In a major move reminiscent or replicating of spreading the fields of contestation that marks its global counterpart, the civil society in Nigeria is massing up against what it sees as threatening aberrations in the body politic. Eighteen of them who addressed a news conference earlier today identified the aberrations as unresolved cases of high profile corruption allegations; unhealthy and divisive hate speeches among politicians, political supporters, party leaders, traditional and religious leaders; premature electioneering campaign contrary to electoral timetable by the election management body, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as well as what it calls the brazenness and worrisome heights corruption has assumed in Nigeria.
Other national security issues worrying the civil society groups are what it identifies as poor working conditions, salaries, insurance and inadequate equipment that personnel of the Armed Forces, the Police and other Intelligence agencies work, relative to the risks they encounter; low presence of security forces vis-a-vis effectively securing lives and property; the large number of security personnel and equipment consumed by politicians, government officials and net-worth individuals; poor implementation of the Social Development Goals, (SDGs); delay in legislative action by the National Assembly, (NASS) and slow implementation of reforms in the Extractive Industries sector.
It named such high profile erring officials cases to include, in its own words:
- Salient but illegitimate re-engagement of the former Chairman of the Presidential Pension Reform Task Team, Abdulrasheed Maina, who was disengaged from service by the previous administration over N2.7b Pension Fraud;
- Babachir Lawal, former Secretary to the Government of the Federation attributed to the diversion and mismanagement of about N12 billion North East humanitarian intervention fund;
- The controversial effort by Amb. Babagana Kingibe-led Presidential Review Panel to siphon $44 million Intervention Fund belonging to the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) that apparently led to the unjust and unconstitutional removal of the immediate past Acting Director General of the Agency, Amb. Mohammed Dauda;
- Former DSS boss, Ita Ekpenyong who allegedly partook in corruption and mismanagement of funds amounting to $9million of $30 million operation fund from Sambo Dasuki, former National Security Adviser and who is enjoying protection from the DSS from arrest; and
- The alleged diversion of over $21million into private pocket by the Director General of the Department of State Security, Lawal Musa Daura.
The state of the Nation in Nigeria today is experiencing complex, multiple readings. Rather than a ‘single story’, it is being narrated from divergent perspectives: from the class, civil society, ethno-regional, religious, ‘True Federalism’, gender, generational, counter-cultural and even terrorist perspectives. But the civil society group is saying that the administration is experiencing dwindling capability in handling high profile corruption cases, is giving suspected culprits the chance to walk freely on the street, thereby sending signal to potential culprits to freely engage in corruption.
According to the group, the gains and progress in anti-corruption fight in the country is at risk if what it calls systemic corrupt practices are encouraged and celebrated, especially in the public sector, is not rapidly addressed. The level of corruption, it said, has reduced most Nigerians to staggering poverty despite Nigeria being blessed with vast natural resources.
Dwelling further on corruption, the group decried little information and absence of clear guidelines on how the USD$2.9 billion the Economic Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) told the 7th Session of the Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) in Vienna in November 2017 have been utilized. “With the overlapping mandates of anti-corruption agencies on asset recovery management, it is unclear which of the many anti-corruption institutions takes a lead in the coordination of asset recovery efforts”, lamenting how legislation such as the Proceeds of Crime Bill, 2014 which it credits with the potential to establish an acceptable asset recovery management framework remains stalled without explanation.
Adding the suspension of Nigeria from the elite EGMONT group of financial intelligence agencies as ample evidence of chaotic institutional structure in the anti-corruption domain, the group links this to “inexplicable inter-agency rivalry and lack of coordination of the anti-corruption effort. It warned of the expulsion of Nigeria by the credit overseer, with implications for the suspension of the debit and credit cards of Nigerians from the international payment system if the Executive arm fails to sign the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) Bill already passed by the National Assembly.
Going for the jaw of the leadership of the security agencies, the groups said they monetise the recruitment process, leaving the country with “a cash and carry security apparatus”, adding its awareness of what it calls the faulty recruitment and selection processes in the nation’s security forces which allows influential individuals to determine who is recruited, thereby throwing competence and qualification to the dogs.
They equally decried how hate speech phenomenon now pose grievous challenges to the electoral process, peaceful-coexistence, unity and diversity of Nigeria. They are worried that if current level of unresolved leadership, vote buying; electoral violence and sundry conflicts arising within political parties are not resolved, not only erode internal party democracy but also spell doom for electoral credibility in the 2019 General Elections.
The Judiciary has, however, been spared. Rather, the group commended it for the trial of high profile corruption cases as well as efforts at cleaning up its ranks through disciplinary action against erring judges even as they are insisting the judges in question “should face the full weight of the law just like other citizens”. But, it is also asking for more: proactive and vibrant judicial system for judicious prosecution of politically exposed persons and proper interpretation of anti-graft legislations”.
Unlike the Judiciary, the media is challenged to shun any “candidate or person or association who engages in campaigning or broadcasting based on religious, tribal or sectional reason for the purpose of promoting, opposing a particular political party or the election of a particular candidate.” Locating this in the spirit of Section 102 of the Electoral Act, it further asks of the media to decline publishing or airing political adverts, advertorials and sponsored political news that embody hatred or incitement to violence, that is abusive or editorials that denigrate individuals or groups on account of disability, race, ethnicity, tribe, gender or belief.
Spelling out the challenge for religious leaders, it puts this to abiding by the provisions of Subsection 3 of the Act which rules out political campaigns, rallies and processions or such activities where they are about promoting, propagating or attacking properties, candidates or their programmes or ideologies from places designated for religious worship, police stations and public places.
The civil society organisations in this outing include Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC); Partners for Electoral Reforms (PER); State of the Union (SOTU); Say No Campaign; Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD); Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) and Zero Corruption Coalition (ZCC).
Others are Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA); Civil Society Network Against Agenda (CSNAC); Accountability Mechanism for Maternal New Born and Child health in Nigeria (AMHiN); Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED); Youth Initiative for Advocacy Growth and Advancement (YIAGA); Protest to Power; Centre for Democratic Research and Training (CRDDERT); Organisations of Trade Unions of West Africa; National Procurement Watch Platform (NPWP); African centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL) and Borno Coalition for Democracy and Progress (BOCODEP).