PRESS BRIEFING ON THE STATE OF THE NATION ORGANIZED BY THE CENTRE FOR ANTI-CORRUPTION AND OPEN LEADERSHIP (CACOL) AS PART OF THE PROJECT ON PRIORITIZING ANTI-CORRUPTION AND ACCOUNTABILITY ISSUES DURING THE UPCOMING 2023 ELECTIONS IN NIGERIA HELD ON TUESDAY 31st January 2023.
Gentlemen of the Press, you’re welcome to today’s Press briefing.
CACOL is an aggregate of human rights, community based, and civil society organizations and individuals with an anti-corruption and openness in governance agenda across Nigeria. It is a non-political, non-religious, non-sectarian and non-profit organization. The Centre is a national organization with membership across the 36 states of the Federation.
We are all aware that the nation is confronted with some challenges that we believe are not too difficult to solve with collective will. It is rather unfortunate that corruption is at the root of most of these challenges.
Insecurity is a major concern for everybody in Nigeria and this has created a lot of fear and uncertainty in the society. Every region in the country is battling with various challenges of insecurity which include the activities of Boko Haram in which millions of lives have been lost and the increasing cases of kidnapping. In the last eighteen years, the Federal Government earmarked not less than N10 trillion for the defense of the territorial integrity and internal security of the nation. Recently, President Muhammadu Buhari said his administration spent over one billion dollar on military equipment to recover territories in the North-East captured by Boko Haram. The various state governments equally allocated hundreds of billions of Naira to maintain law and order.
In fact, individual citizens and communities pay levies and salaries to young men and women engaged to secure them and their properties. In spite of the huge funds spent on security, it is common knowledge that the country is currently grappling with the menace of kidnapping, hostage taking, terrorism and armed robbery. We still remember how some terrorists attacked an Abuja-Kaduna passenger train on March 28, 2022, in which about 14 persons were killed and 63 officially declared abducted. Although all the abducted victims of the Abuja-Kaduna train attack were later released, over six billion naira was allegedly paid to the terrorists to set most of their captives free.
On Saturday, 7th of January, this year, no fewer than 31 passengers and staff of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) were abducted by gunmen at the Igueben train sub-station in Edo State, while several passengers were injured.
The deﬁciencies in regular security forces and shortage of personnel have led to upsurge of private security outﬁts. These security entities are hired by banks, oil companies, educational institutions and hospitality businesses to fortify corporate security arrangements. There is no gainsaying that Nigeria has formidable security challenge as insecurity is reported daily in electronic, print and social media.
We believe that high level of insecurity leads to low life expectancy rate, low level of development in education and low investment in economy to promote sound economic growth and development as a result of absence of local and foreign investments that cannot operate in an unsecured environment.
With the lingering security challenges and the inability of the security apparatus of the government to guarantee safety and security of lives and properties in the country, the question that borders everyone in Nigeria today is “can there be security?” Is security of lives and properties achievable now? Is there a safe haven anywhere in the country? Despite huge budgetary allocations to security and subsequent establishment of various units under the various security agencies to control the activities of criminals, armed banditry, kidnapping, child rape, ritual killings and food insecurity are still the order of the day.
At the start of 2022, Nigerians hoped that, with less than two years to the end of
President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, the government would ramp up its efforts to reduce poverty and unemployment among the populace. In his 2022 New Year message to Nigerians, Buhari was effusive about his intention to secure the country and address its socio-economic challenges.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) recently released the highly anticipated multidimensional poverty report. The report put Nigeria’s poverty index at 0.257, with about 133 million people being multi-dimensionally poor. Sokoto, Bayelsa, and Jigawa States led the list of states in Nigeria with the highest multidimensional poverty index, having an aggregate of 14.18 million impoverished people.
Factors such as healthcare, food insecurity, education, nutrition, and access to cooking fuel contributed the most to the national poverty index. According to the NBS, over half of the Nigerian populace is multi-dimensionally poor and deprived of cooking fuel.
The highlights: 65% of the poor people in Nigeria, which translates to 86 million, live in the Northern part of the country, while 35% (47 million) live in the southern part.
Nigeria has been grappling with high cost of living, which has further widened the gap between the rich and the poor, seeing many more Nigerians fall below the poverty line. This calls for serious concern even as we are now in an election year and most politicians are either vigorously campaigning to win election or supporting their preferred candidates to win while ignoring these pressing issues.
