even when some members of the Senate raised concerns over what they termed unnecessary loan.
All is not well in many Niger Delta communities as they increasingly suffer environmental degradation and its attending consequences. Citizens have been stripped of their means of livelihood due to incessant pollution resulting from crude extraction activities.
Introduced in 2008 at the Federal Government’s instance, the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) now has a reputation for being one of the oldest and most contentious bills in Nigeria’s legislative history. Corruption, bad politics and deeply vested interests have all combined to ensure that the bill remains a miscarriage. It is a bill that is promoted as one that would sanitise the petroleum industry in Nigeria, improve benefits to the national economy and address the environmental and social costs borne by host communities. However, since its introduction 13 years ago, the bill has suffered several unfortunate and avoidable setbacks. That is why there was heightened expectation when the Muhammadu Buhari government reintroduced the PIB as an executive bill to the 9thNational Assembly, which promised to speedily pass the bill into law by the second quarter of 2021.
In line with its standing orders and house rules, the National Assembly announced a public hearing on the bill. The public hearing was expected to provide an avenue for public input into the bill and capture all the concerns by different interests. Public hearings, organised as part of the law-making process, enable the coalescing of recommendations from critical stakeholders to enable legislators to produce legislation that best serves the national interest, which cannot be divorced from citizens’ good.
Text of a Press Briefing by Social Action and Key Civil Society Organisations
Thursday, January 28, 2021
Abuja, FCT, Nigeria
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen of the Media, we have organised this briefing to call public attention to major flaws in the federal government’s proposals in the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), and our concerns about the manner the National Assembly has managed the Public Hearings on the Bill. Like most Nigerians, we believe that a new set of laws are necessary to govern the petroleum industry in Nigeria. However, the PIB’s proposals, as it is, would promote environmental impunity in the oil industry and exacerbate social dislocation in the oil-bearing communities in the Niger Delta.
The recent announcement by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) that Nigeria has fallen into an economic recession portends that the nation’s economy contracted in the last two quarters of the year spanning April to September, 2020. The second quarter (April – June) witnessed a decline in gross domestic product (GDP) growth by -6.10%, while in the third consecutive quarter (July – September), the GDP further shrunk by -3.62%. The news of the country’s slide into economic recession has elicited reactions from stakeholders across the country. The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed in her response, stated that, “While the economy entered into recession in the third quarter (July – September, 2020), the trend of the growth suggests that this will be a short-lived recession and indeed by the fourth or, at worst, the first quarter of 2021, the country will exit recession”.
The #EndSARS protest in Nigeria which started out as a clamour for the scrapping of a notorious Police unit, Special Anti – Robbery Squad (SARS) for the acts of brutality meted on innocent Nigerians by officers of the Squad, turned out to be an effective means through which young Nigerians expressed a myriad of grievances to the Nigerian government. When the government announced the disbandment of SARS, more Nigerians took to the streets to join in the protests, partly due to past betrayal by the same government which failed to implement initial orders it had made with respect to SARS. Moreso, the #EndSARS protest became a popular vehicle to drive change in various sectors, with Nigerians demanding for better governance and decent living standards.
As the protests against police brutality which erupted in several states across Nigeria last week, continues unabated, thousands of Nigerians have remained on the streets to protest against the high-handedness of the Police, which is symptomatic of bad governance in the country. The protesters are demanding for an immediate institutional reform of the Police and other government institutions, in order to address the systemic rot, corruption and wastage of resources that have been the hallmarks of the nation’s misgovernance for decades. In the light of these protests, the Federal Capital Territory Security Committee in Abuja, recently issued a ban on the #EndSARS protest in Abuja, for supposed violation of the COVID-19 protocols. This is arising from the concern that despite the dissolution of the Federal Special Anti – Robbery Squad, FSARS, by the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, the peaceful protests have continued in several parts of the country.
Following the recent disbandment of the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS) by the Nigerian government, the Social Development Integrated Centre (SOCIAL ACTION) wishes to draw the attention of the government and the public, to the increasing cases of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) involving some unscrupulous security operatives in Nigeria. Issues of human rights abuse perpetrated against the girl child must be brought to the fore, in commemoration of the International Day of the Girl child, which was marked across the world yesterday, October 11, 2020. There have been allegations of rape, sexual harassment and other acts of gender-based violence meted out against women and girls by law enforcement agents. There also appears to be a conspiracy of silence whereby, security agents found complicit, are neither suspended from office immediately for their unprofessional conduct, nor made to face judicial sanction. Women’s rights have been flagrantly violated and the law enforcement agents saddled with the responsibility of ensuring the enforcement of these rights are now increasingly indicted in the physical and sexual abuse of women and girls.
The Federal Ministry of Transportation has proposed a series of tax incentives for the Maritime industry. This was disclosed by the Director – General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Bashir Jamoh, who stated that the proposed tax incentives were meant to boost economic activities in the Sector, amid the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic. According to him, the tax incentives which shall be applicable to vessels imported by Nigerians or by the Nigerian shipping companies and intended for use in foreign or domestic trade, shall include: zero import duty (full waiver) for brand new vessels, 0.5 percent import duty (partial waiver) for vessels aged between one and five years, and 1 percent import duty (partial waiver) for vessels aged between five and eight years, respectively.
The Social Development Integrated Centre, SOCIAL ACTION, condemns and rejects wholly, the surreptitious hike in fuel price and electricity tariffs across the country. Under the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, the pump price of petrol has witnessed a steady and unprecedented increase from ₦121 per litre in June 2020, to over ₦143 in July 2020, ₦150 in August 2020, and now sells for as high as ₦162 in September, 2020. Electricity tariffs were also increased by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, from about ₦30.23 per kwh (kilowatt unit of energy per hour) to as much as ₦62.33 per kwh, an astronomical increase which is meant to also affect pre-paid Meter users who had recharged their units before the policy took effect. SOCIAL ACTION wishes to state unequivocally, that such an increment is totally unacceptable and must be resisted by all well-meaning Nigerians.