Hamzat Lawal March 27, 2017 1

Until recently, I really had no idea there was an act called the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act talk much less of knowing what it was all about.This, I am pretty sure is also the reality for majority of Nigerians. In the little time I have been working in the transparency and accountability and open government scene, some facts have become clear and this article really is about sharing some of my experiences in invoking the powers that the FOI Act affords me as a Nigerian citizen.

First of all, let us examine the Act and summarize just a little bit. For Nigerians who are still where I was up until a few months ago, here are a few things you need to know about the FOI Act:        

  • It was signed into law by former president Goodluck Jonathan in 2011
  • It gives every Nigerian citizen the right to request for information from any public institution from all arms of government; executive (presidency), legislature (lawmakers), judiciary (courts) or any other parastatal supported by public funds () or private organisations that provide public services or utilize public funds
  • You can present your request in a written form but this is not compulsory. Verbal requests are also in line with what the law says and in the case of a verbal request, it is the duty of the institution to put the request in a written form on your behalf. However, given that the implementation of this Act is still in its nascent phase, it may be advisable to do a written request (for evidentiary purposes mainly)
  • ANYBODY- regardless of age, race, sex, religious, cultural or socioeconomic status CAN request information under the Act
  • You do not need to give reasons or explain why you need the information you are requesting for; you just need to ask!
  • A mandatory reply is expected from the institution not later than 7 days from the date of the request and a failure to provide information within this time is seen as a no response which is cause for the requester to file a complaint in any Nigerian court of law
  • Under certain clauses in the Act, the institution MAY decide to decline your request and they are mandated to state why they have refused.
  • If you feel that the institution’s refusal is not covered in any of the clauses, you can file a complaint against them in any Nigerian court of law
  • You do not need to pay any processing or other fee with regards to your request. The only fee that may be required is in cases where there will be extra costs in reproduction (such as photocopying) of information requested for
  • You can download a copy of the Act here

Now that we know some of the basic stuff about the FOI Act, let me now go on to share some of my most recent experiences in invoking the powers of the Act as a Nigerian citizen:

At Connected Development, some of my major duties involve writing FOI letters to institutions, liaising with and following up with these institutions to get information on some of the projects we undertake when we Follow The Money in the areas of health, education and environment.

In my interactions, I have found that there is still a lot of non-information or misinformation of the general public about what the Act really is about. This may be in part due to the general lackadaisical attitude of Nigerians when it comes to issues we generally consider to be technical and that we perceive may bear little or no effect on our present or future personal standing. To tackle this, it may become expedient that the Act be gazetted, translated into local languages and widely circulated so that Nigerians can easily access and become acquainted with it.

Another finding is that there is still some level of reluctance in the manner and timing that institutions respond to requests. They either do not see the need to reply or even acknowledge the requests and even when they do respond, they never comply with the mandatory 7-day response timing or see the need to ask for and give reasons for an extension period. This problem may have persisted as a result of the fact that no precedents have been set. The law is very clear about what should happen in the case of non-compliance but how many examples can we cite of cases where institutions have actually been held to account?

Now to the issue of who exactly is responsible for handling FOI requests in these institutions: most times, it takes a longer period to get a response because the requests have to be passed around multiple offices before it becomes clear who exactly should handle the requests. This is a very laborious and painstaking process which stalls productivity and response and can be clearly avoided if institutions designate a particular department or officer to the handling of FOI requests and these contacts should be made publicly available on the institutions’ public spaces for easy access.

Finally, it would be really great if public institutions can become proactive in the sharing of public information. We really do not need to wait for individuals or civil society to send so many letters and requests for information that should ordinarily be publicly available to citizens. This can be a very good way for Nigerian government to reiterate its commitment to the Open Government Partnership and show greater responsiveness to its citizens by making data open.

Now, as to whether the ACT is working or not…you decide.

Beyond Amnesty International Reports: Civil – Military Relationship in Nigeria

Hamzat Lawal March 20, 2017 0

While some are debating about Big Brother Naija(BBN), Amnesty International (AI) published a bashing human right report on the Nigerian Military, I think these are more pressing issues that tell directly on us and our perception in the International sphere than BBN. The general perception of the average young Nigerian has always been towards entertainment and the arts, which are not wrong in themselves, but requires balance to make us global citizens and engage more in active statesmanship. The quest for development cannot be achieved until we collectively get involved in those things that matter and concerns national development the most, this isn’t stopping them from being social or interact within the social space but to place emphasis on these various issues will go a long way to make these issues potent in the public domain.

The disappointments and the mystery many shares from the backlogs of bad governance and social injustice could be a justifiable reason for this wide lack of morale, but we must all collectively understand that the future must be better than the past, hence the need to be more active citizens than just active netizens, engaging more in the collectivity of our reality and steering the ship of state to focus more on pressing issues covertly influencing governmental policies, human and civil rights to the point where spaces will be vacated for young people to show what they have gathered over the years as political power will not just fall on our laps, we must work (hard) for it.