Although the Nigerian economy rebounded after the difficult years of COVID-19, growing 3.5% in the first three quarters of 2022, the recovery has wrought more hardship on Nigerians. This is because the main drivers of growth in Nigeria – oil production and services – don’t usually benefit most Nigerians in terms of jobs and business opportunities. The country’s inflation rate increased to 21% in 2022, compared with an average of 10.6% for emerging and developing economies and 8.8% for the world. This level of economic hardship could present further risks to Nigeria’s security.
Young people have had it worst. Youth unemployment is 43%. It was below 10% prior to Buhari’s administration in 2015. University students were forced to stay at home for nine months during the prolonged strike by the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities. Till now, the rift between the government and ASSU has not been laid to rest.
The year 2022 has also been unkind to poor and unemployed Nigerians. Rising inflation has raised the cost of living and pushed many into poverty. Because over half of Nigeria’s inflation is driven by rising food prices, many poor individuals and families face hunger. The risk of hunger has been heightened by the recent flooding in many parts of Nigeria, which saw over a million people lose their homes and means of livelihood.
With no insurance, social protection and other safety nets, most of these Nigerians are left to fend for themselves.
While 2022 will be remembered as a very difficult year for youths, workers and the poor, the cabal that controls the Nigerian oil industry were having a field day. Buhari promised to end the corruption-infested oil subsidy, but this cabal secured a postponement. Nigeria spent an estimated US$9.6 billion on the fuel subsidy in 2022. This is expected to exceed $16 billion in 2023.
A greater percentage of the subsidy is likely to fraudulently end up in the bank accounts of the oil cabal. The same cabal has resorted to illegal bunkering and outright theft of oil from the pipelines. Nigeria lost $2 billion to oil theft between January and August 2022. This is about 5% of its 2021 petroleum export of $41.4 billion. Not to be outdone by the oil cabal, former Niger Delta militants now share in the oil largesse. The Buhari administration has awarded them over $100 million (48 billion naira) in contracts to “secure” the country’s oil infrastructure.
Never mind that the government has deployed thousands of government-paid security operatives whose job is to do exactly what the militants are being contracted for.
Political elites continue to live in opulence.
Despite the country’s fiscal challenges, members of the National Assembly have continued to receive their allowances and funds for constituency projects.
Following steep depreciation in the naira, currency speculators have had a field day. The naira plunged by 4% in the official market during the year and by almost 20% in the parallel market.
This has posed significant challenges for manufacturers, as import costs soar amid an acute scarcity of foreign exchange. It’s harder for manufacturers to buy raw materials and expand production. The result is a further decline in their ability to generate well-paid jobs.
Granted that corruption is a global menace. Still, it is quite prevalent in African countries, Nigeria included. For many years, Nigeria has earned a considerable sum of money from its natural resources, such as gas and oil, with a considerable portion going down the cesspool created by corruption. Basically, a considerable portion of the money the country earns finds its way into the pockets of a few, leaving millions impoverished.
As a result of corrupt leaders, Nigerian society has gradually become more and more corrupt. There are numerous institutions and departments where one cannot be served without parting with a bribe. This has made the menace one of the biggest problems facing Nigeria today.
The ranking by the global anti-corruption coalition, Transparency International (TI) of Nigeria as a country in which the corruption phenomenon is worsening should not present a surprise to keen watchers and followers of events in the country. The high economic and social instability pervading the polity surely are patent proofs that all is not well, as most of the situations bloom from corrupt practices. Indeed, the persistent refusal of governments at all levels to prune spending, avoid wasteful expenditure and focus only on projects of value to the greatest number have been attributed to corruption. The result is the very poor state of the country in all ramifications.
Rising insecurity, ethnic cleansing and unemployment are still blamed on corruption. Moreover, systemic failure in healthcare delivery and leadership failure has been found to be engendered by corrupt practices.
Corruption is hindering the country’s development, economic prosperity and it is responsible for deepening poverty in Nigeria. Corruption is gradually destroying the country and we would like to use this medium to call on the government and those aspiring for political offices to make known their anti-corruption stance as most of them have been stylishly silent on this important issue.
It should be noted that Nigeria has once again scored 24 out of 100 points while ranking 150 among 180 countries on the 2022 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) released by Transparency International on Tuesday. Although the country maintained its previous year’s (2021) score of 24 out of 100 points, there was a change in rank from 154 to 150, in the newly released index. The CPI is Transparency International’s tool for measuring the level of corruption in the systems of the 180 countries across the world, based on certain prevalent indices. Such indices are bribery, diversion of public funds, public officials using public office for private gain without consequences, ability of governments to contain corruption and enforce effective integrity mechanisms in the public sector, red tape and excessive bureaucratic burden which may increase opportunities for corruption, meritocratic versus nepotistic appointments in the civil service.
