2019 Budget Proposals: Matters Arising

The first issue is that the deficit is in the sum of N1.895tn and it is to be financed mainly by borrowing the sum of N1.649tn – N824.82bn from domestic sources and N824.82bn from external sources. This will further add to our already high debt profile. The deficit is 21.05% of the overall expenditure of N8.83tn. Also, the deficit is 26.68% of the projected revenue of N6.97tn.

The second issue is a challenge of the revenue framework. It is on the expected revenue from oil. The $60 benchmark seems unrealistic considering the actual price of crude oil in the last couple of months. The postulation that “the considered view of most reputable analysts is that the downward trend of oil prices in recent months is not necessarily reflective of the outlook for 2019” is overly optimistic and fails to be guided by the cautionary approach to plan on the conservative side and if the price is exceeded, to fall back on withdrawals from the Excess Crude Account. The fact that the ECA has been drawn down by $1.6bn in three weeks and the balance is now $631m shows that the country has no buffer to fall back upon.

The third issue is that it is surprising that non-oil revenue (CIT, VAT, C&E and Federation Account levies) is expected to be much lower than oil revenue at a period the Federal Government is keen and states that it has taken steps to diversify the economy. At 53.36% of projected revenue, oil revenue is dominant. The percentage may increase as most of the non-oil components, going by previous experience, may likely underperform. For instance, in 2017, independent revenue was projected at N807.57bn but only the sum of N295.29bn came in at the end of the year. As of half year of 2018, independent revenue had underperformed by 48.2%. Although the economy has recorded six straight quarters of growth, the fiscal boosts and so many quasi-fiscal measures undertaken by the fiscal and monetary authorities are expected to have started yielding dividends to increase non-oil revenue.

The fourth issue is that it is not clear whether the N203.38bn recovered loot is already in the bag or being expected. This should be clarified by the fiscal authorities. If it is an expected sum, then it should not be made a revenue source as there is no certainty that it will be realised. It should only be appropriated when it has already been realised through a supplementary appropriation.

The fifth issue is that from the actual revenue inflow of 2018, the President indicated that as of September 2018, the overall revenue performance was only 53% of the target in the 2018 budget. Although he attributed this to the poor performance of one-off items, the revenue projections of 2019 should have been greatly influenced by the actuals of 2018 and previous years, except there has been a dramatic change in economic circumstances warranting the new projection.

The sixth issue is that the Federal Government has been silent on the trillions of naira accruing to it as stamp duties over the years. Nigerians suffer deductions from their bank accounts and the money seems to have been lost in a black hole as no one accounts for it. At a time of poor revenues, the country can ill-afford this humungous waste.

The seventh issue is the silence of the proposals on the higher education sector – the refusal to take fiscal steps to revitalise the higher education sector which has been crippled by strikes from university and polytechnic teachers. If fiscal policy and its associated frameworks and projections are silent about a major national issue bordering on our present and future development, it means that the executive has failed to read the handwriting on the wall.

The exchange rate of N305 to 1USD seems contentious due to the fact that there are other rates that economic agents use in exchanging the dollar. It would have made eminent sense for the Central Bank of Nigeria to work for a harmonised rate that merges both the official and parallel rates. Hardly and stricto sensu, very few economic agents get the dollar at the proposed rate. Changing the rate to the realistic market rate of between N360 and N365 to 1USD would have released more naira for the three tiers of government who share in the Federation Account. As such, it would reduce the deficit.

The budget proposes the sum of N305bn for under-recovery by the NNPC on PMS in 2019. The first issue is that the deliberate obfuscation of subsidy by renaming it “under-recovery” is unacceptable. It is a subsidy and no attempt should be made to further cause confusion. The second is that subsidising PMS at a time the consensus seems to favour its removal is abnormal. The third is that if publicly available figure of over N2bn subsidy every day is true, then the proposal of $1bn will not cover the subsidy to be paid in 2019. The fourth issue is the statement that falsification of claims is no longer possible is not in tandem with facts available to all Nigerians. During the years preceding 2015 and at a time of about six per cent economic growth, the NNPC reported that Nigeria was consuming about 30 million litres of PMS every day. During the recession and post the recession when many companies had closed down, jobs lost and the economy greatly slowed down, the NNPC claims that Nigeria is now consuming between 60 million and 65 million litres per day. Such a wild claim cannot be supported by empirical evidence. It is most likely to be false. The NNPC should come forward with the evidence in support of such a claim beyond its mere declaration.

Merry Christmas to my readers.

To be continued

Electoral Act Amendment Bill: Towards Free, Fair And Credible Elections

Nigerians were recently greeted with the news that President Muhammadu Buhari had declined assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2018. This is the fourth time the President has declined to give assent to the bill. The President’s decision will have far-reaching consequences for the credibility of the 2019 polls and whether the polls will in all sincerity, be declared to be free, fair and credible. Free, fair and credible polls are premised on the understanding that the announced results reflect the will of the electorate; elections are transparent when each step is open to scrutiny, and stakeholders can independently verify whether the process is conducted honestly and accurately.

One of the key reforms found in the bill is its insistence on the use and mainstreaming of the Smart Card Reader in the electoral process. The bill provides that the Presiding Officer shall use a SCR or any other technological device that may be prescribed by the Independent National Electoral Commission for the accreditation of voters, to verify, confirm or authenticate the particulars of the voter in a manner prescribed by the commission. Where a SCR deployed for accreditation of voters fails in any polling unit and a fresh SCR is not deployed, the election in the unit shall be cancelled and another election shall be scheduled within 24 hours. The bill also states that where during the collation of results, there is a dispute regarding a collated result or the result of an election from any polling unit, the Collation Officer or Returning Officer shall use inter alia, the SCR or any other technological device used for accreditation of voters in each polling unit where the election is disputed for the purpose of obtaining accreditation data direct form the SCR or technology device.

The foregoing provisions seek to respond to the mischief in the existing law, which crystallised in election petition decisions arising from the 2015 general elections. In 2015, the use of the SCR was provided in INEC’s Directives, Guidelines and Manuals and there was nothing in the Electoral Act on the SCR. Many petitioners had alleged substantial non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act because the SCR was not used in the accreditation process. The petitioners averred that election results should be set aside on the basis of the failure to use the SCR. This was the case in Edward Nkwegu Okereke v Nweze David Umahi (SC. 1004/2015); Udom Gabriel Emmanuel v Umana Okon Umana (SC.1/2016); Okezie Victor Ikpeazu v Alex Otti & 3 Ors (2016, 8 NWLR, Part 1513) and Wike Ezenwo Nyesom v Dakuku Adol Peterside & Ors, etc.

The Supreme Court reasoned as follows in Wike Ezenwo Nyesom v Dakuku Adol Peterside & Others.: “The introduction of the card reader is certainly a welcome development in the electoral process. Although it is meant to improve on the credibility of those accredited to vote so as to check the incidence of rigging, it is yet to be made part of the Electoral Act. Section 138 (2) of the Electoral Act envisages a situation where the Electoral Commission issues instructions or guidelines which are not carried out. The failure of the card reader machine or failure to use it for the accreditation of voters cannot invalidate the election. The section stipulates as follows- An act or omission which may be contrary to the instruction or directive of the Commission or an officer appointed for the purpose of an election but which is not contrary to the provisions of this Act shall not of itself be a ground for questioning the election”.Thus, the Supreme Court held that INEC’s directives on the use of the SCR has not invalidated the use of the manual accreditation process which is fraught with fraud.