Some people deliberately have raised serious issues on the details of the report with more focus on killings of civilians by the military following various claims by CSOs, Amnesty claims its reports are concrete following the kind of methodology it used including the world acclaimed ‘triangulation’. The document which is over 400 pages, highlights the human rights abuses and violation world over in an alphabetical order. This report is a yearly survey which is geared majorly towards ‘state actors’ with little or no importance to ‘non-state actors or parties to conflict’.This emphasis has made it a little difficult for people to fully comprehend why not enough credence is giving to the military with all its successes in the offensive against terrorists and its strides in protecting the territorial integrity of the Nation.

Nigerians may not understand vividly what all these means, while conflict entrepreneurs may use these as a bashing tool against the government and military, I am not taking sides here but just analyzing these issues based on facts and available data, to be able to strike a balance from the whole situation, no matter how confusing it may look like.

I watched the Researcher from Amnesty International on Sunrise daily (24/02/2017) talking about the report and how the army has been indicted and to balance up immediately was the Spokesman of the military, who debunked all allegations and also opined that the videos and pictures released are cropped and hence not true, stating vehemently that the Army should be celebrated for its feats in keeping the nation together as one through all the various unrests in all parts of the country as if they are doing us a favor in discharging their job responsibilities.

The disconnect here is however how the Army has consistently denied ALL these allegations stating that it doesn’t kill citizens and just abides by the Rule of Law and Rules of Engagements as it is enshrined in the constitution as their responsibility. Truth is, in the past, the military has proven to be above the law and has dealt ruthlessly with civilians in purely civil issues, they have ruled as gods on the street as we have seen so many times physically and on Social Media, beating, maiming, threatening harmless civilians at different locations and times in the country. This shameful act has over the years characterized the military as their presence anywhere only exudes fear and panic. This reality has developed an impression in the minds of every Nigerian, young and old which has further deepened and widen the gaps of interaction between the military and civilians in the country, the fear is not location sensitive.

I have had my fair share of military brutality, and it wasn’t a palatable one. Sometime in 2012, I was enroute Makurdi, Benue State, with some students in an 18 seater bus for a wedding, I have had a foreknowledge of the madness that comes with Military brutality as a regular traveller, before this time I wasn’t a victim and as such never had a close shave with the military, we got to a military checkpoint at the fringes of Okene, Kogi State, the driver had not seen that kind of sights before and was very amused, he saw people ‘frog jumping’ in a row, the other occupants in the bus expressed such amazement, but I cautioned them silently, we were about moving past the checkpoint when the husky voice thundered “stop dier”, I immediately knew there was trouble, when the driver was too excited and laughed out loud, we were all paraded out of the bus leaving out the ladies and a man who identified himself as a Pastor. The rest of us tried insisting that we were undergraduates with ID cards flashing everywhere to no avail, we filled out in a line like the victims before us and perform the delegated punishment for our driver’s laughter.

I was quite unfortunate that day as we returned to the bus after the punishment for laughing, though very angry and could hardly walk well, I tried to hide my anger in a smile only for the soldier to tell me to go start from the beginning again as he opined I was ‘smiling too much’. Some will opine that this is a result of the military hangover from the days of dictatorship and military incursion in politics, but we will bear witness to the fact that in recent times the military have started purging itself of these civil abuses with the way it handled the cripple man who was abused by its men.

In the times of War, as we have in the North East, International best practices enshrined in the IHL (International Humanitarian Law) and other conventions and protocols, places a definite demand on State actors to protect the civilian populace and further gives detailed guidelines of how to treat Prisoners of War (POW), maintaining the HUMAN RIGHTS and to treat with all sense of HUMAN DIGNITY of even the insurgents and other non-state actors involved in the armed conflict, when they are arrested .

This is a point where many defer, as they simply cannot comprehend why when a terrorist is caught, he should not be killed without been tried first by a competent court, and not just to be shot arbitrarily, why a terrorist still have ‘human rights’ and that rights must be protected with the terrorist having his own share of relief materials and should not be tortured to give information. This thought bothered me so much as a postgraduate student studying International Humanitarian Law as a course, I could not comprehend either at first but as I dug deeper, I got more clarity about the various dimensions of these issues. Unfortunately, the mandate of Amnesty International is to sustain advocacy on International Humanitarian Law and other issues that pertain to Human Rights abuses.

My opinion should be for the Military to intensify its efforts on bringing to book those within its ranks whenever issues of human right abuses occur with fairness and justice in time as to continue to allay the fears of Nigerians. More must be done to ensure the fusion of the military with civilians to enable the populace to see the military as partners in the Nigerian project and also build mutual trust with the same to further deepen the synergy. The military must not see CSO’s as enemies but partners, we do not need them to come out and flagrantly deny these allegations with illogical rhetoric but to check itself and purge its own systems of those who have vowed not to adhere to the rules of engagement as enshrined in the constitution of the ‘Federal’ Republic. The successes of the Military notwithstanding will be maintained when the Military points its searchlight on its men who would not do the right things, taking laws into their hands and bashing the hard work that seems to have been put in place to ensure its smooth running of its mandate as it concerns security and protection of our territorial integrity as a Nation. Just as the case of the crippled man that was brutalized for wearing a camouflage trouser, that kind of swift response with investigation and strict disciplinary measures must be sustained, this actions will build a support base for the military and will continue to bridge that gap that has been in existence from the days of Military dictatorship

Finally, the government must train, retrain and empower the police to take full responsibility for its job regarding civil matters, it is an aberration to see the military deployed as if they do not have a much bigger job of protecting our territorial integrity and keeping us safe, as I see more Military uniforms daily than that of the police. The State must wake up to its responsibilities before we begin to experience and witness more damning reports like this.