NEW NAIRA POLICY/CASH WITHDRAWAL LIMIT
While it is desirable to get all bankable individuals and businesses into the banking system and promote the cashless policy of the CBN, the timing without adequate preparation and sensitization of the critical mass that drives the economy (the SMEs and MSMEs) could prove counter-productive and further drive many below the poverty line. This is another classical example of the inconsistencies and misalignments between the fiscal and monetary policies of the Government. It is absurd to blatantly set traps of processing fees for individuals and businesses who desire to withdraw their hard-earned money from the bank for legitimate and genuine business transactions. It is also important to note that the banking infrastructure and mobile/digital facility to drive the cashless policy are not sufficiently developed. This is not only draconian but also inhuman. Inadequate information sharing/dissemination by the CBN Governor also created unnecessary panic among the banking public.
We would like to make it clear that the CBN and indeed, the Federal Government should replicate the energy and promptness used in implementing this policy to address the issues of dwindling value of the Naira, rising inflation, oil theft, ballooning foreign debt, and get millions out of poverty realm. While Nigerians businesses are groaning under the burden created by not-well-thought-out Government policies, more misery should not be placed on them.
In formulating and executing monetary policy, the governor of CBN is required to make proposals to the president of the federal republic of Nigeria who has the final power to accept or amend such proposals. It is after the presidency has approved it that the CBN’s monetary policy proposals are made as an integral part of the federal government annual budget which combines to approve monetary policy.
The aim of monetary policy may be to check inflation or to stimulate production to aid recovery from a recession. The method adopted to achieve the designed aim is through changes in the monetary supply. A policy aiming at increasing the quantity of money is inflationary, and one that aims at a contradiction of the supply of money is deflationary.
Monetary policy is mainly the concern of the central bank, but the consequences of monetary policy can be so far-reaching for the whole country that no modern government can leave the choice of policy design to its central bank. The inconsistencies in policy implementation have led us to where we are today.
MARWA’S DRUG WAR
We would like to commend the vigour that Brig. Gen. Mohamed Buba Marwa (Retd) brought into the drug war in the country. Marwa’s leadership at NDLEA has changed the country’s drug war narrative both locally and internationally. While NDLEA was becoming a shadow of its former self, during the past years, it is now visible and glaring to all Nigerians that the NDLEA is not only barking but equally biting deep, drug barons and dealers that have for years remained invincible and untouchable. Marwa’s tireless efforts against drug abuse and trafficking of illicit substances are exceptionally commendable. We would like to use this medium to call on all the arms of government to support Marwa and the Agency to succeed in making Nigeria a drug free country.
Nigeria’s 2023 Elections
With dates for the 2023 general elections now set by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) – the presidential and National Assembly poll is set for February 25 and governorship and other subnational elections are scheduled for March 11 – the countdown is well underway for what will be the seventh consecutive elections since the return to democracy in 1999. This represents 23 years of unbroken democracy; the longest period in the country’s history.
The 2023 elections will be conducted under a new electoral framework, the Electoral Act 2022. The Act allows INEC to review results made under duress or financial inducement, extends the time for campaigns from 90 to 150 days, and provides for the use of technology to determine the mode of voting and transmission of results. Pundits believe these measures can help manage situations where inaccurate results are returned, expand the opportunity for politicians to visit the nooks and crannies of the country if they so desire and cure the chaotic, vulnerable manipulation and unnecessarily opaque process of aggregating results.
However, instead of reducing the role of money in politics, the Act has increased the campaign finance limit from N1 billion to N5 billion for presidential candidates. The ceiling for all other elected positions have also been increased fivefold, but without any efforts to improve the scrutiny of compliance limits, they are still likely to be exceeded.
The 2023 elections will be some of the most challenging to conduct in Nigeria as the country battles nodes of complex insecurity. The Boko Haram conflict that defined the 2015 election is yet to be quelled, and with bandits operating across the North-West, violent secessionist agitation spiraling in the South-East and farmer-herder clashes ongoing across the country, the 2023 election is set to take place amidst nationwide insecurity. The June 5 attack on a church in relatively stable Ondo State, in South-West Nigeria, which saw more than 50 people killed, was a stark reminder of the insecurity challenges that will make the safety of election materials and personnel a major challenge for INEC.