Following these decisions, some learned commentators criticised the Supreme Court as aiding and abetting rigging through its interpretation of the status of the SCR. Professor Itse Sagay in, “Farewell to Election Petitions”, stated that the thrust of the decisions constitutes a devastating blow on democracy. The National Assembly in its wisdom now seeks to correct this mischief so that elections will truly reflect the will of the electorate. Starting from the first quarter in the year, when the bill was submitted to President, he found a number of excuses including the issue of the sequence of the elections, especially as to whether the legislature had the power to determine the sequence of elections. He refused assent and returned the bill to the legislature, who in good faith amended the sections that the President complained about. When it was submitted a second time, the President also found a battery of excuses to decline assent. Again, the National Assembly in good faith, believing they were dealing with genuine reasons advanced by the President went back to work to reflect his position. The National Assembly submitted the bill a third time and the President found another set of excuses. The lawmakers obliged him with another round of amendment and tinkering and finally returned the bill to him last month. For the fourth and final time, the President found yet another set of excuses to decline assent.

From a dispassionate analysis, what has come out of these four submissions by the National Assembly and the four times’ refusal to grant assent is that the President does not intend to see the Electoral Act 2010 further amended. He was simply looking for excuses to further that agenda. While the National Assembly was operating in good faith in furtherance of its power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the country, there was a debilitating fixation by the President to stand on the old ground. In retrospect, none of the grounds that the President had relied on to refuse assent had anything to do with democratic consolidation but the furtherance of a personal agenda to win the 2019 presidential election at all cost.

According to data released by an online newspaper and verified from the report available on INEC’s website titled, “Smart Card Reader Accreditation: Backend Transmission System – 2015 Presidential & National Assembly Elections”, at page 16: “Of the 31,746,490 accredited voters in the election, 13,536,311, representing 42.6 per cent of voters, voted without biometric accreditation.Out of this number, 10,184,720 votes are from states won by Buhari and 3,351,591 votes came from states won by Jonathan, the Peoples Democratic Party candidate, representing 75 per cent and 25 per cent of accredited voters respectively”. This revelation raises the fear in many Nigerians about the intention of the President and the ruling party against the background of the fact that the APC now supports the President’s refusal to give assent to the bill. Is there an intention to repeat the 2015 experience so that the courts will not rely on the SCR since the authority for its use will still be founded on INEC’s directives and manuals and not the Electoral Act?

In conclusion, Nigeria must make progress, whatever disagreements between the executive and the legislature and the political parties should not lead Nigeria to stagnation or retrogression in our democracy. Even if the President disagrees with every other thing, he should liaise with the legislature to enthrone free, fair and credible elections through the smart card reader. We have no option than to make progress.

Towards Effective Resource Mobilisation, Management And Leadership

A proper understanding of the context of resources within a nation space, its mobilisation and use for the common good is imperative. This is so, especially at this time when political parties and candidates are moving around pleading to be given the opportunity to govern at the federal and state levels. Understanding optimum resource use and mobilisation will play a central role in our pursuit of good governance, economic growth and development. Thus, it is expected that every presidential candidate should, beyond borrowing and the dwindling oil money, address how they will mobilise Nigerians to fund their economic growth and development.

Our governments have always stated that we lack resources to undertake public projects. Budgets are very poorly funded across the tiers of government and the usual excuse is the paucity of resources. Our infrastructure deficit is premised on the absence of resources. Pray, what is the definition of national, state or local government level resources within the context of a country like Nigeria? Do we take national resources to be the same as resources belonging to governments and the public space or an inventory of our natural resources like minerals?

It is the position of this discourse that we may not be poor in terms of resource generation and endowment, as our governments consistently state and many Nigerians have been convinced to believe. It is the duty of government to mobilise both public and private resources for the purpose of development. Suffice to say that, development is a people’s work in action as no nation or people can develop another. It is Nigerians who have to use their resources to develop Nigeria under the guidance of intelligent leadership. And the consistent failure to lead or provide leadership is responsible for our resource complaints. Therefore, the central resource challenge appears to be one of harnessing, mobilisation, management and ensuring value for money from available resources. The management challenge crystallises in the examples given in these real life pictures detailed hereunder.

The authorities of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja allocated undeveloped land to purported developers, virtually free of charge but with very little processing fees that may not be more than N20m. The purpose of the allocation is for the developer to develop estates to be made available to Nigerians at affordable rates using mortgage. This land in the first place was acquired from the natives under the Land Use Act, virtually without paying any tangible compensation, compared to the value of the land due to the idea that government is simply paying for unexhausted improvement.

The developer adds little or no value beyond clearing the bush, and turns around to divide the large portions of land into plots that can accommodate 100 four-bedroom duplexes. The developer fixes the price of each plot at between N10m and N15m per plot. All they end up investing, may be not more that N50m and they thereafter make a kill and get between N1bn and N1.5bn as unearned profits. The original owners of the land get nothing out of this money and government that compulsorily acquired it in the first place gets nothing and a millionaire is created.

Within the estates, since the developer developed nothing and no one is holding them to account, the buyers of the plots build and each will sink a borehole and within the estate, you could possibly get 70 to 80 boreholes sunk at the cost of about N500,000 each. When the seismic challenges related to reckless perforation of the earth’s bowels begin to unravel, more resources will be needed to cover the first wrong investments. But this is an estate that could have been served by one industrial borehole and back-up in the event the first one fails. Just like the average Nigerian, every owner invests in noisy polluting electricity generator that gulps thousands of litres of petrol and diesel every day.

Again, this is an estate that could get electricity from a central clean source that will cost less than 50% of the price of the generators and the fuel. In some parts of Abuja, residents not only construct estate roads, they also mobilise and contribute money to build public access roads. They do this when they compare the costs of perpetual bad roads and the investment they would make in the roads. After the foregoing, the persons who went through all this torture are expected to pay tax to government. Pray, for what purpose?

In the above instance, if government had kept its part of the social contract by providing potable public water, even if at a fee or ensured that developers kept their part of the bargain by providing water, the economy as whole will have saved the difference between 80 different boreholes and one or two functional boreholes serving the community. The financial resource, even if privately-owned would have been available for investment in other very important spheres of private but national life.

Instead of building local schools and maintaining standards through equipping the schools, employing quality teaching personnel who are well paid, our elite proceed to pay children’s school fees in institutions outside Nigeria. First, these institutions cost much more than if the education had been acquired in Nigeria. The flight tickets and challenge of getting foreign currency to pay these fees and the cost of a child living in a foreign land are all outrageous.

Again, we refuse to build good hospitals and or equip the available ones; we pay our doctors and other medical personnel peanuts, treat them with disdain and contempt to the extent that they vote to leave our shores. Our elite proceed at the slightest headache to visit hospitals abroad at a greater expense (sometimes, double the local cost) than if the facilities are available locally.

In the health and education scenario, we are not only mismanaging our financial resources, because it costs Nigerians (who can afford it) more; it deprives the majority of the population of the accruable benefits. Again, beyond financial resources, we train doctors and drive them away to other countries thereby frittering away our human resources. We oil the economy of the host countries and put perpetual pressure on the value of the Naira, our local currency. And politicians walk around bemoaning job losses and poor economic growth. How do you expect to create jobs when the existing jobs are shipped abroad? How do you grow your economy when every value added has to be done aboard?

It is the duty of government to strategise on how to use public resources in a way and manner that benefits the public instead of privatising public resources for the benefit of a few. Also, taxing Nigerians and spending the tax proceeds judiciously, in value for money approach, for projects and programmes that have been popularly selected, will make more sense for the development of infrastructure instead of letting every person to do it for themselves. Of course, everyone knows that there are limits to this self-help approach. Self-help may not pay for super highways and speed trains that cut across so many local governments and states. Also, perpetual borrowing is not the answer.

Let those who want to lead show that they understand the ideas around mobilisation and use of public and private resources for development.