IMAGE CREDIT: Amnesty International 

Busayo Oluwadamilare Morakinyo is a Humanitarian and Refugee Expert and a Peace Scholar.

Constituency Project to #FurnishTongo Dilemma: How a House of Assembly member tried Stopping Follow The Money

Hamzat Lawal March 9, 2017 1

“the coming of Follow the Money is more important to the community than sending Hon Yaya Bauchi to the Federal house of Assembly”.

Community Town Hall meetings are a veritable forum the largest grassroots movement on accountability –  Follow the Money employ  to engage all stakeholders in leading conversation around specific project(s) – This time, the project was about N20m that was budgeted by the Ministry of Education for the provision and furnishing of two blocks of classrooms in Tongo 2 primary school. Present at this meeting held on February 16th at the Tongo community town hall meeting were; the representative of the district head, the representative of the Funa Kaye Local government chairman and the education ministry representative, group of APC supporters, the representation of the Nigerian Police force, the school headmasters and his teachers and some other numerous countless stakeholders in Gombe state.

30 minutes into Muazu Modu of Connected Development introduction of the project, it was clear that the community members were not aware that such funds had been allocated. According to the councilor, Ahmed Bello Tongo who represented the chairman of the Local government, “CODE and it’s FOLLOW THE MONEY team are the first to give Funakaye local Government and Tongo community information on N20 million earmarked for the construction of 2 blocks of classrooms and equipping of Tongo 2 Primary School 2016 appropriation”

It was further revealed to us by the Special Assistant to Honourable Yaya Bauchi, representing Gombe in Federal House of Assembly that the project is the constituency project of Honorable Yaya Bauchi and the said fund is not N20m but N18m. He further threatened that if Follow the Money should have such a town hall meeting in Gombe Central, the life of our representative(s) will be greatly endangered. His entourage, who largely occupied the town hall meeting also claimed that Follow The Money was sponsored by the PDP. 

Likewise, one of the participants, named Madaki, warned the Follow The Money team to make this town hall meeting the first and the last as he would not condone us bringing together the elders to discuss such a baseless information.

While the meeting was about to be distracted by the claims of the honorable stooges, a representative of the Nigeria Police had to douse the tension in the room by his words“I have been in this community for a very long time I know all your personal and political differences. Please put your personal and political differences aside. From my point of view and details explanation and evidence presented by the Project Assistant, this organization has no political motive and this is a developmental and welcome idea” said the  Police Officer

At the end of the meeting,  Yahaya Umar who is the district head and the community stated that  “the coming of Follow the Money is more important to the community than sending Hon Yaya Bauchi to the Federal house of Assembly, and that with the information gotten, they will make sure the school is renovated, and that their children enjoys the teaching aids that comes with it.”.

A day after the meeting,  another SA of Hon Yaya Bauchi called our community team and  asked if it is a must to complete all the projects appropriated in the budget, citing the example that in 2015 appropriation there is a contract of 145 million in that community and it was not executed up to date… He further explained that the project is not yet awarded, explaining that Hon Yaya Bauchi himself wrote a letter himself to Minister of Budget and National Planning and that he was surprised that they responded that 50% of the project has been funded,  “I’m advising you, people, that you should find the project that will be funded from the source which is the Ministry of finance to the office of Accountant General before you organize  any townhall meeting” he further says.

Abubakar Muhammed, headmaster of the school later called to report that the Local Education Authority directed him to write a report and send it across to the State Universal Primary Education Board, so they can follow up on the project.

The legislative arm of the government is very important in a democratic system, as they are meant to represent their citizens, and enact laws that liberate citizens, but it can be depressing when the “representative of the people” would not inform their citizens on decisions they make on behalf of them, after all, it’s their constituency!

Read more about the campaign here


Hamzat Lawal March 3, 2017 2

I have had a couple of friends ask me “what is this Open Data day about sef?”. Well, to answer them and anybody else out there who may be asking the same question:

Open Data Day is an annual celebration of open data all over the world. It is a day set aside for open data enthusiasts and indeed everyone to bring light to the importance of open data. It is a day to show the benefits of open data and encourage the adoption and implementation of open data policies in the public and private sector as well as in civil society.

What is Open Data?

According to the Open Data handbook; Open data is data that can be freely used, re-used and redistributed by anyone – subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and sharealike. In summary, Open Data is data that anyone can access, use and share

How can Open Data aid development?

Whether we realise it now or in the future, Open Data really is the cornerstone of good governance and development. If citizens are able to access, understand and use information pertaining to public life, they are encouraged to become much more active citizens, keeping the government accountable and fulfilling their own part of the social contract. Government in turn, knowing that they can and are being held to account by the citizens they serve will have no choice than to act in the best interest of the citizens at all time- also fulfilling their own part of the social contract.

In short, Open Data is a demonstration of an Open government.

You can join in the open data discussion for this year by joining our Data Thorn on Skype by registering at Open Data Day 

See you there!

Towards Building a Community of Active Citizens in Nigeria

Hamzat Lawal March 2, 2017 0

On 16th of February, YIAGA brought together youths from all the states in Nigeria and trained them on community organising which was aimed at building a community of active citizens who will take responsibility to organise their communities to identify their resources and put them to use to achieve the result they desire even under uncertain conditions.

