Nige­rian civil so­ci­ety and the fight against cor­rup­tion

The Punch - - VIEWPOINT - Jide Ojo

ON Jan­uary 3, 2020, The Osasu Show on the African In­de­pen­dent Tele­vi­sion aired a doc­u­men­tary fea­tur­ing me and a cou­ple of oth­ers on the ac­tiv­i­ties of the Civil So­ci­ety Or­gan­i­sa­tions in Nige­ria. The doc­u­men­tary ex­am­ined the con­tri­bu­tions of the CSOS, as they are bet­ter known, to the growth and de­vel­op­ment of the Nige­rian so­ci­ety. The con­ver­sa­tion also touched on the al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion among Nige­ria’s civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions.

It is im­por­tant to avail the readers of the mean­ing and scope of work of the CSOS. Ac­cord­ing to Wikipedia, civil so­ci­ety can be un­der­stood as the “third sec­tor” of so­ci­ety, dis­tinct from govern­ment and busi­ness, and in­clud­ing the fam­ily and the pri­vate sphere. Rachel Cooper of the Univer­sity of Birm­ing­ham, in an ar­ti­cle pub­lished on­line on Oc­to­ber 15, 2018, said civil so­ci­ety “first be­came pop­u­lar in the 1980s and it now sig­ni­fies a wide range of or­gan­ised and or­ganic groups in­clud­ing non­govern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions, trade unions, so­cial move­ments, grass­roots or­gan­i­sa­tions, on­line net­works and com­mu­ni­ties, and faith groups. Ac­cord­ing to her, civil so­ci­ety groups and net­works vary by size, struc­ture and plat­form rang­ing from in­ter­na­tional non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions and mass so­cial move­ments like the Arab Spring to small, lo­cal or­gan­i­sa­tions.

Cooper also ob­served thus: “Civil so­ci­ety roles in­clude ser­vice provider (for ex­am­ple, run­ning pri­mary schools and pro­vid­ing ba­sic com­mu­nity health care ser­vices); ad­vo­cate/cam­paigner (for ex­am­ple, lob­by­ing gov­ern­ments or busi­ness on is­sues in­clud­ing in­dige­nous rights or the en­vi­ron­ment); watch­dog (for ex­am­ple, mon­i­tor­ing govern­ment com­pli­ance with hu­man rights treaties); build­ing ac­tive cit­i­zen­ship (for ex­am­ple, mo­ti­vat­ing civic en­gage­ment at the lo­cal level and en­gage­ment with lo­cal, re­gional and na­tional gover­nance) and par­tic­i­pat­ing in global gover­nance pro­cesses (for ex­am­ple, civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions serve on the ad­vi­sory board of the World Bank’s Cli­mate In­vest­ment Funds)”.

The CSOS gen­er­ally work to com­ple­ment govern­ment’s ef­forts in pro­vid­ing so­cio-eco­nomic ser­vices. They bridge the de­vel­op­ment gap in so­ci­ety by sup­port­ing govern­ment ini­tia­tives in the pro­vi­sion of good gover­nance par­tic­u­larly at the grass­roots. Take, for in­stance, there are hun­dreds of the CSOS of­fer­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian sup­port ser­vices to the In­ter­nally Dis­placed Per­sons in the North-east Nige­ria es­pe­cially in the BAY states namely Borno, Adamawa and Yobe. I once man­aged a project by the For­ward in Ac­tion for Ed­u­ca­tion, Poverty and Mal­nu­tri­tion bet­ter known as FACE-PAM in Bauchi State. The NGO works to pro­mote ed­u­ca­tion, health care ser­vices and peace­ful elec­tions, among oth­ers. Through donor funds, FACE-PAM re­ha­bil­i­tated schools, was in­volved in get­ting out-of-school chil­dren to school for for­mal ed­u­ca­tion, cam­paigns against the spread of HIV/AIDS and Tu­ber­cu­lo­sis and give busi­ness starter packs to peo­ple in var­i­ous com­mu­ni­ties in the North-east.