INEC has also expressed concerns about deliberate attacks on its facilities in some states where materials meant for the elections were burnt. Within the space of three weeks, three attacks were carried out on INEC facilities in Ogun, Osun and Ebonyi states. Attacks on INEC’s facilities have become a recurring decimal in the Southeast geopolitical zone. Two days ago, it was reported that some yet-to-be-identified assailants attacked the office of the Independent National Electoral Commission at Ojoto, in the Idemili South Local Government Area of Anambra State.
The Commission lamented that incessant attacks on its facilities might cause hitches in operations, saying, though there are no casualties, quite a number of the materials acquired and delivered for the election have been lost. We hope these incessant attacks on INEC’s facilities would stop so as not to affect the upcoming elections.
We are particularly happy that there is a high degree of interest in voting in the 2023 general elections as 79 percent of registered voters in Nigeria have successfully picked up their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) as of Dec. 22, according to a new survey by SBM Intelligence published by Business Day of January 5, 2023.
SBM Intelligence said 6,588 voters were surveyed in 16 states across the country midway into the PVC collection timetable issued by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to ascertain how Nigerians who desired to vote and who have completed the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) process were faring with regards to the collection. The study shows that there is a very high degree of interest in voting in the 2023 elections and amongst those who desire to vote, 94 percent of them went ahead to complete the CVR and 90 percent have tried to get their PVCs, even if they have had to visit up to six times to do so.
Osun State Governorship Election Tribunal Judgment
On the judgment of the Osun State Governorship Election Tribunal which declared Alhaji Adegboyega Oyetola of the All Progressives Congress, APC as the winner of the July 16 governorship election, we commend members of the Tribunal for being professional, upright and just despite the enormous pressure they were under. The ruling of the Tribunal would help deepen Nigeria’s electoral system and democracy.
We however, urged those who are not satisfied with the judgment not to resort to violence but remain calm and allow law run its full course.
As an Anti-Corruption group, we are calling on INEC to take lessons from the petition of the APC and the outcome of the Tribunal, especially as it prepares for the conduct of the forthcoming general elections. It is important for the electoral body to note the irregularities pointed out in the judgment of the Tribunal and ensure that such anomalies do not recur in the February 25 Presidential and National Assembly elections as well as the Governorship and State Assemblies elections on March 11, 2023.
We cannot conclude this briefing without noting the recent admission by the Osun Resident Electoral Commission, Mutiu Agbokethat Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) helped to reveal overvoting during the Osun elections. Agboke explained that BVAS helped INEC to expose those who carried out over-voting on the election day during the Osun guber polls. According to him, people were able to do overvoting because they deliberately bypass the BVAS. The politicians in connivance with INEC staff deliberately bypassed the BVAS; it was this BVAS that exposed overvoting during Osun Election. We would like to call on INEC to ensure that all these gaps are covered before, during and after the general elections so that the votes of the people can really count.
Based on our experiences, we want to recommend as follows:
There is need for increase sensitization on Anti-Corruption and Accountability in Elections at the grassroots level.
The Media need to increase their reportage and investigations on Corruption and Accountability issues before, during and after Elections period to enhance political parties and their candidate to incorporate Anti-Corruption and Accountability issues in their Manifestos and Agenda.
There is an urgent need for anti-corruption campaigns to percolate down to the grassroots and even to the level of primary and tertiary institutions to stem the tide of rising cyber-crimes (A.K.A Yahoo Yahoo) among our youths.
Political Parties must be engaged to mainstream Anti-Corruption and Accountability into their manifestos and Activities.
There is an urgent need to amplify the voices of the people at the grassroots because most of them do not even have access to their elected representatives once they are sworn in.
Civil society groups should embark on massive civic awareness of the electorates on the dangers of corruption in electoral process and its impacts on their future
There is a need for more proactive measures by anti-corruption agencies in terms of timely investigation and prosecution of offenders. In the case of Lagos State, the State Public Complaints and Anti-Corruption agency had been silent for some months now. We have not heard anything about the Commission since the appointment of Justice Mojisola Olatoregun (rtd.) as Chairman of the anti-graft commission. Considering the level of corruption we have in our society today, one would have expected the Lagos State Public Complaints and Anti-Corruption agency to hit the ground running so as to reduce sharp practices in the state civil service. It would be gratifying if the Commission can come out to say there are no reported corruption related cases among the agencies and parastatals like LASEMA, LASSAA, LASTMA, etc
Need to increase citizen’s timely Voter Education and sensitization by both the electoral body and relevant stakeholders.