Press Statement Issued by the Board of Directors of ActionAid Nigeria after a review of the State of the Nation, During the 38th Meeting of the Board Held on the 23rd Day of March 2019 at Ibeto Hotel, Gudu, Abuja, Nigeria.
ActionAid Nigeria has followed with keen interest the developments in Nigeria within the first quarter of 2019. As an organisation working to end poverty, we believe that the process of achieving our mandate requires the functionality of every instrument of government.Not discarding the efforts of government in the areas of improving the economy and security, we believe that much more can be done to make Nigeria better and safer for the citizens.
We have therefore reviewed with keen interest and taken cognizance of issues as they unfolded in government, politics, economy and security within the last quarter, particularly as they affect vulnerable groups like women, children, Persons with Disabilities (PwDs), and the youths. Consequently, we have decided to share our views with the following observations and recommendations:
The conduct of the 2019 general elections was observed to be largely peaceful. Though, several issues are of concern and need to be addressed before the next general elections in 2023.These issues include but not limited to prompt releases of funds to INEC; logistics challenges, smart card reader failures, security partisanship; transparency in vote tallying etc.
The FG is commended for the giant strides recorded in strengthening the Nigerian economy after the last recession. This modest success however has been under intense strain due to the instability in oil receipts. This has also been worsened by debilitating high cost of governance.
The rising posture of President Muhammadu Buhari in the campaign against corruption is commendable. However, the anti-corruption fight is like sweeping in the rain. Not many Nigerians still have corruption averse mentality. Corruption has eaten too deep into our national social fabrics such that it has been subtly taken as a norm in many quarters. This poses a threat to wholesome public service delivery.
For the FG to sustain its campaign promises to the electorate, there is need to grow the government’s revenue streams, which can thereafter be invested in infrastructure; other development projects, and further stimulate economic growth. The purported plan to increase VAT could reduce overall consumption and further slow-down the economy, thus making it counter-productive.
We appreciate the FG’s continued commitment to stemming the tide of crime and criminality. Despite that, insecurity has continued to be the order of the day. Safe spaces, especially for women are shrinking. Kidnapping and communal clashes have also intensified with attendant displacement of people.
While FGN’s youth empowerment initiatives like N-Power and the rest are commendable, Nigeria’s unemployment rate remains frightening. It is like seating the country on a keg of gun-powder because of the danger inherent in keeping an army of unemployed youths.
The FGN through TETFund provides financial supports for the ivory tower but more needs to be done. This is because Nigeria’s educational system and institutions have been grossly underfunded over the years which has put to question the quality of learning taking place in these schools. A strong indicator of this manifests in the incessant and protracted industrial actions by labour unions in our tertiary institutions.
The FG’s ongoing investments in Lagos-Ibadan-Kano rail line; aviation terminals; highway construction among others are pathways to national prosperity. We however observe that more needs to be done because poor infrastructure without a doubt, has very severe effect on peoples’ lives. The perennial electricity shortages, housing problems, lack of proper water and sanitation infrastructure are making Nigerian states unlivable. Similarly, infrastructure inadequacies, as well as inefficiencies in our transport sector such as roads, ports and rail transport are major hindrances to economic development.
The FG has promised a more inclusive administration that will reflect diversity. This is inevitable because there is a widening gap of gender inequality in the Nigerian society. We have a social structure which enables men to dominate women. Women are still being continually discriminated against, and in most cases, this prevents them from attaining their full potentials.
While we give kudos to INEC for its efforts in the last general elections, It Is evident that Nigeria’s electoral act and other related electoral laws need a total review in preparation for the 2023 general elections. As much as possible, our electoral process needs to be automated for better outcomes and value for money.
The present government’s anti-corruption campaign is highly welcomed but there is need for a more strategic approach to the anticorruption fight. It implies strengthening our public institutions, making them more effective and efficient in service delivery. Overall, we need strong institutions capable of independent interpretation and implementation of public policy objectives in Nigeria. Similarly, the anti-corruption fight should go beyond the focus on the politicians but also beam its light on the public servants.
Rather than an increase in VAT at this time, other avenues could be explored in the short term such as the removal of petroleum subsidy which many have argued does not benefit the Nigerian populace. The plugging of fiscal leakages, a move which is currently being enforced by the present administration, can also be further strengthened.
If VAT increase were to be implemented by the government, several measures should be taken to ensure that the objective of the increase is realised. An instance is the provision of the relevant technology to ensure proper monitoring, collection and elimination of leakages. The VAT increase could be varied relative to the kind of goods/services being purchased, since the effect on the poor would be greater than on the rich. e.g. higher VAT rate on luxury items.
The Federal Government needs to uphold social justice by demonstrating commitment and zeal towards the protection of lives and property as enshrined in the constitution by utilizing cutting-edge information technology for intelligence gathering to make crime and criminality difficult to perpetrate.
We lend our voice again to the call for increased budgetary allocation and prompt release of funds to lift our education sector from the doldrums. The welfare of academic and non-academic staff, at all levels should be taken more seriously to increase their productivity, thereby adding more value to the sector.
Nigeria needs to tackle the challenge of infrastructure by providing the proper funding and cracking down on the embezzlement of funds earmarked for public infrastructure. Nigeria needs more power and better roads in order to stimulate our ailing economy. The workers in these sectors should be paid well, and those with good skills and strong ethics should be rewarded. Citizens should engage the duty bearers through peaceful movement, keeping the government on its toes on how important power supply is to the country.
The factors and circumstances that perpetuate the inadequate representation of women in Nigerian society, which pose serious threats to Nigeria’s quest for democratic consolidation and sustainable development need to be addressed by the incoming administration for inclusion. The undue dominance of men in the socio-political sphere, including imbalances in political appointments is unacceptable.
Stiff sanctions should be in place to stem corruption and increase foreign direct investment in Nigeria. For this to happen, there should also be more investment in modern infrastructure which will boost the economy. Single digit interest rate facilities should also be applied to starter entrepreneurs with a view to stimulating the economy.