Ensuring and Implementing Conflict Prevention and Management Strategies in Nigeria

Chambers Umezulike December 1, 2016 0

The North Eastern, Niger Delta and Middle Belt regions of Nigeria have been witnessing several conflicts and fatalities in recent times. These include terrorism, militancy and the crisis between herdsmen & their host, respectively. In the light of this, on Monday, 28 November, CODE participated in the Peace and Security Working Group (PSWG) Meeting hosted by the Nigeria Stability and Reconciliation Programme (NSRP). The PSWG is a platform for peace and security analysis, advocacy, coordination and capacity building. The platform is made up of several Civil Society Actors, international donors/agencies, and foreign embassies.

During the meeting, organizations such as Centre for Democracy & Development, NSRP,  Foundation for Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta etc. gave updates on their current activities in ensuring peace and security in the country. CODE on its part intimated the participants of its peace and security works in two areas: 1). Comparative electoral processes research and activities, so as to promote the use of information technology in electioneering in order to reduce violence during elections. CODE observed the United States Presidential Election and was able to draw lessons from the exercise which could be employed in Nigeria to ensure improved electoral processes and violence reduction. CODE was also asked to make a presentation in the next PSWG meeting in January, 2017 on the observation and experiences regarding this. 2). CODE has a campaign on ensuring transparency and accountability in the implementation of humanitarian funds in the North Eastern (NE) part of the country. In this light, CODE is tracking the governmental implementation of N53 billion provided by international donors for the rehabilitation of the NE zone.

During the meeting, a new name, Peace and Security Network (PSN) was also recommended for PSWG. This is for perfect representation of the mandate of the coordination group. PSN is indeed an important platform for stakeholderial coordination on peace and security activities and strategies to prevent & manage conflicts around the country. Its’ our hope that the platform implements its strategies to ensure political stability in the country so as for a favorable environment for economic activities and Foreign Direct Investment attraction.

The Implementation of Capital Funds Intended for Primary Healthcare Provision in Nigeria

Chambers Umezulike December 1, 2016 2

CODE participated in the Stakeholder Briefing on Primary Healthcare Centres (PHC) which was held on 29 November 2016 at Spice Platter Gallery, 18 Libreville Crescent, Wuse 2, Abuja. It was choreographed by the Public and Private Development Center (PPDC) and was a briefing on the findings from PHCs visited by PPDC and CODE, in 2016.

PPDC on its part has been mobilizing procurement monitors to track and verify the performance of contracts awarded for projects such as PHCs across the country. This is with the aim of ensuring that public resources are been judiciously utilized in providing public services. CODE also through its Follow the Money initiative has been tracking government implementation of capital funds that are intended for local communities in health, education and environment.

The stakeholders meeting then provided a platform for the two organizations to interact with relevant stakeholders drawn from the National Assembly, State Ministries of Health and several media agencies. The event featured a presentation by PPDC on their procurement and budget tracking works in local communities. In the event, the organization also presented its Budeshi online platform. The online platform is a dedicated site that links budget and procurement data to various public services. It is accessible to the public to interact with and make their own comparisons. This is in a bid to make information around public contracts and procurement process more coherent. Budeshi is also an attempt to demonstrate the Open Contracting Data Standards across the public procurement value chain.

CODE on its part made a presentation on its monitoring of the implementation of capital funds for the rehabilitation of PHCs in Akwa Ibom, Enugu, Kano, Kogi, Osun, and Yobe states. Part of the funds include the $1.5 million health grant from the World Bank to each of the 36 Nigerian states & the FCT and N10.5 earmarked by NPHCDA for the rehabilitation of a PHC in Afia Nsit Urua Nko, Akwa Ibom State. The presentation also accentuated the fact that no sort of implementation is going on with respect to the funds and that governmental agencies are so lackadaisical in replying FOI Requests on further perspicacity on these funds.

The concerned stakeholders such as the personnel from Oyo and Osun States’ Ministries of Health commented that most states have not accessed the World Bank Health Grant. This is contradictory to information that CODE has at this time which is that some states have gotten access. Moreover, our interest is on getting the costed work plan for the grant’s employment, as well as safeguarding citizen engagement on the usage of the fund – which all do not have anything to do with the technicalities of funds provision, assessment, receipt . . . The representative from Osun State Ministry of Health promised to provide the costed work plan of the $1.5 million usage in Osun State to CODE. We hope he does this, and that the State Ministries of Health put information on all the expenditure and intended projects in the public domain.

Proposed Online Budget Portal for Nigerian Citizens

Chambers Umezulike December 1, 2016 4

Nigeria still has deep challenges in ensuring transparency and accountability in governmental activities and expenditure. Citizen engagement in governance has remained pretty poor. Participatory budgetary practices have remained poor and governmental data are still limitedly open to the public. Currently, the country has signed the Open Government Partnership with several commitments from Abuja to ensure and promote transparency and accountability in governance. Following this, on 15 November 2016, the Partnership to Engage, Reform and Learn (PERL) programme funded by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) organized a roundtable discussion with Civil Society Organizations (CSO) and the Media on the proposed online budget portal for citizens. This was in partnership with the country’s Budget Office or Ministry of Budget and National Planning (MBNP). In attendance were CSOs with core in ensuring transparency, accountability and citizen engagement in governance.

PERL is currently supporting the MBNP in developing an online portal for citizens to access budget information. The roundtable was then for relevant civil society groups to make inputs and suggestions on what information government should put on the online citizens’ portal. This was to ensure that that the online portal is reflective of citizens needs on the budget.

