The State Of The Nation Report at the 46th Meeting of the Board of Trustees Held on the 19th of March 2022.
THE STATE OF THE NATION
ActionAid Nigeria’s Account at the 46th Meeting of the Board of Trustees Held on the 19th of March 2022.
- Constitution amendment: Gender and Equal Opportunities (GEOB) Bill
Nigeria has a woeful women representation in political and elective positions. At the National Assembly (comprising the Senate with 109 members and the House of Representatives with 360 members, totalling 469 members of parliament), only 29 are women (six per cent of the total). There are, however, 440 men at the National Assembly. A low women representation in leadership positions amounts to denying half of Nigeria’s population the voice and opportunity to contribute to governance and development. The male-dominated legislature recently rejected an attempt to recalibrate this imbalance, thereby introducing a cog in the path to addressing age-long discrimination against women. For this reason, there must be an urgent re-convening, reconsideration, and immediate passage of the five women/gender-related bills: Bills number 35, 36, 37, 38, and 68 currently before the National Assembly.
The protest dubbed “Womanifesto” also being supported by AAN has resolved to continue this struggle to push back on the misogynistic attitude of the national assembly, the pattern of neglect of women’s concerns and disregard for womanhood. This is because severally women have been embarrassed and limited by the gender insensitive practices of the law makers. The failure to address women issues through the gender bill shows that women are irrelevant to the lawmakers. Thus, all efforts must be made to reject the dehumanization of Nigerian Women. The constitutional review should cure the current defect. The leadership of the National Assembly must rise to the occasion to right the wrong. To this end, Nigerian women demand a constitution that guarantees: an irreducible minimum of 111 seats for women in the national assembly; indigenship, citizenship, 35% in political party leadership and more appointive positions for women.
- Elections, INEC Preparedness, New Electoral Act and Party Internal Wrangling
As part of ActionAid Nigeria’s engagement on the electoral process, the organization observed the FCT Area Council elections conducted on Saturday, 12th February 2022 by the INEC. The election observation provided AAN the opportunity to assess the INEC’s preparedness to conduct the upcoming 2023 General Elections. The election was generally peaceful across the six Area Councils, as voters exercised their civic duty without conflict in the polling units observed by the Civil Situation Room field observers. Despite INEC’s repeated assurances of its readiness to conduct the elections, there was widespread malfunction of the Bi-Modal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), particularly endless automatic log out of the operator and challenges in authenticating voters’ fingerprints and detecting faces, which delayed the accreditation and voting process in 48.6% of the polling units. This glitch was witnessed by the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room, which AAN is a steering committee member. Consequently, it led to agitation among voters in some locations.
In some instances where challenges with the BVAS were escalated, the response time was long. Reports indicate that it took at least four minutes to accredit one voter in 66.2% of the polling units observed. These challenges were more prominent in Abaji, AMAC and Kuje Area Councils. Situation Room noted that INEC ad-hoc officials in some instances gave priority to Persons with Disabilities (PWDs), elderly persons and pregnant women in some of the polling units. However, most voting booths were not accessible to some categories of PWDs. The hydra headed monster of vote buyer once again resurfaced during the FCT election. The Civil Society Situation Room observed that in some locations, votes were sold for between N1,000 and N2,000 per voter. Apart from the usual cash distribution, vote buying reportedly took the form of digital transfers in some locations observed. Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari is commended for finally signing the Electoral Act Amendment Bill into law. This certainly will further deepen Nigeria’s democratic experience. In similar vein, the leadership crisis rocking the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) ahead of its national convention slated for March 26, 2022, also portend a great threat to the democratic trajectory in Nigeria.
- Importation of Adulterated Fuel and Crisis in the Airline Industry
Fuel scarcity has hit many major cities in the country with motorists queuing for hours in filling stations to purchase fuel, arising from the importation of adulterated fuel by some marketers. It was discomforting that the NNPC and other regulators in the downstream sector would allow Nigerians and businesses to undergo this harrowing experience without penalizing the culprits behind the importation of the adulterated fuel. As it stands, the leadership of the petroleum ministry has developed lethargy which has made quality assurance compromised leading to the importation of all manners of contaminated and toxic products into the country, at the detriment of law-abiding Nigerians. This economic sabotage has made many struggling individuals to suffer many untold hardships and losses like engine damage and loss of livelihoods. Transport fares and cost of items have also increased astronomically. Until immediate sanction of the culprits is made to serve as deterrent to others, more contaminated fuel and other products will be imported into the country in due course. Now, the persisting queues at filling stations have created severe hardship for the average Nigerian who has lost valuable time and dignity.