I was part of this 3-days training that held on the 16th -18th of February 2017. The training focused on organisation as a leadership practice. “We will be doing something different within the next three days which will require you all to go beyond your comfort zone, you will be working as a team and please, you have to take the training with a beginner’s mind set.” Those were the words of Samson Itodo who is the Lead on the Not Too Young To Run campaign (NTYTR) in Nigeria. In his word, Samson also made a clear statement on the explaining “Theory of Change” when he said “In articulating the theory of change in organizing, one must first ask, why has there not been change over time on the issue you’re set to achieve” I said to myself, this is one of the most important questions to answer truthfully.

Emmanuel Njoku and Tunde Adegoke

NTYTR bill is a bill that has presently passed the 2nd reading in the National Assembly, it is a bill that seeks to increase the inclusion of youths in politics and governance. In Nigeria, 18 – 35 years is the youth age, and this age bracket makes up to 60% of the electorate. Also, it’s only from the age of 18 that any citizen of the country gets qualified to vote. There has been a long going argument that if a citizen at 18years is deemed old enough to vote, why can’t he equally be voted for, but presently, the law of the country won’t allow that. The NTYTR bill seeks to address this challenge to an extent by reducing the stipulated age limit for all elective positions in the country and allow for Independent Candidacy in elections. It is believed that this will further advance the development of the country if the bill succeeds. It’s noteworthy that African youths have been innovative, resilient and breaking grounds and their maker’s habit has wowed the world as they have consistently shown that taking responsibilities is not about age or experience.

The time to get the NTYTR bill signed into law is now since the bill has received some support from the Legislature, but the steps in getting a bill signed into law in Nigeria is not a battle for the fainthearted. As the bill has passed 2nd hearing, it has to pass through the state legislative as well and it has to get the support and approval of at least 2/3 of the state legislatures in all the 36 states of the country. Though the process is lengthy and complicated, it is believed that it will pull through before the end of this year.

In the three days training, we were grouped into five groups, with each focusing on different and specific areas of concentration or constituencies, but in all, towards organising and mobilising resources and people in support of the bill at the state level.

Team Synergy

In my group, we focused on Political Parties. We were trained on strategies on how to approach these people, convince them and how we can build a team of advocates at the state as if we are already on the project.

Through the process of the training, we were trained on what leadership is and how organising is a core part of leadership, we were made to realise that leadership has roots which are;

  • If I am not for myself, who am I (self),
  • When I am not for myself, what am I (others)
  • If not now, when? (action)

Also, one of the most important aspects of the training is the organising which is defined as an adaptive form of learning that enable the constituencies (the People) to turn its resources into POWER it needs to achieve its goals or the change it needs to see.

I was made to understand the importance of public narratives and how I can use my story to connect people to act by planning ahead and developing a strategy that will motivate people to act. In essence, what I learned here is more of how to use story-telling as a powerful tool for initiating change.  I realised I have a story and know how to turn it to motivate people to act through the course of the training.

Power is also a core part of the training where we are taught what power meant, it’s phases (Structure, Agenda, and Decision) and why power mapping is very important so as to be able to correlate interest and power in achieving meaningful and significant results.

Also, team formation was also detailed and we were taught to form a team who are bounded, stable and inter-independent and the steps in launching effective leadership team was discussed extensively too. I can say this is one of the most important session to me through the training. The 3 steps in launching effective leadership team is as below;

  • Shared purpose
  • Create Inter-dependent roles
  • Explicit ground rules

A good team must have all these steps for them to be a formidable and relevant team. Having seen some of these steps firsthand, I never knew there is a model (steps) to it. Thanks to YIAGA for the insight!

In all, organising is a major leadership skill and snowflake leadership model which allows for leadership to be distributed is what has been missing in Nigeria as a country and I look forward to more formidable team being formed through efforts of organisations like YIAGA and CODE as Follow the Money towards community building. Maybe one day, when more people become responsible and start acting, then we could have a country of our dream but it is not a battle of the fainthearted.

In conclusion, organising as a leadership form could be explained in the following context;

  1. Shared stories
  2. Relational commitment
  3. Clear structure
  4. Creative strategy and
  5. Effective action.

I look forward to seeing more leaders emerging from the training and I am strongly convinced that the NTYTR bill will become a reality in Nigeria as this will help in giving youth equal access to be voted for rather than voting alone and maybe one day, we might have a youth as the president, Senate president or House Speaker in Nigeria.




Hamzat Lawal March 1, 2017 4

I remember the first time i heard the word ACTIVISM- before i got admitted into the university and there was always some news on the television about one form of student activism or the other- either students protesting a lack of social amenities or hike in school fees. These protests were usually characterized by the carrying of placards, sticks, chanting student union songs and slogans etc.

Then came the era of labor unionism, which in another way defined activism for me and a lot of Nigerians as facing off with government and going on strikes.

The above mentioned examples and some others that easily come to mind give the impression that activism always has to be violent and angry. Indeed, there are times when one has to get angry enough about the situation to want to change things, to say enough is enough. Activism is however a lot more than that.

The term activism in itself is quite contentious and has been the source of many debates with different definitions from different points of view.