As a proud mem­ber of this com­mu­nity called CSOS where I have been work­ing for over two decades, I am glad to also point out the yeo­man ef­forts of some NGOS in pro­mot­ing trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity in Nige­ria. Groups like the Cen­tre for Democ­racy and De­vel­op­ment, Nige­rian Women Trust Fund, Pol­icy and Le­gal Ad­vo­cacy Cen­tre and YIAGA Africa have been do­ing a lot to pro­mote elec­toral in­tegrity and cred­i­ble elec­tions. They closely ob­serve the elec­toral process and re­port their find­ings to the pub­lic. As ac­cred­ited elec­tion ob­server groups, they have jointly and in­di­vid­u­ally done a lot to deepen Nige­ria’s democ­racy. It is on record that YIAGA Africa cham­pi­oned the Not­too-young-to-run cam­paign ahead of last year’s gen­eral elec­tion. This re­sulted in the con­sti­tu­tional al­ter­ation that led to the re­duc­tion of the age qual­i­fi­ca­tion for pres­i­den­tial elec­tion from 40 to 35 and those of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives and state House of As­sem­bly elec­tion from 30 to 25 years.

Or­gan­i­sa­tions such as the Cen­tre for So­cial Jus­tice, Pub­lish What You Pay coali­tion, Con­nected De­vel­op­ment bet­ter known as CODE, Budgit,

So­cio-eco­nomic Rights and Ac­count­abil­ity Project and many oth­ers have done a lot to part­ner govern­ment in the fight against cor­rup­tion and open govern­ment. Th­ese groups an­a­lyse govern­ment bud­gets, track bud­get im­ple­men­ta­tion and de­vel­op­ment projects and ex­pose cor­rupt prac­tices in govern­ment Min­istries, De­part­ments and Agen­cies. They serve as whis­tle-blow­ers and some­times re­sort to pub­lic in­ter­est lit­i­ga­tions in or­der to com­pel govern­ment to act in the in­ter­est of the suf­fer­ing masses.

SERAP, to my knowl­edge, more than any other groups, has dragged govern­ment at all lev­els to court in or­der to en­force bet­ter gover­nance. Take for in­stance the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s law­suit ask­ing state Houses of As­sem­bly that have passed life pen­sion laws for their ex­gov­er­nors and their deputies to ab­ro­gate such laws. This is to pro­mote pub­lic good and is highly com­mend­able. Budgit, through the use of in­fo­graphic, has over the years been break­ing fed­eral and state govern­ment bud­gets down for easy as­sim­i­la­tion by the pub­lic. CSJ like CODE has been in­volved in bud­get anal­y­sis and track­ing of im­ple­men­ta­tion of govern­ment projects.

Quite un­for­tu­nately, while try­ing to pro­mote the pub­lic good, some of the lead­ers of the civil so­ci­ety have suf­fered mo­lesta­tion, ha­rass­ment, frame-up, de­ten­tion with­out tri­als and jail terms. I re­call vividly how the CSOS lead­ing lights like Ab­dul Oroh, Shehu Sani, Ayo Obe, Chima Ubani, Dr. Joe Okei-odu­makin, Uche Wis­dom Du­rueke, Abio­dun Aremu, Uche Onyeogocha, Isa Aremu, in­cum­bent gov­er­nor of Ek­iti State, Dr. Kay­ode Fayemi and many oth­ers were hounded into ex­ile, de­ten­tion, jail or death in the course of their fight for the dis­an­nul­ment of the June 12, 1993 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion and ad­vo­cacy for the re­turn to civil rule from the mil­i­tary. Th­ese CSO ac­tivists who op­er­ated un­der plat­forms such as the Cam­paign for Democ­racy, Com­mit­tee for the De­fence of Hu­man Rights, Civil Lib­er­ties Or­gan­i­sa­tion, and Na­tional Demo­cratic Coali­tion suf­fered in­cal­cu­la­ble per­sonal looses while try­ing to pro­tect hu­man rights. It is note­wor­thy that in the course of pro­vid­ing suc­cour to the IDPS in the North-east Nige­ria, Boko Haram in­sur­gents have ab­ducted and mur­dered some of the aid work­ers.

