Text of a Press Release Issued by the Board of Trustees of ActionAid Nigeria after a Review of the State of the Nation on Saturday, 3rd, December 2022
The Board of Trustees of ActionAid Nigeria at its 48th meeting held in Abuja reviewed the state of the nation and made the following observations and recommendations for the development of the nation.
- This year’s flood is believed to be the worst that Nigeria has experienced in a decade. This is partly because of the Federal Government’s failure to build a second twin dam in Adamawa State, the Dasin Hausa Dam project, intended to contain the water overflows from the Lagdo dam in neighbouring Cameroon and this has contributed largely to the severe flooding experienced in many states. With the World Bank's grim prediction of 95.1million Nigerians hitting the poverty line by the end of 2022, the destruction, and severe losses that families, states, and the nation experienced from the flooding will hasten the realization of this figure.
- In October, the United States and the United Kingdom missions in Nigeria issued public travel advisories to their citizens of a heightened risk of terrorist attacks in Nigeria. Despite this, the nation’s National Security Adviser has assured that Nigerians are in no danger and the terror alert is needless and unfounded.
- Also in October 2022, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) called off its eight-month long strike following the intervention of the leadership of the House of Representatives. However, according to ASUU, even though an agreement was reached with the Federal Government (FG) to pay off the salary arrears of its members, as well as concede to some of its other demands, FG paid a pro-rated salary upon suspending the strike. ASUU is utterly disappointed at the FG for reneging on the agreement and is contemplating a legal action including shut down of universities in collaboration with other academic and non-academic unions in tertiary institutions.
- As of November 30th, 2022, Nigeria’s exchange rate stood at NGN755 per $1 at the Bureau De Change, popularly known as Black Market and according to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the headline inflation rate in September 2022 was 20.77% while the food index stood at 23.12%. The Central Bank of Nigeria’s recent decision to redesign selected Naira notes - NGN200, NGN500, NGN1000, with the cardinal objectives of mopping up growing liquidity outside the banking system and mitigating counterfeiting of the naira has also increased the inflation rate. The continued downward trend in the economy is also reflected in the employment ecosystem in the country, The unemployment rate at 33.3% is an all-time high while youth unemployment stands at 42.5%.
- The recently approved 2023-2025 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and the Fiscal Strategy Paper by the Senate are not positioned to address the mounting economic challenges in the country, especially the pro-poor sectors, e.g., Agriculture, Health, and Education amongst others. Poverty has increased with the number of Nigerians living in extreme poverty, less than 1.90USD totaling 133million going by the latest multi-dimensional poverty index report issued in November 2022.
- Ahead of the 2023 General Elections, we have observed, albeit disappointing, that Nigerian youths and women are yet to achieve the level of inclusion required to gain representation in politics, largely due to leadership deficits, and poor internal democracy amongst the parties. In addition, the absence of a strategic political agenda poses barriers to young people and women playing important roles in national development. On the other hand, the disposition of Nigerians towards the 2023 elections tilts towards a quest for good governance. Unfortunately, the campaigning is taking both ethnic and religious colorations, posing a dangerous trend for our democracy.
- Over time, there has been high incidence of pipeline vandalism and crude oil theft which has prevented Nigeria from meeting her crude oil production quota. This has brought dearth of revenues to our ailing economy. It has also made the 2023 appropriate proposal to rely heavily on borrowings.
- In recent times, INEC has recorded orchestrated attacks on its facilities. Lately, three (3) offices of the Commission were either set ablaze or vandalised by “unknown gunmen” and ‘hoodlums.’ Sadly, the prosecution process seems not to be accelerated. This emboldens the perpetrators of this dastard act, and it may undermine the outcomes of the 2023 general election, although INEC has assured that the PVCs destroyed could be reproduced in 48 hours.
- INEC’s preparedness for the 2023 general election is impressive with recent commencement of the Voters’ Register display across all the States, Local Government Areas, Registration Areas, and Polling Units for voters to make claims and raise objections where necessary. This indicates that Nigeria is set for a credible electoral process.