Boko Haram: Issues For Engagement

Recent successful attacks by Boko Haram terrorists on military formations and civilian communities bring to the fore the need to re-evaluate and re-examine the strategies for the engagement of the terrorists. The latest attack on the 157 Task Force Battalion at Melete, Borno State where the casualty figures have not been officially confirmed but different media organisations are quoting different figures throws up so many posers. But let us start by acknowledging the supreme sacrifice of our gallant soldiers who have given their all. They died in defence of our lives. May God grant them eternal rest and their families, the fortitude to continue life without their loved ones.

This discourse intends to raise so many posers and issues which the military and intelligence high commands need to answer or seek answers to, in a bid to rejig their operations and adequately protect Nigerians, as well as save the lives of men and officers on the frontlines. This is not about blaming anyone but points in the direction of the need for persons in authority to put on their thinking caps.

The first issue that comes up for analysis is the state of equipment and hardware available to our soldiers. At least, since the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, the defence sector has been well-funded through appropriation and at least, we are made to believe that there is no one diversion of and disbursement of defence money for other purposes. We are also made to believe that soldiers are paid on time and their motivation is very high. Again, the administration states that Boko Haram has been technically defeated and what they attack now are soft targets, which is evidence of a “dying insurgency”, in its last days and without the ability to take on hard core fights. But of late, the insurgents have been taking on and routing military formations which contradicts the postulation of a technical defeat. How is it possible that the insurgents who are not in a position to buy arms and ammunition legally, but only procure them through the black and illegal market can get equipment to match and outgun Nigerian troops whose source of procurement is official and the Nigerian state has more resources available to it? Who is supplying them the equipment and hardware to take on the Nigerian defence forces?

The second issue is this; is it possible that a large contingent of insurgents will move over so many kilometres without anyone sighting them or the intelligence activated to warn soldiers to lay ambush for them? Does it mean we do not have military equipment that can sight humans and objects from afar and warn about irregular movements? If we do not have such equipment, how much will it cost to acquire them? What about the communities and civilians? Would it be too much for the civil communities to give information of irregular movement of persons to military authorities? And this can be done through the telephone. What exactly is happening?

The third issue is that in these attacks, especially on military formations which last for a fairly long time, is it possible that no one used the military signals or even mobile telecommunications to contact the defence headquarters or the nearest level of command for reinforcement? If the infantry is facing challenges and the air force is available with fighters and other aircraft, it is expected that they would come to the rescue of the infantry and overwhelm the insurgents. But the news coming out of the attacks suggests that a command under attack is left to shoulder the entire burden. They will overcome or go down on the basis of their own strength and ability. Flights between Lagos and Abuja or Port Harcourt or Abuja to major destinations are usually of 45 minutes duration. It is safely assumed that fight jets and military aircraft should be faster than civilian transport aircraft and from any point in Nigeria, should reach the desired destination under 30 minutes. Even if the combat is such that aircraft cannot use bombs, the aircraft could still track the insurgents to their base and pound them with the relevant mortars and bombs.

The foregoing is appealing to common sense, reasoning, tactical command and coordination. In the earlier attack on a civilian community, the insurgents were reported to have set houses on fire, used guns and knives to kill people and then loaded about 200 cattle and sheep into trucks and carted them away. The picture of the foregoing is that they took their time attacking the community and stealing their properties and this could have gone on for hours. Moving 200 cattle and sheep will not be possible with sleek salon cars. Rather, they would be done with trucks which hardly speed up to 100 kilometres per hour. And they would therefore be moved slowly and off-loading at the point of destination will also be another time-consuming effort. So, no one could mobilise and follow up on these bandits at a time they were bound by circumstances to move rather slowly?

The fourth issue is that every time a military or civilian target is successfully attacked by insurgents, they thereafter literally vanish into thin air, with no trace. They simply disappear only to reappear at their due time for the next attack? How is this possible? We are dealing with large areas of land with little or no vegetation and forest cover; barely shrub covers. It would be easy, whether in follow-up infantry and or air force engagement to track and target the terrorists and take them out. Considering that the military engagement includes a multi-national task force, even if the insurgents cross national boundaries, proper coordination means that there would still be defence forces waiting to engage them across the border.

The fifth is that while international organisations including the United Nations organs and agencies have stated that Nigeria has been paying ransom to secure the release of persons held by insurgents, the government has been living in denial. The more resources available to the insurgents, the more vicious they will be and it appears that the Nigerian state is somehow funding and supporting them when they receive this back-door money. A re-examination of the need to pay ransom has to evolve.

Finally, the military high command should be forthcoming in providing information when incidents such as the Melete attack occur. It is not enough to condemn social and print media reports and tag them as fake news, disinformation and even threaten to prosecute persons who spread them. The press release from the military authorities on the Melete event merely warned about contravening the extant law without providing the official account of what happened. Nature abhors a vacuum. To the extent that official information is not forthcoming on a timely basis, something else will take its place because Nigerians are hungry for news about the performance of our beloved armed forces. Again, if official information deviates from what eyewitnesses told journalists, different accounts of such an incident will continue to be in the media.

A new strategy is needed. The ball is in the court of Mr. President and the Commander-in-Chief.

Exceptional Arguments Against The Minimum Wage

The tripartite negotiations on the national minimum wage involving the government, private sector employers and the labour unions have thrown up fundamental issues of governance. The disputations question the basis of the continued existence of government in Nigeria.  Many posers are raised: Why should the average person continue to pledge loyalty to a government that fails to recognise their right to exist, even if on the fringes and margins of society? It is a fundamental aphorism that the state exists to protect the security and welfare of the people. Laws and policies are to be made for the common good, especially the good of the majority rather than simply catering to the interests of the minority.

First, let us recall that what is being negotiated is not the maximum wage payable to employees in Nigeria, it is the minimum wage, the morality of the depths and not the morality of the heights. It is the minimum standard below which no state or employee is allowed to derogate from. So, listening to governors and commentators who are raising the issue of federalism as the reason why the Federal Government should not be legislating on the minimum wage, you either see ignorance or deliberate mischief. The legislation on minimum wage does not state that every employee should pay the minimum; they can go higher. Yes, wages should be deregulated according to the ability of states, local governments and generally, employers to pay. But the same, rather silly argument in the circumstances, is not used when the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission is given the constitutional power to fix and has indeed fixed a uniform salary scale for all governors, legislators, judicial officers and political office holders across the states, no matter their federation account allocation and or internally generated revenue. They have all been collecting this uniform pay structure and yet, they raise this argument when it is the turn of workers to ask for a living wage!

Virtually every Nigerian governor collects security votes exceeding N200m every month and simply pockets the money and accounts to no one but his dead conscience. The security votes of the 29 states (no data exist for seven states) from 2015-2017 gave an annual average of $579,823,187 (N208.8bn). The governor hires a retinue of aides who do no work that adds value to the state but pays them jumbo salaries. They are never owed and they receive the remuneration at fixed dates in the month. The governors go on long convoys of not less than 15 vehicles and generally live very affluent lives which ideally should only be lived by multi-billionaires who sweat for money. The N13.5m running cost of senators can pay 750 Nigerians the minimum wage of N18,000 each. And this is remuneration unknown to Nigerian laws and policies. While we focus attention on the jumbo pay of legislators, the ministers and appointed aides at the federal level make a kill out of the treasury. If you ask them, they will point to the approved RAMFAC salary but they live lifestyles that cannot be paid for by the official remuneration. Can society make progress with such impunity founded on hypocrisy?

The workers are simply asking for about $80 at the rate of N365 to 1USD. The news that employers of labour, especially the state governors claim that they are not able to pay the new minimum wage is simply the product of warped and wicked minds suffering from exceptional depravity. Burkina Faso pays a minimum wage of $138; Chad- $239, Tanzania-$149; Ghana-$128; Kenya-$331; Senegal – $148; Algeria – $531 and South Africa – $517. Yet, we claim to be the giant of Africa. There is therefore no reason for workers to accept this madness, especially state level employers who are bent of dehumanising Nigerian workers.

