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THE STATE OF THE NATION ActionAid Nigeria’s Account at the 39th Meeting of the Board of Directors holding at the Ibeto Hotels, Abuja on Friday 14thofJune 2019

AAN 39th Board Meeting

1. Citizens’ expectations of the returning government
The 2019 general elections are almost done and dusted, safe for the election petitions that are pending in the various tribunals across the country. The president, 29 state newly elected and re-elected governors and other elected representatives at National and State levels have now taken office for a four year term. The expectations of the Nigerian people to reap the proverbial dividends of democracy are high. It is therefore time for the mandate holders to quickly settle down to the serious task of governance and prioritise those things that will impact the lives of the people.

These include, but not limited to:

  • Executive Legislative Agenda

The need for a legislative agenda by the executives at all levels, the national and state assemblies. The lack of legislative agendas by the executives in the past undoubtedly hampered effective governance and negatively affected the cordial relationship of the two arms of government especially in the recent past. If the legislature knows the legislative priorities of the executives from the beginning of the year, quality time will be saved, while simultaneously enhancing mutual
respect and relations.

  • Security

It has become imperative to tackle the increasing wave of insecurity in the country. The unsecured and volatile environments in different parts of the country will make it very difficult for programmes to be
implemented in different parts of the country. A recent report by Amnesty International1 on the Harvest of Death of Nigeria, a documentation of the various farmers/herders’ clashes in the northern part of Nigeria shows that, “government’s inaction fuels impunity, resulting in attacks and reprisal attacks, with at least 3,641 people killed between January 2016 and October 2018, 57 percent of them in 2018 alone”. Similarly, there is an increasing wave of kidnapping and armed robbery across the country especially in Kaduna, Zamfara and Katsina States, where the nefarious deeds of so called bandits have brought activities in the states to a standstill. The ever-increasing rate of insecurity in Nigeria and the fact that it has almost defied solution calls for serious intervention. Some roads in Nigeria are now very unsafe to travel in. Kidnapping has become a problem across the country, as victims are randomly killed or their problem across the country, as victims are randomly killed or their families are made to cough out millions of Naira to have their loved
ones released.

Harvest of Death Report December 2018, Amnesty International Nigeria,‐of‐insecurity‐in‐nigeria‐is‐worrisome

  • Strengthening Accountability and Transparency in Public Finance Management

There is the need to build an inclusive economy, an economy with human face. This can only be possible through strengthening of the public finance management systems, especially the budgetary processes, it means strengthened accountability and transparency. To overcome the continuous mismanagement and wastage of the public resources, we need participatory and gender responsive budgeting processes, an effective revenue administration and expenditure management, open contracting and procurement, transparent accounting and reporting procedures, effective internal controls etc. As active citizens, we are expected to demand accountability on the utilisation of our common resources.

Unfortunately, in the past 3 years2 or more, a major observable trend is that budgets have been delayed due to different controversies between the executive and legislative arms of government arising at different stages namely: submission, defense, passage, accent into law etc. Such delays have had enormous consequences on the economy. It means that most businesses, and the economy will be at a standstill given that the private sector will have no funds to drive businesses. Similarly, as has always been the trend, our budget proposals remain non-gender responsive. The implication is that it has not been possible to drive a Gender Responsive Public Service (GRPS) delivery aimed at addressing both the strategic and practical needs of the target group. With such a scenario, social exclusions will be on the increase thereby fueling poverty and inequality.