The Freedom of Association, in their book “Moments of Excess” give one of my best definitions of activism as “specializing in social change. Therefore, an activist is an expert of social change”

A popular definition of activism captures it as being “an engaged citizenry”. Meaning that activists are generally citizens who are concerned about and take steps to address issues of public concern. Any issue that affects public life should concern us all. Ergo, we should all be activists.

Here are a few important steps to becoming an active citizen:

  • Be knowledgeable about the issues – knowledge they say, is power and one can never underestimate the power that lies in being equipped with the right type and amount of information. The only way to engage effectively with the issues is by being properly informed. So, do your research, ask question and dig deep until you get all the answers!
  • Be ready to engage – it should not stop at being equipped with the right type and amount of knowledge alone. It is pointless if you have the information and you are not ready to put that knowledge to work; all that energy and effort put into acquiring it would have just been wasted if you do not enagage!
  • Find a space/niche – there may be that little voice in your head telling you that you are the only person alive on earth who is interested in bringing about social change. This is farthest from the truth. There are many others who are interested in the same issues as you and who are also equipped with the information you have. So, what gives you the extra edge? The answer is your niche (that space you have created for yourself, that people can identify you with). Don’t get me wrong – you do not have to start an organisation or movement or enterprise to create a niche for yourself – you can find an organisation or movement whose vision/mission/aspirations tie very closely to yours and join them or collaborate or even volunteer. Resist the temptation for quick glory. Rather, understand that you need time to learn and mature and a great way to do this is by learning from those who have been in the game longer than you and who have more experience.
  • Walk the talk and talk the walk – a lot of people will argue that we have too many talkers and very few doers. While i may have certain reservations about the generalization a lot of people accrue to this statement, it is not entirely false in itself. Oftentimes, we find out that we have so many people making so much noise about an issue, especially on social media but, when it gets down to the nitty gritty; to actually getting down to the real work of doing, only a few are left. True activists are known by their actions, not their words. It may be something as simple as stopping in front of a zebra crossing while others are driving past or stopping at a red light while other drivers zoom past or you may decide to be like Mahatma Gandhi and go on hunger strike as a way of disagreeing nonviolently with a popular opinion. Whatever way you choose, just make sure your actions speak for you and people can identify you as a real change maker.
  • Be authentic – a friend once told me that passion comes from authenticity and i find this to be very true. When your passion stems from a place that is very real, there is no limits to the impact and influence that you can have on people around you.

Tying all of this to the work we do at connected development, we may not take to the streets , carrying placards and chanting (we do not need to). But the sound of our activism echoes loud and clear. We are breeding a community of revolutionary individuals who see governance as a partnership between the governed and the governing; each playing his own part at ensuring a society where social justice and equity prevails. We are breeding a community of social change experts, a community of concerned citizens and this is essentially what activism is all about.
If you are ready to become an engaged citizen, you can join our platform on

Tax Treaty. Training by ActionAid. My Experience.

Hamzat Lawal February 26, 2017 0

All these and more have been encapsulated in the reason behind the Tax Treaty Training hosted by ActionAid to bring to the fore, concise details of the Nigeria taxing system and the processes of Tax Treaties between Countries, most especially, Nigeria.

Hosted at one of the Luxurious halls of Sandralia Hotel, Jabi, from 20th to 21st February. The First Day of the training was dedicated to elucidate and make more comprehensible – Tax and Tax Treaties.

Coming in at Lunch, I was greeted by Kolo Kenneth who immediately handed a mini postcard sized paper to me, voila – a meal ticket. Headed straight to the lunch room. The rest is history!

Funny, I was seated next to one of ActionAid’s speakers for the event – Lovisa Moller and we spoke for the entire period of the lunch.

Lovisa Moller gave her insightful piece “Tax Treaties – a critical perspective”. Sliding through, she left no stone unturned as she explained the core of Tax and Treaties.

“Tax Treaty is an agreement between two countries to divide up and limit taxing rights. Tax Treaties decide how much, and even if, the Contracting States can tax multinational companies.Tax Treaties are also known as Double Tax Agreements (DTAs), Double Tax Treaties (DTTs) and Double Taxation Conventions (DTCs)”.

Still on Tax Treaties, she explained ‘How rights are divided up’. According to the slide report, it is:

  • Source vs Resident Taxation.
  • Rules are Neutral in theory, assymetrical in practice.
  • OECD and UK model Treaties propose different versions. Moreso, ActionAid analysis of 519 tax treaties concluded that: Tax Treaties impose an unfair burden on lower-income countries compared to wealthier countries.A question was raised by Lovisa as to ‘why countries sign treaties’, the floor was aroused to action and heads began to sway in contention for answers.

Here are some of the answers that were given:

  • New markers attracts Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).
  • Reduces taxes and ignites smoother investment .
  • It boots exports.

Moreover, in answering the question, she explained thus, “Tax Treaties attract more foreign investment – it can be assumed that Treaties will cause foreign investment to increase. The empirical evidence on the investment of Treaties is mixed. The potential revenue loss, especially to developing countries – including through ‘Treaty shopping’ – has caused increasing concern”.

ActionAid’s International Policy and Campaign Advisor; Lovisa Moller gave some brief lessons in the history of Tax Treaties before moving ahead.