More heart-rend­ing and shock­ing is the fact that some of the man­agers of the CSOS who are torch­bear­ers in the fight against cor­rup­tion have them­selves been caught in the web of cor­rupt prac­tices. Their or­gan­i­sa­tions have been found to have doc­tored their ac­count books. The phe­nom­e­non is called cre­ative ac­count­ing where all man­ner of sharp prac­tices in­clud­ing fi­nan­cial fraud are per­pe­trated by some NGOS. Many a time, th­ese mal­prac­tices are de­tected by ea­gle eyed au­di­tors from the donor part­ners and when such are dis­cov­ered, the or­gan­i­sa­tion in ques­tion is made to re­fund the mis­ap­pro­pri­ated sums as well as risk be­ing black­listed from re­ceiv­ing fu­ture sup­port from the donor or­gan­i­sa­tions and in­deed all other donors.

Macarthur Foun­da­tion is one or­gan­i­sa­tion that has been do­ing a lot to sup­port the fight against cor­rup­tion and promotion of ac­count­abil­ity in gover­nance in Nige­ria. In 2018, the Foun­da­tion es­tab­lished a So­cial In­flu­encers Ac­count­abil­ity Co­hort. I hap­pen to have been en­listed as one of the so­cial in­flu­encers. Un­der this project, I have been in­volved in aware­ness cre­ation on ac­count­abil­ity and anti-cor­rup­tion. As part of that ini­tia­tive, and to com­mem­o­rate the 30th an­niver­sary of my in­volve­ment in me­dia ad­vo­cacy, I have pub­lished my third book with fund­ing sup­port from Macarthur Foun­da­tion chan­nelled through Cen­tre for In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy and De­vel­op­ment. The book en­ti­tled, “Nige­ria: Cor­rup­tion and Opac­ity in Gover­nance”, will be for­mally pre­sented to the pub­lic at an event to­mor­row, Jan­uary 16, 2020 in Abuja. There­after, the book will be dis­trib­uted free to the pub­lic.

jideo­[email protected]­ 0807778770­1 Fol­low me on Twitter @jideo­jong

Con­tin­ued from Tues­day

The use of HIV preva­lence by dif­fer­ent high-level per­son­nel in the cur­rent govern­ment ap­pears rather in­ten­tional and de­vi­ous for three rea­sons. Firstly, the govern­ment is aware of con­cerns around the va­lid­ity of pre­vi­ous es­ti­mates, which is a com­pelling ex­pla­na­tion for the de­cline. Se­condly, such a de­cline in HIV preva­lence, if valid, should be mostly at­trib­ut­able to the high num­bers of HIV deaths. Thirdly, there are other in­di­ca­tors that re­flect the coun­try’s pre­ven­tion and con­trol ef­forts more di­rectly than preva­lence. Th­ese in­di­ca­tors are well-known and should be com­mu­ni­cated to Nige­ri­ans pe­ri­od­i­cally.

Nige­ria is a sig­na­tory to the 2016 United Na­tions Po­lit­i­cal Dec­la­ra­tion on HIV and AIDS to end the AIDS Epi­demic by 2030, adopted at the United Na­tions Gen­eral As­sem­bly high­level Meet­ing on AIDS in June 2016. The dec­la­ra­tion in­cludes com­mit­ments to re­duce new HIV in­fec­tions, re­duce Aids-re­lated deaths, elim­i­nate stigma and dis­crim­i­na­tion and end the AIDS epi­demic by 2030. A corner­stone strat­egy be­ing the 90-90-90 treat­ment tar­gets. The UN 90-90-90 tar­gets aim to en­sure that by 2020, 90% of all PLHIV know their HIV sta­tus, 90% of all peo­ple with an HIV diagnosis are put on an­tiretro­vi­ral (ARV) treat­ment and 90% of all peo­ple on ARV treat­ment achieve vi­ral sup­pres­sion. When the same de­nom­i­na­tor is used for the 90-90-90 tar­gets, this would mean that 81% of all peo­ple liv­ing with HIV are on treat­ment and 73% of all peo­ple liv­ing with HIV are vi­rally sup­pressed. As shown be­low, Nige­ria’s achieve­ments in th­ese re­gards are be­low op­ti­mum and quite far from set tar­gets.

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