To effectively fund budgets, there is the need to strengthen the taxation system in Nigeria with the cardinal objective of making it more progressive, thus creating a situation whereby High Net Worth Individuals, companies etc. are made to pay their fair share of tax. This action will lead to the redistribution of resources, enhanced domestic resource mobilisation to finance development objectives of the government etc. Unfortunately, the performances of our budgets, especially the 2018 budget, remain low and below expectations. The major obstacle has been the shortfall in expected revenue. According to the Budget Office of the Federation, about 50 MDAs are yet to remit a total of N2.78 trillion into the Federation Account, as at December 20183. This is in gross violation to Sections 21 and 22 of the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007 which prescribes such remittance. Another factor include the continued leakages of tax revenue. No wonder the President in December 2018, during the Governors Forum Meeting4 lamented that the economy was in bad shape and urged the Governors to intensify their efforts in revenue generation With the dwindling revenue occasioned by falling oil prices, non remittances, leakages etc., there is the tendency that borrowing will continue in 2019 to fund the budget.‐profile/total‐public‐debts‐buhari‐told‐us‐nigerias‐economy‐is‐in‐badshape‐

This is a major concern as the debt profile is pilling. To substantiate this claim, the Debt Management Office (DMO) put the nation’s total debt stock at N22, 428, 802. 94trillion ($73.213b) as at September 30, 2018. Both the federal and the state governments are currently grappling with high debt profile. A situation where the debt servicing to revenue ratio
exceeds 40% is worrisome. Certainly, the rising debt stock has negative implication for the economy.
For instance, revenue, productivity and fiscal stability are all affected.This explains the warning from both the IMF and the World Bank on the implications of Nigeria’s rising debt profile.

  • Promote Participatory Local Governance

The need for effective local governance cannot be over emphasized. It involves giving voices to women in politics, leadership empowerment, broadening electoral participation through grassroots involvement of the local communities, the youths, Persons With Disabilities (PWD) etc. Unfortunately, these essential features have been lacking, in addition to the semi-autonomous structures of the local authorities, forcing the LGAs to survive at the mercy of state governments. Such structure has been enhanced by the state-local governments joint account system, where the states receive fund on behalf of the LGAs and release whatever amount at their discretion to the LGAs. This has hindered development in the grassroots. With the new directives by the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit that the LG’s allocation should go direct to their accounts effective June 1, 2019, there is array of hope that the LGAs will once again come alive to their responsibilities.‐nigerias‐rising‐debt‐profile/
ThisDay Newspaper December 19, 2018

2. Electoral corruption

There is extensive evidence of electoral corruption in Nigeria. The reports published by both local and international election observation missions provide a good overview of the challenges encountered during the last elections. According to these reports, election processes have been replete with irregularities since Nigeria’s return to democracy. The previous elections, for example, were marred by corruption and fraud8. Throughout the country, observers noted instances of vote-buying, stuffing of ballot boxes, intimidation of voters, and irregularities in the administration of the election, such as inadequate supplies of voting materials and ballot papers that did not include all the candidates. While some irregularities remained, observers pointed to a higher level of independence and autonomy in the management of the election process. Nevertheless, a significant percentage of the population still does not trust the electoral commission. Despite improvements, election observers still emphasised the lack of integrity of some electoral officials and political parties. Among the irregularities witnessed during the election, were reports of widespread misuse of state resources, particularly by the ruling party. For instance, during the election period the incumbent president and state governors frequently made use of official events to campaign. The state-owned mass media allocated a considerable amount of time and space to reports on these events. The ruling party also made use of state vehicles and other resources during the elections.

3. Global warming/climate change increases poverty
Climate change is perhaps the most serious environmental threat to the fight against hunger, malnutrition, disease and poverty in Nigeria, mainly through its impact on agricultural productivity. The rural population, which produce more than 70% of the food consumed in Nigeria, are disproportionately poor and face malnutrition and disease. Both government and the private sector, that should drive the sector through consistent policies, robust funding and infrastructure development, have failed to accord this problem the priority it deserves. Moreover, the anticipated benefit from trade liberalization has failed to trickle down to the Nigerian farmers, coupled with inefficient local marketing systems. In addition, the farmers are slow in changing their farming practices such as bush burning, deforestation and rain-fed agriculture and they lack the requisite education, information and training necessary to adapt to climate change. It is recommended that the government should not only decentralize its programs on Social Investment Programme and agricultural research (funding and activities) but should make them participatory. In addition, there should be an explicit national agricultural policy framework, adequate provision for irrigation, drainage, weather forecasting and other agricultural technology infrastructure, an incentive for training in agriculture, participatory and on-going capacity building for farmers, drought resistant and short duration high yielding crops development, integration of indigenous and modern knowledge on climate change adaptation, strengthening of the extension services, and encouragement for the nurturing of existing farmer groups.