Organised labour should utilise this opportunity to launch and mount a blistering campaign, organise rallies while politicians are organising theirs, against any state governor who claims he cannot pay the new minimum wage and ask the electorate to reject such warped minds. Such a campaign should also extend to any governor who is owing arrears of salaries, pensions and gratuities. It would be suicidal for labour to allow such persons to come back as governors. How in all honesty can someone insist on leading a state when he lacks leadership qualities? Leading a people without a moral compass? Holding the led in disdain and displaying the exceptional depravity of stealing what they do not need. The time for this bunch of insensitive people is up and all men and women of goodwill should join hands to chase these crazy men out of leadership positions. Can any of these governors swear in all honesty that refusing to pay workers’ salaries is a product of lack of resources? How come there is self-evident inflation of contracts, mismanagement and stealing of available resources?

Let the governors be faithful over the little they have at their disposal and show utmost transparency and accountability. Men are caught on video stealing public resources and all they do is to use shadow groups and run to court to stop legislative investigations sanctioned by the constitution. A bishop comes to court with an affidavit showing the quantum of resources stolen by a former governor who is now a party chairman and the ex-governor says, no shaking. A former Plateau State governor, Joshua Dariye, is in jail for stealing and many more will go to jail while those currently sitting as governors cannot account for the resources given to them to manage

Enter the pseudo-intellectuals who will argue that an increase in the minimum wage will lead to inflation. But inflation is not induced when someone steals billions, to every one’s knowledge. Inflation is only a product of when people’s suffering is about to be alienated. Even if prices of goods will go up, it is a product of the noise and reluctance of government and employers to do the right thing. They give traders and the common man on the street the impression that so much money is about to be made available to employees when the salary movement is from N18,000 to N30,000 – a mere increase of N12,000. Tell, me, what can N12,000 buy in the economy of today?

Dear organised labour, the ball is in your court, no one will give Nigerian workers their rights if you fail to utilise this historic opportunity of the minimum wage agitation to guarantee their rights to a livable wage. In the process, you will raise a structured discourse of Nigeria’s public expenditure management, plug the leaks and run a country on the basis of evidence and reason, rather than the current authority stealing going on in the name of governance. Our current leaders are suffering from exceptional depravity; they must not be allowed to continue. Nigerian workers have a right to determine their destiny!

We Need Issue-Based Campaigns

In a few days from now, the Independent National Electoral Commission will formally declare Nigeria’s political space open for campaigns by candidates flying the flags of the respective political parties at the presidential, governorship and various legislative levels. What are we expecting from the candidates and political parties? Do we expect a resort by the candidates to vulgar abuse, indecent and indecorous words, exchange of inanities or presentation of ideas to solve existing national challenges, planning for the future and novel concepts of societal organisation?

It is submitted that the quality of the electoral campaigns is a forerunner to the quality of governance after a winner has emerged. Candidates without clear cut ideas of governance are likely to descend into verbal abuse and use of gutter language thereby taking away the public focus from the main issues. Thus, it is necessary that candidates and parties address issues that confront the day-to-day life of the average Nigerian. This discourse will review a few of the key issues and pose questions that should agitate the minds of the presidential candidates and for which Nigerians need a statement of their position on how to resolve them. This will involve the candidates outlining policy positions for reform in terms of amendment of existing policies or enactment of new ones. Also, what are the first bills that the executive will send to the National Assembly and expect them to become law within the first six months of the administration? This will give an idea of the priorities in the event the candidate gets elected.

The first is the issue of restructuring the country, a term that has been in public discourse for so many years but has now attained the urgency of a “now or never” postulation. Every candidate should be able to state their position on the debate. If the candidate believes in restructuring, what are the contours of the restructuring agenda of the party and candidate? If the party does not believe in restructuring, it should as well state so, but present the reasons for being averse to restructuring.

The second is the fresh issue of a national minimum wage. It is not enough, as some candidates have done, to promise doubling or tripling the minimum wage. The posers include; how will the increase be funded? Will it involve trimming the workforce? How will the government get money to fund capital and other needed expenditures if the personnel expenditure increases? Beyond the federal level, how will the administration get states to buy into the minimum wage considering that more than 60% of the states have failed to regularly pay the extant minimum wage of N18,000 on the purported grounds of lack of resources?

We have been told that Nigeria now has the greatest number of the poor in the world, i.e. people living in abject poverty and penury. We do not have a larger population compared to countries like India and China. But they have organised themselves to have fewer very poor persons. How do we domesticate the lessons learnt from these countries to pull the bulk of our population out of extreme poverty? Will this be about creating new wealth and opportunities for accessing the wealth or are we going to focus on the sheer tokenism and non-sustainable sharing of a few millions or billions of naira to the poor? Linked to the above is about how to reduce inequality in the country. What policies will bridge the economic inequality gap and ensure a minimum threshold in the standard of living for all Nigerians?

The challenge of continued importation of refined petroleum products confronts us and we have been paying subsidies for imported petroleum products. How will the new government address this situation? The idea of importation of refined petroleum products is about exporting jobs and relevant taxes, putting pressure on the naira and doing all unimaginable harm to the economy. What is the position of the candidates on the needed reforms in the petroleum industry? Will it be the extant business as usual position where there is overwhelming lethargy especially on the part of the executive to reform the sector? Even if the candidates claim they want reforms, what will be the timetable and timeline for the reforms? Will the new government wait until the last year before elections or will it be one of the hot button issues?

The national productivity is very low and our capacity for producing competitive goods and services is also low. There is low value added in terms of goods and services produced in the country. For a country that virtually imports everything, what is the magic wand that will wean us from this overbearing consumption and reliance on foreign goods and services? How will local capacity and content be boosted so as to get more Nigerians into jobs and competitive entrepreneurship? How shall we rejig the national procurement policy to mainstream the idea of “Nigeria First”?

How will the candidates address the burning health challenges facing our nation? The health sector is underfunded and so is virtually every sector of the economy and society. How will the new government raise fresh and may be, novel funds to invest in the sector? Would the candidates introduce compulsory and universal health insurance, a new tax or the rearrangement of existing finances to prioritise healthcare? Maternal and infant mortalities have put the country’s name on the list of infamy. What exactly will the new government do to remove Nigeria from this unenviable position? On the exodus of Nigeria’s qualified healthcare personnel to other lands, what new ideas are the candidates proffering to turn the brain drain into a brain gain? The poor state of health facilities needs to be addressed. Shall we have special intervention funds or budgetary funds to improve the facilities? What is the short, medium and long term plans for health? Beyond mouthing universal health coverage, what are the pathways and logistics of achieving this dream?

Education as foundation of societal development needs to be addressed. How will the party expand access to education at all levels whilst improving the quality and good content of curriculum? Do we build new institutions, especially universities and polytechnics or do we expand the carrying capacity of existing institutions? Which one costs less or more money to implement? What is the agenda for engaging labour demands in institutions of higher learning? For the money available in the Universal Basic Education Commission, how do we guarantee that states will draw down their portions instead of leaving the money with the commission at a time children are learning under trees and dilapidated environments?

At the root of every challenge is the need to invest more. But we cannot invest more when we have not expanded our sources of public funding, especially reform of taxation. What are the new ideas beyond enforcement of existing laws? Shall we increase tax rates for instance, moving value added tax from five per cent to 10 per cent considering that our VAT rate is the lowest in the West Africa sub-region?

This cannot be an exhaustive list of issues to address. It is simply a way to remind candidates and political parties to focus on the core issues.

Lessons From Parties’ Nomination Processes

Political parties constitute the engine of democracy as they are the only entities permitted by law to present candidates for elections in Nigeria. In other democracies, the law permits independent candidature which currently is unknown to our laws. The selection of candidates to represent political parties for different elective offices in the 2019 elections has come and gone. In some political parties, the tension and acrimony generated by the selection or election process have yet to abate and a number of pre-election litigation has arisen. This crisis is not new to Nigeria’s political landscape as it seems the political parties have not learnt anything from previous nomination processes.