ActionAid, through Lovisa Moller gave a strong reason why we should care about Nigeria Taxing rights. It was directly disclosed to participants of the training that:

15 out of every 100 children die at the age of 5. Meanwhile, Nigeria is reputed as Africa’s largest economy, the continent’s largest oil producer and largest owner of natural gas proven reserves. These sharp contrasts between socio-economic state and resource abundance makes for compelling need to evaluate reasons for insufficient flows of funds to the government by businesses who should contribute their fair share to the development of the country.

Noteworthy it is – Nigeria Treaty Ratification process, below is the process;

  • Initial Preparation
  • Negotiations
  • Approval (The Federal Executive Council approves the negotiated text)
  • Signature (The Minister of Finance or his/her representatives)
  • Ratification (The National Assembly must choose to enact into law)
  •  Entry into Force
  •  Renegotiation or termination


It was noted that there are impacts and implications in the processes that surrounds Tax Treaties, some of which the underlisted explains:

  1. It creates allowance for tax evasion and (or) treaty shopping.
  2.  Difficult to distinguish between genuine investors and “shell” companies.
  3. Nigeria being a net importer will remain so for the nearest future, the DTT by limiting the taxing right of Nigeria on dividend interest and royalty potentially reduces the tax base of the country which will.impact negatively on the revenue generation for the country. ActionAid however gave some promising recommendations on the above. It’s a praiseworthy effort from their part, of not only critically looking to the taxiing system but also giving lasting recommendations.

Read below, some of these recommendations…

1. Consider reviewing the current tax Treaty network to determine if the country actually is benefitting from its current and potential future tax treaties
2. Place a special review focus on the Treaties with Kuwait, Mauritius, Belgium, China, Spain, and the United Kingdom, as these have been found to restrict Nigeria’s rights more  than the norm.
3. Subject treaty negotiations, ratification, and impact assessment to far greater public scrutiny.I ended day one on a highly fulfilled note but understanding that Day two was pregnant with so much more, my impatience was steady.

Cluster Group of CSOs. talking Nigeria Tax Challenges

Day 2 started with a lot of innovative ideas around Tax, the moderator, Tunde Aremu was all around the hall fielding questions from participants and in return was checking on our level of memory retention – asking about lessons learnt on Day 1.

Tunde Aremu of ActionAID

He made startling, momentarily shocking revelations on how multinational companies have evaded taxes. Of all, he said “Firms like Deloitte have constantly aided and abetted countries on ways to avoid Tax payments”.

So much more was made known within the hours of the training. It was also explained – the various types of Tax rights; Profit tax, Withholding Tax, Capital gains tax.

We were asked to form clusters of CSOs, Journos to discuss challenges that beset Nigeria’s formulation of a concrete tax Treaty.

We were able to identify the listed as the challenges:

  • Secrecy in processes involved in drafting treaties
  • Low level of awareness on implementation of the Tax Treaties.
  • Perceived Capacity Gap 
  • Excessive Conception of Taxing rights.

We also discussed HOW TO TACKLE THESE CHALLENGES below are points from our discussion: That:-

  1.  There should be policy that is open and transparent and more private sector involvement / participation.
  2. Policies that allow participation of expertise around the specific Tax Treaty being negotiated.
  3.  Strict implementation of the Tax Policy rights
  4. The MDAs should be up to their responsibilities in making public – any Treaty entered into.

How can CSOs, POLITICIANS, GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS, MEDIA, LABOUR contribute to making these responses happen?

  1. They need to crucially understand the existing Treaties
  2. They should create awareness through the Media
  3. Mapping our relevant stakeholders for Advocacy and Engagement processes.


Enjoy your week.

I leave you to ponder on these revelations, I was wowed upon seeing these, I hope you will, too.

Social Cost of Revenue Lost to Tax Loopholes

– As much as tax is every citizen’s responsibility and  as well as companies doing business in the country, only few Citizens pay tax. The poorest who live in the rural areas are known to suffer this burden more, through multiple taxation. (HOW OFTEN DO YOU GET TAXED/ PAY YOUR TAX?)

– Corporations use their connection with political elites and Loopholes in Nigeria’s tax system to access tax holidays for their greedy benefits. (ARE YOU ONE OF THEM?)

– Due to tax loopholes, corporations and political elites engage in illicit financial flows to tax havens where financial secrecy is in place or low tax levies enable them profit from the act.



Olusegun Olagunju is the Media Strategist at Connected Development, He’s a Sociologist. He hopes to see a world where equal rights of all genders will be respected and a safe environment will be achieved. He tweets via @mobolsgun

CSOs Engagement with the Minister of Mines and Steel, our take home.

Hamzat Lawal February 19, 2017 0

Participants at the CSOs engagement with the Minster of Mines and Steel Development

Concerned bodies that seek to bring a total change to the face of the Mining Industry and Civil Society Organisations brought the Ministries of Mines and Steel Development and Environment together on the 13th day of February, 2017 at Rockview Hotel, Wuse I I, Abuja to factor out ways to efficaciously partner and bring about the desired sectoral reform that has hitherto rented the economic fabric that the Nation is adorned with – from the Mining sector.
The Honourable Minister of Mines and Steel Development was ably represented by his Chief of Staff – Mr Egghead Odewale. The Minister, in his usual liveliness and strong enthusiasm welcomed all Heads of CSOs present to the event, in the same vein he said “It is always a delight for me to interface with a constituency which I hold dearly haven been a member for a considerable part of my life. There is always a nostalgic feeling associated with these intermittent interactions with most diverse people-oriented sector within the nation state…”

He started his speech with a brief overview of the Ministry’s efforts in boosting the sector towards the agenda of diversifying revenue accruals to the Federal Government.