On the dimension of continued importation of fuel, Nigeria is losing the gains of the global high oil prices, currently at $112.16 for Brent Crude. Nigeria sells crude at the prevailing rate and imports finished products, thus incurring more burden on the economy. For a sustainable economy, Nigeria needs to urgently get her refineries working, as it doesn’t make economic sense, exporting crude oil to import finished products.
Acute shortage of aviation fuel (Jet A1) has also negatively impacted the aviation industry and the economy in terms of movement of goods and services. Consequently, thousands of travellers are left stranded at airports throughout the country. Airlines have reported shortages of aviation fuel, forcing them to reschedule or cancel flights. The immediate response from 06 players in the aviation industry is the formation of Spring Alliance. The alliance is the airlines’ response to the complaints of the flying public. The pact is to mutually support one another’s operations and improve aviation service delivery to their clients. Nigeria is Africa’s biggest oil producer and exporter, but the country is forced to depend almost entirely on fuel imports because of its inability to refine most of its oil for use at home. The price of Jet A1, the principal fuel used by airlines, currently ranges between 1.39 and 1.44 U.S. dollars per litre in the last few days, compared to the 1.08 price at which it previously sold. The airlines that can procure the fuel and continue operating keep hiking their ticket costs to cover for the increased charges. The scarcity of Jet A1 is blamed on the withdrawal of adulterated gasoline, which the nation’s national oil company, NNPC said was found to have been imported by four oil marketers.
- Recurring ASUU Strike
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has declared its intent to embark on a one-month warning strike as part of its resolutions at the end of its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting held in Lagos on Monday, February 14, 2022, to protest the government’s failure to implement various agreements it entered with the union. However, different interest groups have expressed displeasure that the government does not show seriousness to honour the agreements made with the union. One of the lingering issues between the government and the union include renegotiation of the 2009 ASUU-FGN Agreement, which ASUU believed ought to be reviewed every three years. However, nine months after the renegotiation was concluded in May 2021, ASUU said the government has refused to sign and implement the contents of the renegotiated agreement. Also on the list is the stalled adoption of University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) in replacement of the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS) that is currently in use for the payment of the union members’ salaries. However, ASUU alleged that the IPPIS is found to be marred with irregularities. ASUU is also demanding the regulation of the proliferation of state-owned universities by governors who it alleges owe staff salaries and payment of university subventions, leaving the universities with failing infrastructures.
- Safety and Security Concerns in Nigeria
Over the years, Nigeria has experienced an increase in the global terrorism indexes as the 2021 Global Peace Index produced by the Institute for Economics & Peace has ranked Nigeria 146 among 163 independent nations and territories according to its level of peacefulness. Nigeria moved one step from 147 in 2020, though it still ranked eighth among the least peaceful countries in Africa. The terrorism index in Nigeria indicator still stands at 8.31. The index measures the direct and indirect impact of terrorism on a scale from 0 (no impact) to 10 (highest impact). Nigeria is said to be one of the countries with the highest terrorism threat levels in the world. Fatalities because of terrorism continue to be recorded in Nigeria on daily basis. Several militant groups are active in the country, leading to attacks to both civil and military targets. The Northern region has been hit with waves of insurgency from Boko Haram (BH) and Islamic State of West African Province (ISWAP) over the past decade.
Insecurity in Nigeria has risen sharply over the last few years. In almost every region of the country there are two major security issues: communal clashes/civil unrest and kidnap-for-ransom (KFR). Community clashes are also increasing across the landscape. According to the available intelligence and media reports, kidnappings in the country have increased between June 2011 till date with humongous sum of money paid to kidnappers as ransom. Between 2015 and 2019, Nigeria’s rate of unemployment doubled to about 23.5% of the total adult population. According to Statista 2021, the unemployment rate in Nigeria in 2021 grew to reach 32.5%. This figure is projected to increase to 33% in 2022. The high rate of unemployment is a key driver of insecurity. With insecurity being a major issue, FG has taken steps to mitigate the issue.