The 1999 Constitution (as amended) and the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) anticipated democratic norms as guiding principles in the process leading to political parties presenting their candidates. The law expects that there will be many persons aspiring to represent the political party and at the end of the day, through a democratic process, the number will be pruned to just one person who transforms from an aspirant to a candidate. Section 87 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) states as follows on the nomination of candidates by political parties: Political parties seeking to present candidates are mandated to hold primaries which could be direct or indirect. This discourse will partly use the presidential nomination process of the ruling All Progressives Congress and the major opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, as a case study.

But before the primaries, there is a serious challenge to the electoral process. This is the challenge of high cost of expression of interest and nomination forms. The emerging pattern is that the more promising a party considers itself, the more fees it charges from aspirants. At the presidential level, the ruling APC and the PDP present an interesting scenario. While the APC charged a total of N45m, the PDP charged the sum of N12m. For a political party which prides itself as progressive, with a President who claims to have no large amounts of money of his own, to charge such high fees is nothing but a scandal. The fees for expression of interest and nomination forms are extra-constitutional demands made by the party which stricto sensu may be unconstitutional, particularly considering the fact that they are very high. It is the policy of the law that no one adds or subtracts from the clear provisions of the Constitution, especially where such additions and subtractions place undue hurdles to the enjoyment of rights and freedoms guaranteed by the constitution.

In a direct primary, all members of the political party whose name appear on its roll of members are entitled through direct suffrage to vote for the aspirant of their choice who will fly the flag of the party. This comes with the assumption that the political party has a credible list of members which can be used for the purpose of the primary. Of course, this roll of members provides the opportunity for the political party to collect appropriate levies and dues from members to support its activities. However, the nomination process of virtually all the political parties did not throw up evidence that they had credible membership registers. Rather, some of the parties, especially the ruling APC threw up incredible figures as persons who voted in direct primaries in their presidential nomination. Again, a direct primary should be seen as a competitive process rather than a coronation or affirmation of only one aspirant. This was not the case with the APC.

In an indirect primary, Section 87 of the Electoral Act requires political parties to hold special conventions in each of the 36 states of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory where delegates shall vote for each of the aspirants at the designated centres in each state capital on specified dates. Thereafter, a National Convention shall be held for the ratification of the aspirant with the highest number of votes. The aspirant with the highest number of votes at the end of voting in the 36 States of the Federation and Federal Capital Territory shall be declared the winner of the presidential primary of the political party and the candidate’s name shall be forwarded to the Independent National Electoral Commission as the candidate of the party after ratification by the national convention. For the PDP, that held an indirect primary, it slightly deviated from the form. While the PDP Guidelines require a Special National Convention to elect the candidate, the Electoral Act demands that voting for the aspirants be done at the special conventions in each of the 36 states and the FCT while the Special National Convention is for the purpose of ratification of the candidate by the party. However, this is more of a procedural difference considering that the substance, which is about allowing all delegates to vote, has been respected. The disturbing aspect of the indirect – delegates primary of the PDP is the media reports of inducement of delegates. This should not be the case; this points in the direction that extra-legal factors may have played a role in the emergence of the candidate.

At some state level governorship primaries, the party leaders simply refused to hold either a direct or indirect primary. This is the case of APGA in Imo State. The party leaders collected the expression of interest and nomination fees of the aspirants, allowed them to do the heavy lifting of going round the state -in all local governments, canvassing support from their members, spending their money, etc. But at the end of the day, in a very crude and heartless manner, devoid of all pretences of a democratic contest, the party leaders announced a candidate without any contest. There are allegations that the leaders of party were financially induced by the aspirant who was eventually declared winner.

In some other states, the political parties were divided down the line and parallel primaries were held by different factions of the party and it was up to the national leadership of the party to select the factional result which it deemed credible. In the Lagos chapter of the APC, the leader of party simply declared that the incumbent governor could not go for a second term because he was not “a good party man” – whatever that means. His word became law and we all clapped for such a wonderful process of democratic consolidation.

In conclusion, the primaries show the need for all political parties to maintain a credible membership register which can be validated by independent assessors. The Electoral Act should regulate fees chargeable for expression of interest and nomination forms. Also, direct primary should be the norm so as to allow all party members the opportunity to elect their candidates. This will also reduce the influence of money considering that whoever wants to buy millions of voters will have an uphill task. Clear cases of scandal as happened in the APGA Imo State governorship selection process should be expressly outlawed. In the final analysis, the idea of a democracy without democrats questions the essence of democracy and whether Nigerians are ready for a democracy which leads to development.

Lessons From Parties’ Nomination Process

Political parties constitute the engine of democracy as they are the only entities permitted by law to present candidates for elections in Nigeria. In other democracies, the law permits independent candidature which currently is unknown to our laws. The selection of candidates to represent political parties for different elective offices in the 2019 elections has come and gone. In some political parties, the tension and acrimony generated by the selection or election process have yet to abate and a number of pre-election litigation has arisen. This crisis is not new to Nigeria’s political landscape as it seems the political parties have not learnt anything from previous nomination processes.

The 1999 Constitution (as amended) and the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) anticipated democratic norms as guiding principles in the process leading to political parties presenting their candidates. The law expects that there will be many persons aspiring to represent the political party and at the end of the day, through a democratic process, the number will be pruned to just one person who transforms from an aspirant to a candidate. Section 87 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) states as follows on the nomination of candidates by political parties: Political parties seeking to present candidates are mandated to hold primaries which could be direct or indirect. This discourse will partly use the presidential nomination process of the ruling All Progressives Congress and the major opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, as a case study.

But before the primaries, there is a serious challenge to the electoral process. This is the challenge of high cost of expression of interest and nomination forms. The emerging pattern is that the more promising a party considers itself, the more fees it charges from aspirants. At the presidential level, the ruling APC and the PDP present an interesting scenario. While the APC charged a total of N45m, the PDP charged the sum of N12m. For a political party which prides itself as progressive, with a President who claims to have no large amounts of money of his own, to charge such high fees is nothing but a scandal. The fees for expression of interest and nomination forms are extra-constitutional demands made by the party which stricto sensu may be unconstitutional, particularly considering the fact that they are very high. It is the policy of the law that no one adds or subtracts from the clear provisions of the Constitution, especially where such additions and subtractions place undue hurdles to the enjoyment of rights and freedoms guaranteed by the constitution.

In a direct primary, all members of the political party whose name appear on its roll of members are entitled through direct suffrage to vote for the aspirant of their choice who will fly the flag of the party. This comes with the assumption that the political party has a credible list of members which can be used for the purpose of the primary. Of course, this roll of members provides the opportunity for the political party to collect appropriate levies and dues from members to support its activities. However, the nomination process of virtually all the political parties did not throw up evidence that they had credible membership registers. Rather, some of the parties, especially the ruling APC threw up incredible figures as persons who voted in direct primaries in their presidential nomination. Again, a direct primary should be seen as a competitive process rather than a coronation or affirmation of only one aspirant. This was not the case with the APC.

In an indirect primary, Section 87 of the Electoral Act requires political parties to hold special conventions in each of the 36 states of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory where delegates shall vote for each of the aspirants at the designated centres in each state capital on specified dates. Thereafter, a National Convention shall be held for the ratification of the aspirant with the highest number of votes. The aspirant with the highest number of votes at the end of voting in the 36 States of the Federation and Federal Capital Territory shall be declared the winner of the presidential primary of the political party and the candidate’s name shall be forwarded to the Independent National Electoral Commission as the candidate of the party after ratification by the national convention. For the PDP, that held an indirect primary, it slightly deviated from the form. While the PDP Guidelines require a Special National Convention to elect the candidate, the Electoral Act demands that voting for the aspirants be done at the special conventions in each of the 36 states and the FCT while the Special National Convention is for the purpose of ratification of the candidate by the party. However, this is more of a procedural difference considering that the substance, which is about allowing all delegates to vote, has been respected. The disturbing aspect of the indirect – delegates primary of the PDP is the media reports of inducement of delegates. This should not be the case; this points in the direction that extra-legal factors may have played a role in the emergence of the candidate.