Dr. Fayemi highlighted some few challenges barricading the growth of the sector among which Insufficient Funding, Lack of Geological Data, Weak Institutional Capacity, Limited Supporting Infrastructure, Limited Cooperative Federalism, Low Productivity, Illegal Mining and Community Challenges, Weak Ease of doing business and Perception issues, Protracted Litigations on Legacy Assets were mentioned.
In furtherance, he gave a review of the past year – 2016 and was quick to point out that the past year 2016 was one of the toughest since the world emerged from the great recession about 7 years ago. He praised all stakeholders because “Much of what has been achieved has been a result of the collective efforts of all stakeholders, based on shared vision of the sector, which we have articulated in a roadmap, Our Ministry considers all stakeholders as partners with a common goal, which is why we spend time engaging with various publics, providing feedback, sharing our vision, and eliciting more concerted participation”

On funds not being sufficient for the sector to thrive, the former Ekiti State Governors had this to say;

“We sought for N30bn intervention fund from the Federal Government, partly to help provide cheap loans and grants to industry participants as well as for directly investing in foundation infrastructure… we got approval got activation and securing access to the revolving Mining Sector component of the Natural Resources Development Fund”.

He made it known at the event that the Ministry is working with Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority, The Nigerian Stock Exchange and others to assemble a $600m investment fund for the sector.

A large dose of relief as the Minister revealed that the Ministry has secured support from the World Bank for the funding of the Mineral Sector Support Fund for Economic Diversification (MSSED or MinDiver) program which is to provide technical assistance for the restructuring and operationalisation of Solid Minerals Development fund.

Dr. Fayemi said the Ministry is working out modalities to engage world-class exploration companies to collaborate with her data generating agencies towards providing bankable data to attract big players in the Mining sector. This is in a bid to bridge the gap of unavailability of Geological Data.

The Sector has been assailed with gross illegal mining and also plagued by conspicuous and outrageous community challenges but the Minister informed us that “We are working with the state governments and relevant Ministries to formalise and manage our artisanal miners, while also working with defense and security agencies to cure the actions of illegal mining in the country”

In the light of all these, there is an outlook for the year 2017 and years ahead as expectations and projections were highlighted. The Ministry is to focus on priority areas of competitive advantage to drive growth, some of which are:

  • Priority Minerals as iron ore, coal, bitumen, limestone, lead/zinc, gold and barite have been identified as key for Nigeria’s domestic industrialization and infrastructural requirements.
  • Served Market – Nigeria will initially focus on the domestic market, trading ore and processed materials to domestic buyers at a quality level comparable to imported materials to win market share from imports. As global commodity market recover, Nigeria will then seek to serve both domestic and export market. Nigeria will also seek to exploit its mineral assets in such a way as to preserve and extend the life of its holdings for future generations and manage earnings carefully.

Minister of Mines and Steel Development was represented by his Chief of Staff – Oluseun “Egghead” Odewale

According to the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, to achieve these set goals, Specific Objectives were outlined which include the under-listed:

  • The set-up of the Mining Implementation and Strategy Team (MIST) to drive the execution of the roadmap
  •  Restructuring and reorganization of the MSMD for more efficient operations, and enforcement of established laws and regulations governing the mining sector.
  •  Commencement of process of working with National and State legislatures and governments to address gaps, and resolve conflicts in mineral resource legislation.
  • Development of a strategy to use priority minerals domestically and substitute exports.

The Heads of CSOs present were more than ready to give their all towards achieving a meaningful success in the Sector.

The Minister, however, gave a list of suggestions required of the CSOs in bringing growth and development into the industry. He suggests that;

  • CSOs could help improve the knowledge assets and awareness of stakeholders including the Civic public about the Mining sector.
  •  CSOs should help Monitor the decisions, promises, programmes and plans of the Ministry against available resources to ascertain value of resource application
  • CSOs should critique the plans and programmes of government to ensure best value for Nigeria and Nigerians in the short to long run.
  • CSOs should help Monitor Mining operations to ensure that investors or operators maintain Fidelity to their community development agreement. Especially, monitor corporate social responsibility impacts of mining operators.
  •  CSOs should help support the promotion and realisation of the NEITI principles and programmesAmong others.
  •  CSOs should help should assist in the coordination, organisation and management of ASM cooperatives.
  • CSOs can also help to empower community representatives to assess and flag mining operations, which may undermine the health and safety of their communities.

The Honourable Minister fielded questions from participants of this Engagement and gave insightful responses where required, some of the few questions raised was from the CEO of Connected Development, Mr Hamzat Lawal, he asked the Honourable Minister if it was possible to get the names of the companies that have been licensed to Mine.

He asked further that Datas of ecological funds that have been given to states should be made public so information would be available to work with.