The portal encompasses features such as: Citizen Guide to the ‘2017’ Budget, Sectoral budget information, Geopolitical allocation of funds, Planning and key policy documents to be included on the portal, ‘2017’ Budget facts, Budget monitoring reports, FAQs, Budget Calendar and A feedback platform.

CODE made some inputs and suggestions on other features of the portal such as. 1). A mechanism for citizens to be able to sort/filter the budget sectorally, by states, LGAs, communities, quoted amounts etc. 2). A mechanism for one to be able to click on a budget item and have further details. 3). A mobile application component. 4). A Live chat. 5). And ultimately, for the portal to have information on budget implementation such as implementation stage, procurement processes, contractors etc. Other CSOs also made suggestions such as for the online portal to be in different languages, for the use of infographics and information of policies guiding the budget.

We are expecting that further collaboration between DFID PERL and the Budget Office while carrying other stakeholders along would see to the successful implementation of this platform. This we also expect would go a long way to ensure transparency, accountability and civic engagement in Nigeria’s governance.

Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation in Nigeria – A Multi-Sectoral Approach

Chambers Umezulike October 17, 2016 2

On 13 and 14th of October 2016, the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) in partnership with the Embassy of Germany organized a Workshop on Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation in Abuja, Nigeria with the theme: Mainstreaming a low carbon framework into the federal budgeting system. The workshop aimed at ensuring the implementation of Nigeria’s commitments on climate change and the environment using the policy, planning and budgetary frameworks. In participation were over 50 participants drawn from relevant government’s Ministries, Departments & Agencies (MDAs); Civil Society Organizations; the academia; and the private sector. CODE was invited in recognition of our works in Sustainable Development.

Prior to the workshop, the CSJ undertook research and documentation for the mainstreaming of the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions commitments in pilot MDAs. The MDAs include Agriculture; Budget & National Planning; Environment; Housing, Power & Works; Transport; Water Resources; Solid Minerals; and Labour & Employment. This was through reviewing key policy instruments in the sectors, budget trends and their implications for carbon reduction whilst making coherent recommendations for a low carbon budget framework.

The workshop was then used to bring together all relevant stakeholders to review CSJ’s research outcome and to facilitate the fingering of low hanging fruits in the sectors which can be implemented without the deployment of too much efforts and resources. The first day of the conference started with several paper presentations on Paris Climate Change Agreement; Macroeconomic and fiscal interventions to combat and mitigate the adverse effects of climate change; and Mainstreaming a low carbon framework in the agricultural and water resources sectors.

Post these interesting presentations was then the segmentation of the participants into several groups to review and validate the research outcome drafts, on each sector, already prepared by the CSJ. Each group were headed by the personnel of a Ministry, in charge of the sector. The groups later presented the reviews of the documents and presented it to the whole participants for further comments and finalization. The second day went straight to continual group presentations and another segmentation for the research outcome drafts of sectors that were not reviewed in the previous day.

I was really impressed by this workshop, with the great team of CSJ that did beautiful work in organizing the event, embarking on such great research and having the papers ready for review during the workshop. I also met interesting participants and elemental stakeholders from several MDAs whose group contributions were so helpful, and offside discussions during tea & lunch breaks, I learnt so much from. I so much hope that through the post workshop strategies that were identified at the end of the conference, CSJ would be able to advocate for the inclusion of our recommendations in the policy & budgetary frameworks of the MDAs.

Illicit Financial Flows and Taxation: The Way Forward for Africa

Chambers Umezulike October 17, 2016 16

The Fourth Pan African Conference on Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs) and Taxation was held in Abuja on 11th and 12th October 2016. It was co-choreographed by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and Tax Justice Network Africa with the theme Curbing IFFs to promote Africa’s structural transformation. In line with the works of Connected Development (CODE) on proselytizing transparency, accountability, citizen participation in governance and open data, we were invited with other Civil Society Actors. Over 80 participants participated in the 2-day conference from several national, regional & international governmental & non-governmental organizations, as well as the academia & private sector.

Through several discussions, the conference accentuated that tax and savings have remained two vital channels for domestic revenue mobilization for economic growth and development. With the progress of African countries in this regard, greater gains would be achieved through the implementation of coherent tax reforms, contracting tax evasion, improving tax administration; and curbing leakages emanating from IFFs.

In addition, the conference provided a platform for the articulation of issues surrounding Africa’s tax regimes and IFFs, within the context of Africa’s structural transformation. The conference’s debates will be helpful in strategizing and occasioning a pathway for the implementation of the recommendations of the High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa.

On the tax incentives’ debate of the conference, on behalf of CODE, I commented that tax incentives are imperative for the competitiveness of the continent in attracting foreign direct investment. Thus, the essential of having coherent and inclusive tax incentives frameworks with the necessary institutional support. However, tax incentives do not just push investors to the continent. Putting several other phenomena in place such as stable electricity, expanded infrastructure, building skilled labour force and safeguarding political stability would situate the continent in better negotiation position when providing such incentives for investors.

During the conference, the Studies on the Taxation Cluster of the Africa Mining Vision was launched. There were also several papers on Africa’s narratives of taxation and IFFs by the representatives of several domestic, regional and international organizations.

Connected Development hopes that the resolutions of this conference will make its impacts through strengthening tax regimes, curbing tax evasion and curbing IFFs on the continent through effective implementation, for Africa’s structural transformation, by Africa’s concerned actors and institutions. Ultimately, we also emphasize transparency and accountability in the continent’s tax regimes and administration through having taxation related data available to Africans by concerned national government institutions.