At some state level governorship primaries, the party leaders simply refused to hold either a direct or indirect primary. This is the case of APGA in Imo State. The party leaders collected the expression of interest and nomination fees of the aspirants, allowed them to do the heavy lifting of going round the state –in all local governments, canvassing support from their members, spending their money, etc. But at the end of the day, in a very crude and heartless manner, devoid of all pretences of a democratic contest, the party leaders announced a candidate without any contest. There are allegations that the leaders of party were financially induced by the aspirant who was eventually declared winner.

In some other states, the political parties were divided down the line and parallel primaries were held by different factions of the party and it was up to the national leadership of the party to select the factional result which it deemed credible. In the Lagos chapter of the APC, the leader of party simply declared that the incumbent governor could not go for a second term because he was not “a good party man” – whatever that means. His word became law and we all clapped for such a wonderful process of democratic consolidation.

In conclusion, the primaries show the need for all political parties to maintain a credible membership register which can be validated by independent assessors. The Electoral Act should regulate fees chargeable for expression of interest and nomination forms. Also, direct primary should be the norm so as to allow all party members the opportunity to elect their candidates. This will also reduce the influence of money considering that whoever wants to buy millions of voters will have an uphill task. Clear cases of scandal as happened in the APGA Imo State governorship selection process should be expressly outlawed. In the final analysis, the idea of a democracy without democrats questions the essence of democracy and whether Nigerians are ready for a democracy which leads to development.

Buhari’s Travel Ban vs Nigeria’s Constitutional Order

Laws, policies, rules and guidelines are made for specific purposes and to take care of certain challenges facing a society. They are made to suppress a mischief existing before their enactment – to suppress the mischief and advance a remedy either to the society as a whole or to segments of it that have suffered under the mischief. Thus, laws are not made for the fun of it, to confer an undue advantage on a leader, to attend to the personal ego of the leader or for selfish and discriminatory purposes. This explains the idea of law as an instrument for the public good, its radiance and majesty that attracts obedience as the command of the sovereign backed by sanctions. However, when the law and its implementation become distorted, society suffers and moves in the wrong direction.

This is the context of the travel ban imposed by President Muhammadu Buhari on 50 purported corrupt persons over the weekend. There are so many questions begging for answers in this resort to arbitrariness. As well, there are so many reasons why Nigeria has grown beyond this siege and jackboot mentality, informing the need for the country to take its place among the comity of civilised nations. The first is that the right to freedom of movement is a constitutional right provided in Chapter Four of the constitution which is the Fundamental Rights chapter. The provisions of Chapter Four of the constitution cannot be amended unless the proposal is approved by the votes of not less than four-fifths majority of all the members of each House of the National Assembly, and also approved by a resolution of the House of Assembly of not less than two-thirds of all states. Thus, to buttress its importance, while other sections require two-thirds majority of the National Assembly, it requires a higher proportion to amend. It is not yet in the public domain that Section 41 on the freedom of movement has been amended.

The relevant portions of Section 41 of the constitution on the freedom of movement  provide that every citizen of Nigeria is entitled to move freely throughout the country and to reside in any part thereof, and no citizen of Nigeria shall be expelled from the country or refused entry thereby or exit therefrom. Nothing in subsection (1) of this section shall invalidate any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society -imposing restrictions on the residence or movement of any person who has committed or is reasonably suspected to have committed a criminal offence in order to prevent them from leaving Nigeria. In Section 45 of the constitution, it is further stated that nothing in Sections 37, 38, 39, 40 and 41 of this constitution shall invalidate any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society in the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health; or for the purpose of protecting the rights and freedom or other persons.

A clear understanding of these provisions will help in confirming the constitutionality, legality and propriety of the presidential travel ban.

Clearly, these claw back and derogation provisions of the constitution provide that any such derogatory action in sections 41 or 45 must scale two hurdles: the first is that the action must be done under a law and the second is that such a law must be reasonably justifiable in a democratic society. It is also not in the public domain that there is any specific law seeking to derogate from the foregoing provisions which has been passed by the National Assembly and given assent to by the President. For the avoidance of doubt, the President purports to act under the provisions of an Executive Order. An Executive Order is not a law and thus fails the first hurdle of a derogation justifiable under a law. Let us for once leave reality and assume that an Executive Order is granted the status of a law, it still has to be reasonably justifiable in a democratic society. For this second leg, the question raised is; what purpose does it serve? How will restriction of movement facilitate the recovery of stolen assets or the quick disposal of the matter in court? Even if the National Assembly enacts a law today to restrict movement of certain category of persons, it can still be challenged if the restriction serves no purpose and cannot be directed and targeted at providing a relief for a mischief which is facilitated by the exercise of the freedom of movement.

The second issue is about the disposition of the current regime to abuse fundamental rights and freedoms and its avowed disobedience of court orders where the President and the Attorney-General of the Federation select the court orders they obey and sit as appellate courts over judgements, including those of the highest court in the land. Granting any set of individuals with this mindset the right to abrogate the freedoms of others is simply a throwback to dictatorship, a descent to tyranny and an unequivocal licence to fascism. The President appears to be romantic about his first coming when he used Decree No. 2 which is the State Security (Detention of Persons) Decree and the infamous Decree Four on Public Officers (Protection against False Accusation) Decree to suppress alternative opinion, throw all persons he did not like their face into jail and rule maximally until he was overthrown.

Coming in the heat of the 2019 elections when the two dominant political parties have elected their presidential candidates and campaigns are about to start, it is imperative to remind President Buhari and the ruling All Progressives Congress of the provisions of Section 100 (2) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended). It states that state apparatus including the media shall not be employed to the advantage or disadvantage of any political party or candidate at any election. The term “state apparatus” is wide enough and includes all powers, functions and resources placed at the disposal of the state for public purposes and this will include administrative, legislative, coercive, law enforcement, media, etc. powers. The war against corruption should not be an excuse for targeting the resources and personnel of the opposition. It should not provide the cover for the abuse of state administrative resources because political parties and candidates are supposed to go into the elections on a level-playing field for the elections to be described as credible, free and fair.

When the purported Executive Order under which the President gave himself a right to ride roughshod over the law was unveiled, Nigerians had a huge debate on its constitutionality and legality and reasonable men and women thought that the President would have taken counsel and be properly advised. No, instead, he has plunged headlong into its implementation without thinking through the issues of legality and the crisis it may plunge the nation into.

Nigerians did not place their lives on the line challenging dictators, from Buhari’s first coming to the Babangida and Abacha regimes, only to be shortchanged after more than 18 years of civil rule. Nigeria is resilient and will always triumph over attempts to foist dictatorship on the land. Trust, this attempt will not be different and every weapon fashioned against democratic freedoms in Nigeria shall fail.

Nigeria at 58

Today, October 1, 2018 is 58 years since the British colonial masters left and handed over governance to Nigerians. Ideally, it should be a time of celebration, rolling out of drums for the successes achieved and the great mileage attained. The central poser, however, is whether in 58 years, we have met expectations based on the potential endowed on us by our large population, human and ecological resources, etc. Alternatively, if we have not performed well, have we started the journey that puts us on the path of sustainable development and progress?