The Co-Founder of Follow The Money rounded off by asking the Honorable Minster his Ministry’s plan for Safer Mining Process putting into consideration what happened in Shikira.

The Minister also responded to a question raised by a participant asking what the Ministry is doing in terms of technological monitoring of extraction sites. He said provisions are underway for that as proper investigation will be done in that regard.

In conclusion, he appealed for perseverance as right measures are taken and implementation of the sustainable reforms that would outlive his tenure are entrenched.
He said “I invite you to join us as we continue on this road to rebuilding this sector, unlocking it’s full potential, and making it one of the key sources of our future prosperity”.

Olusegun Olagunju is the Media Strategist at Connected Development, He’s a Sociologist. He hopes to see a world where equal rights of all genders will be respected and a safe environment will be achieved. He tweets via @mobolsgun

Calls to CSOs Coalition to Achieving Open Government Partnership in Nigeria

Hamzat Lawal February 16, 2017 2

Connected Development [CODE] was invited to an Open Government Partnership (OGP) event organized by Budgit. The event brought together Civil Society Organizations (CSO) such as Public and Private Development Centre,  Institute of War and Peace Reporting, Network of Police Reforms in Nigeria, Dean Initiatives, Center for Democracy and Development amongst others to discuss the tools used by Budgit in 2016 towards advocating for OGP in Nigeria.

Stanley Achonu and Abayomi Akinbo of Budgit led the event, discussing the tools from FOIVault, PICC and Find a cop. FOI Vault is a repository of requested FOIs by credible and verifiable organizations to the Ministries, Agencies and Departments of the Nigerian Government.

Bearing in mind that a lot of my organizational work involves requesting for more information from the government through the use of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests, I was able to see the potential of the tool as it allows for documentation of FOI requests and response from the government.

As such, I can visit the vault first before sending my next FOI to a ministry or other governmental institutions so as to be sure that someone else from another organization has not sent the same request and likely gotten an answer which may aid my work.  Also, it saves the concerned governmental agency from having to spend valuable time in dealing with a request to which it has devoted time to in the past, albeit to another organization and at the end, we can all synergise and work much more effectively. was also one of the presented tools which were used to document verified corruption cases against any Nigerian that has a case with the court of law in the country. As the Ministry of Justice does not have such electronic record, I think this could be a good repository for a background check on anyone intending to run for public office in Nigeria.

Furthermore, the last tool that was showcased is which is a simple web application that can be used to locate the nearest Police station in Nigeria. “We are not able to get enough data around this as the Nigeria Police Force is not ready to make things easier for us,” says Abayomi. As such,  at the moment, there is not much data on the platform.

The presentation was concise, interactive and engaging as it opened me up to new and innovative ways data can be made open and accessible to everyday users. The event eventually ended with a brainstorming session involving all the participants on how to improve the tools as well as how to make CSOs see value in these interventions towards achieving Open Governance Partnership in Nigeria.

Personally, I think collaboration and data sharing between civic organizations is key as this will enable us to build a formidable network of citizens who will have the much-needed information at their fingertips, making them well informed and able to engage the government at any level. This will, in turn, have a lasting impact on achieving good governance in Nigeria.




Hamzat Lawal February 16, 2017 2


Every year, the federal budget is expected to pass through certain stages before it becomes an act (essentially a law for implementation).

         stages in the budgetary cycle

One of the very important stages is a joint house public hearing (which forms part of the processes in the budget approval and accent stage) where members of the public can make submissions and inputs on the budget. The public hearing for the 2017 budget took place between the 13th and 15th of February 2017. During this time, a lot of comment was generated on the need for Nigeria to break away from the over dependence on crude oil as  the major source of revenue. In proposing alternatives to a diversified income revenue generation, the ministry of budget and planning highlighted taxation as a major alternative. In the minister’s presentation, there was much talk about broadening the tax base and I dare ask “HOW?”

Does the Federal Government’s idea of broadening the tax base involve ensuring that more individuals and companies who have not been paying taxes in the past begin to do so or does it intend to increase the tax rate from what it is currently? If the former is the case, then we may be heading in the right direction but a question that readily comes to mind is “how do we ensure accountability in the tax system?”. Becoming  a tax payer ultimately imposes a duty on the payee to ensure that his/her taxes are judiciously used because nobody would not want to see their hard earned money end up in personal pockets, bank accounts, safes or even wells dug out solely for the purpose of hiding embezzled funds. Becoming a tax payer means that they will ask questions about the roads their money is supposed to build, the electricity it is supposed to provide, the hospitals it is supposed to erect, the schools it is supposed to erect and make functional and so on…

Is there any provision presently in place to ensure that citizens’ questions are answered if and when they make them? I know a lot of people will be quick to mention the Freedom of Information Act signed into law in 2011 but permit me to ask how many Nigerians know about this Act and the liberty it provides for every citizen. And even for those that know about the Act and do use it, how many times have they gotten responses from these public institutions and what structures do we currently have in place to ensure compliance and accountability (I will share some of my personal experiences in a later post)?

If however, the latter is the case, then it only becomes reasonable to conclude that this government will not be acting in the interest of the already poor masses and its claims at being a pro-poor government becomes questionable.


Celestina is a Project officer at Connected Development. She spends her time writing and volunteering in organisations that work in development and health. She tweets via @Celna4all