4. Looming environmental hazards of indiscriminate sinking of boreholes
Experts have expressed concern on the dangers of indiscriminate sinking of boreholes in Nigeria and the likely effect this could have on the environment if the practice is not checked. This was reported to have stemmed from the reckless abandonment of the various water works stations across the federation. It has been affirmed that the indiscriminate drilling of boreholes could cause earthquake and over abstraction of ground water with attendant negative consequences, even though the West African sub-region is not ordinarily prone to earthquakes. Consequently, there is a limit to the number of boreholes that can be sunk within a locality. People should obtain permits before
sinking boreholes.‐nigerians‐slip‐into‐extreme‐poverty‐in‐12‐months/lfldb3t

5. Alarming rate of people living in poverty vis – a – vis the achievement of the SDGs.
Evidences10 have shown that increased public social spending especially in the pro-poor sectors of agriculture, health and education has strong impact on poverty and inequality reduction, while simultaneously creating employment opportunities. It is thus, pertinent to make provisions for the adequate funding of Agriculture, Health and Education sectors given their strategic importance. Agriculture employs up to 80% of the population, especially in the informal sector, where the majority of the small-scale food producers are women farmers. Financial inclusiveness should be encouraged through increased access to credit by the small-scale farmers. Improved funding of the education sector will minimize the incessant strikes by the ASUU and enhance quality of education at all levels. Similarly, the health sector requires improved funding, our health centers, maternity and hospitals lack basic essential facilities, personnel and medications.

Unfortunately, poverty is on the increase in Nigeria, with the country India as the headquarters of poverty in the world. According to a new report by the World Poverty Clock, a data clinic of the World Bank, the number of Nigerians living in extreme poverty as at June 2019 is 93, 720, 530. A person is said to be living in extreme poverty if he or she survives with less than 1.90 USD per day. Even more worrisome is that 4.5 Nigerians slip into poverty every minute according to this report.

6. Youth unemployment
Unemployment is a hot issue in Nigeria, and many people are frustrated with widespread joblessness. Unemployment in Nigeria is like a disease that the cure is not yet discovered. According to official statistics, 24% of Nigerians are unemployed; 38% of those under 24 years of age are unemployed, but the World Bank estimates this number to be closer to 80%. Students at tertiary educational institutions often graduate into joblessness and low morale. Graduates often must stay in their parents’ homes for a long time, with mounting frustration and pessimism. This negativity is one of the major root causes of crime among young people in Nigeria, as they turn to nefarious activities because there is nothing else to occupy their time or generate income.

7. Inadequate Infrastructure in Nigeria
The power sector is corrupt, mundane and mismanaged. The companies in the electricity sector are not adequately equipped to deliver the required outputs and adequate consumable megawatts. Domestic production suffers in these conditions, but many corporate companies also find it difficult to conduct business in Nigeria because of frequent power failures. This problem keeps Nigeria a Third World country from year to year. The sordid state of our roads has made businesses suffer, though construction works are still ongoing in different zones of the nation.

Corruption and the embezzlement of public funds keep our highways in disrepair. In 2011, the World Bank reported that only 67% of paved roads and 33% of unpaved roads were in good or fair condition. Between 2001 and 2006, only $50 million of the needed $240 million was allocated for road maintenance. Nigeria needs to tackle the challenges around infrastructure by providing the proper funding and cracking down on the embezzlement of public funds earmarked for infrastructure. Sanctions should be imposed on any engineer or contractor that fails to carry out his/her responsibility. Nigeria needs more power and better roads. The workers in these sectors should be paid well, and those with good skills and strong ethics should be rewarded. Citizens should carry out a peaceful movement, telling the government how important the power supply is to the country.