Reviewing Nigeria’s achievements at 58, the most common parametres for measurement could be the state of our governance, economy and major subdivisions of these key parametres. This discourse will use the political and governance parametres to review our progress so far. On the political and governance front, we have been through two key systems of governance, the elected systems and the impositions by military dictators. We passed through a brutal civil war to retain our unity and many will see the fact of our being one country after 58 years as an achievement. The jury is out as to whether, overall, we would have been more prosperous and successful if we had operated with may be, three or four different countries out of the big Nigeria. Some other countries like India had let their component parts become independent countries after some years of being together. But we are here together and the business of the day is to make the best out of our status as a united country. We are not the largest country in the world in terms of population, land area and diversity. Our challenge has been the management of our diversity which would have made us a very strong and potent force when all the positive attributes of the different components are welded into the service of the bigger whole. Fifty eight years down the line, those fault lines that appeared shortly before independence have refused to go away; rather they seem to be widening.

These fault lines so far have encouraged a race to the bottom rather than a race to the top, especially after we jettisoned federalism and started paying lip service to it. Based on these fault lines, which more or less benefited the elite and ruling class, groups and individuals who have found themselves on the corridors of power have mismanaged the common patrimony.  The federalism of the First Republic (1960 to 1966) encouraged the spirit of progressive competition. It was a race to the top when the energies of the people were tapped for development within the context of unity in diversity. This period witnessed developmental strides and growth comparable to what obtained in other countries of the world at our level of development. But we mismanaged the First Republic and the military came in under the pretext of redemption – to fight corruption and unite the country but succeeded in setting us back.

The Second Republic showed that the leaders on mufti learnt and forgot nothing. They were democrats who did not believe in democracy. They subverted the will of the people and failed to allow the votes to count.  The arrogance of power manifested in abuse of office, looting of the treasury and practically no idea for the development of the country. And the military struck again under the old pretext of redemption. They elevated abuse of office to new heights, starting from the gross disrespect of human rights and fundamental freedoms of the Gen Muhammadu Buhari regime. The Ibrahim Babangida administration took corruption to new heights and legitimised it; and its greatest achievement became the annulment of the free and fair June 12, 1993 presidential election. The Shonekan Interim National Government was too short and a lame duck to merit a consideration of its contribution to nation-building. Enter the most brutal dictator of our time, Sani Abacha, who looted the treasury with impunity whilst his killing squad unleashed terror and spilled the blood of the innocent on the land. Abdusalami Abubakar tried to restore some sanity in the land and within a short spell of time, handed over power to civilians and Nigeria started on a new note.

However, the military handed over to another former soldier who promised to take Nigeria to greater heights considering his age and life experience. Obasanjo had been in power before and was jailed by the Abacha regime for opposing his misrule. But the deliverables of his administration were far less than the big promises which Nigerians had upon his assumption of office. His regime was marred by a deconsolidation of democracy as he presided over massive electoral heists. President Umaru Yar’Adua’s administration was too short before he died. He promised a lot of reforms and started the process of reform before his death. Enter the man who had “no shoes” and who promised transformation and reforms. So much goodwill attended his election as the first university graduate leader of our time. Again, Jonathan’s administration fell short of the expectations leading to the man who had ruled before, to make a promise of the change agenda. President Buhari came on board in 2015 with promises of reforms of his first coming without its gross abuses of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Evidently, the jury is out on his performance. Under his regime, the traditional fault lines are getting wider as ethnic and religious tension is growing with massive insecurity.

In all of these developments, the voice of the people have not been heard, their needs have not been met and mainstreamed into the economic and social system, whilst the key resources have not been tapped as they have been left dormant. The resources include human, ecological, technological and financial resources. For ecological resources, beyond our oil, we have left other resources. Even the oil, we are simply extracting crude and selling same without refining and extracting other highly valued commodities. We still import refined petrol. The human resources have not been tapped for development as we have scientists who cannot convert their knowledge into technical resources to solve our existential problems. Our medical doctors have not been empowered to take good care of our health while wealthy Nigerians traverse other lands in search of care. We still have leaders who steal our money and take it out of the country whilst we look for money for infrastructure and other development needs.

A new paradigm of political leadership is needed. A lot of our leaders did not or do not understand development. Many were rulers and waited to be served instead of serving. For the youths of the country who have more years to spend and who have a greater stake in the country, it is up to them to endeavour to take over leadership, to demand accountability from the present and future leaders. The present crop of leaders do not care and have no dreams for Nigeria’s development beyond their entitlement to remain in the corridors of power. May God continue to bless Nigeria.

Happy Independence Day, Nigerians

Making Sense Of Nigeria’s Fiscal Crisis

As we move towards the 2019 presidential election, there is trouble with our national finances, being the source of revenue to fund the federal and state budgets. This trouble has reached a critical stage that a national alarm should go off, to start an unprecedented debate so that everyone from all sectors of the economy will join in proffering solutions. It is obvious that even the persons who either want to continue in power or those who want to take over from them are not conscious of the parlous state of our finances. They are thinking of money flowing form the proverbial and imaginary sweet crude which will oil the machinery of government.

A chief contributor to this bliss of ignorance is the failure and refusal of the Budget Office of the Federation and either the Ministry of Finance or the Ministry of Budget and National Planning to do their assigned jobs under the Fiscal Responsibility Act on time. By law, the quarterly Budget Implementation Reports are to be published one month after the end of the quarter while the yearly BIR is to be published not later than six months after the end of the financial year. But the authorities do not take this responsibility seriously. They publish these reports as they desire.

It is pertinent to state that revenue projections undergird a budget and the variance between projected revenue and the actual realised should not be very wide. Not more than a five per cent variance may be tolerated as a good and fit practice considering that we are running a human system which may never attain perfection given that perfection only belongs to God. Now, what are the statistics from the fourth quarter BIR of 2017 which showed the full year projection of 2017 and what was eventually realized? From projected Federal Government retained revenue of N5,084.40bn, only N2,377.01bn was realised being 46.75 per cent of the projected revenue and a variance of 53 per cent. When other non-budgeted revenue heads such as refund from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, exchange rate differential, etc. are added to the realised revenue, it comes up N2,657.67bn, being a paltry 52.27 per cent of the budgeted revenue and a variance of about 48 per cent.

Let us consider the components of this revenue big picture. The first is the Federal Government share of oil revenue projected at N2,122.18bn while only N1,125.05bn was realised, being a performance of 53.01 per cent, leaving a variance of 47 per cent. Non-oil revenue had a projection of N1,410.51bn while the sum of N956.67bn was realised, being a 67.82 per cent performance leaving a gap of 32 per cent. A further breakdown of non-oil revenue shows that the key subheads of Value Added Tax, Company Income Tax, Customs and Excise, and independent revenue all underperformed. The expectation from VAT was N241.92bn while the sum of N130.05bn was realised, being a 53.75 per cent performance; for CIT, the expectation was N807.82bn while the actual realised came up to N543.34bn, being 67.26 per cent performance. Customs and Excise had a projection of N277.56bn while the actual was N261.41bn which is a 95.26 per cent performance, being the best performance in the group. The perennial underperformer, independent revenue, had a projection of N807.57bn while the actual was N295.29bn, being a performance of 36.5 per cent.

This performance leaves more questions than answers. Why did oil revenue underperform at a time of high oil prices, without reported cases of militancy leading to disruptions in oil production? The composite BIR for the year states that “the average price of crude oil in the international market also represents an increase of US$9.77 per barrel (or 21.96 percent) above the US$44.5 per barrel oil price benchmark for the 2017 Budget”. The implication was that oil sold above the benchmark price in the international market. So, what is going on in the oil sector that we have not been told? Is it subsidy without appropriation, which is illegal and an assault on the constitution, mismanagement, fraud? Nigerians need to know. We are also daily told of the high performance of the Customs but they still missed their target. The impression always created is that the Customs have been exceeding their target. Why is the FGN always projecting a big figure for independent revenue year after year when it is evident that not much will come from the source? Alternatively, a lot is expected to have come from this source, especially in operating surplus from scheduled corporations; so, what is the FGN doing to support the collection of operating surplus in an evidence-led manner as provided in the Fiscal Responsibility Act? Where is the Fiscal Responsibility Commission in the scheme related to the collection of operating surplus? Again, oil revenue still comes top despite all the mantra of diversification of the economy.