- In November 2022, a 23-year-old student at Federal University, Dutse, Aminu Adamu Mohammed was taken into custody by security officials on the orders of the First Lady of Nigeria, Mrs Aisha Buhari for a purported defamatory statement on Twitter against the First Lady. The student critic was subsequently assaulted and remanded at Suleja Prison and later freed after three weeks.
- ActionAid Nigeria Board of Trustees recommends that the FG prioritises perennial human-induced flooding because a repeat of another severe flooding in 2023 will heighten the poverty level. Sustained investment in infrastructure, particularly in the building of climate-resilient buffer dams to effectively contain excess water spills from Lagdo dam and other dams that overflow to various states in Nigeria is paramount to avert future occurrences. Similarly, ecological funds must also be judiciously utilised, especially by the state governments for dredging of the waterways and other measures.
- We recommend that the safety and security of Nigerians should be handled with utmost importance and security agencies must ensure they adopt strong proactive measures to prevent terror attacks rather than modulating such alerts in reactionary manner.
- We admonish the FG to fulfil its obligations to the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and other academic and non-academic unions with whom it reached agreements. Nigeria’s tertiary education deserves an end to the incessant strikes mostly always triggered by the failure of the government to fulfil its part of an agreement reached. In addition, strike must not be seen as an illegal instrument to actualise public struggles and lecturers’ salaries must be paid without being pro-rated because if ASUU members had not be working during the strike, students would not be mobilised for the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).
- The National Assembly in its approval and appropriation processes must factor in the prevailing economic realities, as such the amendments of macroeconomic assumptions should not simply target increasing the envelope on government spending but targeting the actual measures to reduce poverty and inequality. ActionAid Nigeria’s Board of Trustees also recommends that the National Assembly should begin to consider engaging non-political and non-partisan economic experts’ opinions in such approval processes. Similarly, a well thought-out and sustainable plan must be deployed immediately to finally address the hydra-headed petrol subsidy issue to free up more resources to address Nigeria’s multi-dimensional poverty.
- Youths and women constitute the larger percentage of the population. Hence, political parties must adequately include them in leadership and decision-making processes including strategic appointive and elective positions.
- Since the main source of revenue to the Nigerian Government is oil and gas, FG must plug crude oil theft. The NNPC must collaborate with other security apparatuses and relevant agencies to put in place technology-driven proactive measures to curb the unabated incidences of pipeline vandalism and crude oil theft for Nigeria to meet her crude oil production quota. Earnings from oil exploration must also be purposefully dedicated for the diversification of the economy.
- In conclusion, as the electioneering campaigns continue across the country, Nigerians are enjoined to utilise these opportunities to critically interrogate the political parties’ manifestoes and their electoral promises. Now is the time to interrogate their offers and how they will be practically delivered at the different levels of government. INEC must also call politicians and party leaders who make incendiaries during campaigns to order. What the electorates need are issue-based campaigns. FG must also tame the gale of indiscriminate torching of INEC offices by arsonists across the country to prevent willing voters from being disenfranchised. These arsonists must be prosecuted to serve as deterrent to others.
- In a nation guided by a constitution, the First Lady was expected to deploy legal means to seek redress in the alleged defamation case with social critics rather than deploying security operatives as agents of oppression. Citizens have the right to freedom of speech and expression, and the First Lady should not be part of gagging the citizens. ActionAid, therefore, reiterates that people in leadership or political positions should endeavor to utilize the legal instruments in seeking redress than deploying reckless display of power. We stand in solidarity for the voices being stifled.
Jummai Umar-Ajijola PhD
ActionAid Nigeria is a national non-governmental, non-partisan, non-religious, civil society organisation, and an affiliate member of the ActionAid International Federation with presence in 45 countries. It works in solidarity with people living in poverty and exclusion to achieve social justice, gender equality and poverty eradication towards achieving a just, equitable and sustainable world in which every person enjoys the right to a life of dignity, freedom from poverty and all forms of oppression.
Oluwakemi Akinremi-Segun - Communications Coordinator, ActionAid Nigeria Tel: +234(0)8092076904 Email: Oluwakemi.AkinremiSe@actionaid.org | Info.firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.actionaid-ngr.org Facebook: ActionAidNigeria Twitter: @ActionAidNG