The previous year, 2021 was a difficult year for Nigerians concerning security – as the country combats several forms of crime and terror – across all its 36 states. This is despite allocating ten trillion naira ($24.3 billion) to security between 2015 and 2021. The FG has increased the budgetary allocation for security in the country in leaps and bounds from 950 billion naira ($2.3 billion) in 2015 to 1.78 trillion naira ($4.3 billion) in 2020. In the 2021 budget, the entire security sector’s allocation was 1.97 trillion naira ($4.8 billion), representing a 14% increase from the 1.78 trillion naira ($4.3 billion) allocated in 2020. The FG has taken possession of 12 Super Tucano A-29 aircraft for the Nigerian Airforce in its fight against insurgency.
- Evacuation of Nigerians from Ukraine
The Nigerian government’s evacuation of its more than 12,000 citizens studying and living in Ukraine is commendable after Russia began a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022. Following the approval of the exercise by President Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama had mobilised Air Peace and Max Air for the evacuation of Nigerians from Ukraine since March 2, 2022. President Buhari’s magnanimity in approving the sum of $8.5m to immediately evacuate Nigerians from Ukraine would no doubt go a long way in saving the lives of Nigerian students that are resident in Ukraine. The Minister of Foreign Affairs had also summoned both the Russian and Ukrainian Ambassadors to his ministry to emphasize the need for their troops to ensure that they do not do anything that will harm the lives of innocent citizens.
- COVID-19 Updates
The spread of novel Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19) in Nigeria continues to record increases as the latest statistics provided by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control reveal Nigeria now has 254,091 confirmed cases. On the 14th of February 2022, 75 new confirmed cases of the covid-19 and no death were recorded in Nigeria. To date, 254,091 cases have been confirmed, 230,457 cases have been discharged and 3,141 deaths have been recorded in 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory. A total of 4.23 million tests have been carried out as of 14th February 2022 compared to 3.93 million tests a day earlier.
Against the backdrop of the rising number of coronavirus (COVID-19) infections, the recent directive by the Federal Government that all civil servants must undergo COVID-19 test has not received required level of compliance. The Federal Government in the last quarter of 2021 had issued a circular directing all MDAs to carry out COVID-19 test for all civil servants. However, the modalities for conducting the exercise across the federation were not comprehensively articulated. This has grossly hindered the expected increase in number of Nigerians testing for COVID-19.
- Upsurge in Ritual Killings in Nigeria
Ritual killings are now on the rise in Nigeria. They are performed to obtain human body parts for rituals, portions, and charms. Ritualists search for ‘human parts’ to make sacrifices or prepare various magical portions to give power and wealth to unscrupulous individuals. Some people engage in ritual killings to obtain charms that would make them invincible and protect them from business failure, illness, accidents, and spiritual attacks. Whether they succeed or not is open to debate. However, it is not easy to prove a link between such sacrifices and financial success or any type of success empirically. Amongst a large group of Nigerians, including the well-educated and people from different faiths and social backgrounds, there is a strong belief in the supernatural and the effectiveness of rituals.
This belief has a direct correlation to the prevalence of ritual killings. The people apprehended for ritual killings and the witch doctors who perform the sacrifices accused politicians, government officials, and wealthy businesspeople as their sponsors. Therefore, it is not surprising that there are usually increased cases of mysterious disappearances and ritual killings during elections. Given the rate of increase of ritual killings, no one is immune from becoming a victim. But some people are at greater risk. People with hunch back and virgins are unique targets as the ritualists allegedly believe that their eccentrics and purity make for a more viable sacrifice. Also, people living with albinism have equally become victims of ritual killings, fuelled by the belief that their ‘body parts’ could allegedly make one wealthy or prolong one’s life.
- Forex and its Implication for the Economy
The decision of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to cease funding commercial banks with hefty forex before the end of the year 2022, urging them to source forex itself to operate, further increases the disparity between the official rate in the official and parallel markets. Nigeria still being heavily import dependent and with businesses sourcing their forex from the parallel market, this is manifesting in the inflation rate and high cost of living. This is increasing the number of people living in poverty and worsening their survival status. The fiscal and monetary mechanism of the country should be coherent and be in tune with the realities of Nigerian Citizens, particularly those living in poverty. Realistic policies that promote export promotion should be improved, and fair pro-poor exchange rate management should be put in place and implemented. The leakages within the exchange rate regime should be monitored and blocked by the regulatory agencies.