Turning to the expenditure side, personnel had a projection of N1,884.07bn while the actual is N1,865.62bn being 99 per cent performance while debt projection was N1,663.89bn and actual at N1.634.93bn being a 98 per cent performance. This excludes other peripheral debt items which ballooned the figure further. In essence, the combination of personnel expenditure and debt repayment amounted to N3,502.55bn which exceeded the realised overall revenue by N844.88bn. The implication is that we borrowed to the tune of N844.88bn to pay salaries and debts. Also, whatever was spent on capital expenditure was borrowed. And the deficit ballooned from the projected N2,356bn to N3.805bn. Which means, 68.62 per cent of all our revenue are used to pay debts while the N2,765.53bn, which is the overall recurrent expenditure, is higher than all accrued FGN revenue of N2,657.67bn.

These figures should raise an alarm. They are not sustainable either in the short, medium or long term and they are totally unacceptable for a country of the size, with available resources and aspirations of Nigeria. The figures show that our budget is a huge joke; projections are never near the actuals and the budget is reduced to a mere exercise in projecting for what is not realisable. We are borrowing to pay salaries and repay previous debts and all pretences to executing capital projects is deceitful if it is based on borrowing. The debt is growing at an unprecedented scale and in geometrical proportions and no one seems to care. The unexecuted 2018 federal budget is going to be heavily reliant on borrowing while 2019 will follow the same trajectory. If we are not raising enough money to repay toady’s debts, how shall we pay back bigger debts tomorrow with an economy that is losing steam and where citizens and investors’ confidence is at an all-time low. The way we are going, the roof of this economy will collapse on all of us and the blame game of who caused the collapse will not save anyone.

We need to go back to the drawing board. The current Federal Government needs to open up to explain what it intends to do with this fiscal crisis. It is no longer enough to continue to pretend that all is well. If we do not open the space for interrogation and new ideas, when total bankruptcy sets in, we should all be ready to suffer the excruciating pains. We need creative thinking with the key operators getting out of the box so as to raise their antenna to new thought pathways. The time to act is now.

 

A Political Finance Monitoring Group Is Urgently Needed

The use of money in elections is not new in Nigeria or in any part of the world. Money and other resources are needed for political parties to run their administration and for aspirants to run primaries, and then, the candidates who emerge from the primaries to execute the main elections. Essentially, politics involves the use and disbursement of resources. However, the use of money should simply enable aspirants to get across to the members of the party or delegates during primary elections and to sell their ideas or reasons for seeking office. Again, during the main elections, money and other resources enable the candidates to sell their ideas to the electorate.

The use of money has never been allowed for vote-buying or peddling undue influence on the electorate. Vote-buying, inducement, bribery, etc. have always been criminal offences under the various Electoral Act and Criminal Codes. Various punishments including prison sentences and fines have been imposed on such criminal conduct in the law books. The extant Electoral Act provides limitations of N1bn, N200m, N40m, N20m, N10m and N1m for candidates contesting president, governor, membership of the Senate, House of Representatives, state House of Assembly and councillor respectively. This is the ceiling the candidate can spend on their election but not the ceiling the political party can spend on the same election. The political party’s expenditure on a candidate in an election is not limited by law despite the fact that the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) gives the Independent National Electoral Commission, in consultation with political parties, the power to determine the maximum amount to be spent by a political party on candidates. Again, the maximum amount an individual can give to a political party is not limited by law.

All the foregoing gaps in the law can be filled by INEC through the use of its regulatory powers under Section 153 of the Electoral Act. Section 153 states that, “The Commission may, subject to the provisions of this Act, issue regulations, guidelines, or manuals for the purpose of giving effect to the provisions of this Act and for its administration thereof.”

Aside from the foregoing, the monitoring of expenses of candidates for an election is a very tedious and difficult assignment. INEC as presently resourced and staffed cannot effectively monitor expenditures of candidates from the 91 political parties across the federation. Also, despite the attempts by the financial regulatory agencies and various laws against money laundering, Nigeria to a great extent still runs a cash-based economy. This is more the case in politics as politicians spend huge amounts of money which cannot be justifiable in normal ethical and legal jurisdictions. It is a notorious fact that delegates electing candidates demand and receive money and generally vote for the highest bidder. These monies are disbursed sometimes in foreign currencies such as the United States dollar. It is another notorious fact that many candidates, especially those with deep pockets or incumbents who control public allocations spend above the ceilings provided for candidates in the Electoral Act. Monies do not change hands officially, but behind closed doors and sometimes in the dead of the night where no one, including INEC officials or the security agencies is watching.

The above creates the need for a stakeholder group such as the Political Finance Monitoring Group that brings various competencies to the table, to be involved in campaign finance monitoring under the leadership of INEC. The key stakeholder-groups include INEC, political parties, the police, other security agencies including the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, the media, academia, National Broadcasting Commission, Nigeria Communications Commission, Code of Conduct Bureau, Central Bank of Nigeria, Financial Intelligence Unit, Federal Inland Revenue Service and civil society organisations.

Such a group should meet regularly and the stakeholders will provide an array of information to it which can be used for follow-up on remedial and enforcement action. Happily, INEC has by regulation demanded that all candidates should report on their campaign expenditure. It could also ask the candidates and political parties to open dedicated campaign finance bank accounts which will receive all income and through which all expenditure will be made.

All inflows and outflows from such dedicated accounts can be monitored by the CBN, the Financial Intelligence Unit and the relevant security agencies. The Federal Inland Revenue Service should be interested in the tax status of persons who make huge donations to campaigns and political parties; the Broadcasting Commission should be able to give an account of campaign money spent in the electronic media; the Communications Commission will bring information on expenditure that runs through the mobile networks. The political parties will be watching each other and make information available on expenditures that run afoul of the rules; civil society and media as watchdogs and pillars of integrity will provide further information to the group while security agencies will investigate reported breaches. Political parties having broad membership and entrenched in communities will be best suited to provide information and evidence from the grassroots on the extant campaign finance practices of their members and other political party members. The group provides the opportunity to review developments, actions and inactions of various groups, candidates and political parties during the campaigns and election and call for preventive, remedial or proactive action to curtail the breaches.

A Political Finance Monitoring Group that engages its stakeholders will lead to alliance building, knowledge and information exchange, effective monitoring of campaign finance and evaluation of different available options of monitoring and enforcement, strengthen accountability and lead to innovations. The PFMG will seek to revive the full implementation of all campaign finance guidelines and regulations issued by INEC, extant standards and Code of Ethics for Political Parties and seek voluntary compliance by political parties and candidates. It will engage the public, increase demand for accountability and generate evidence for the review of campaign finance laws and policies after the elections.

Evidence available from recent and previous elections indicates the increasing use of money to influence voters arising from an impoverished electorate who are in dire straits. No one can do the monitoring and enforcement of campaign finance laws alone – INEC or any single agency or stakeholder group. Candidates and parties can be stopped from inducing the electorate, violators of the law need to need to be prosecuted and punished and in the long run, the laws will be reviewed to become more fit and proper for the Nigerian society.

No, Mr. President, The Rule Of Law Is Supreme

Last week, President Muhammadu Buhari started a debate during his opening speech at the Nigerian Bar Association 2018 conference. He stated that national security and interest take precedence over the rule of law and that this has been given judicial recognition. This proposition seems to throw light on the mindset of the President as well as an attempt to justify previous inexplicable actions of his administration. Again, it seems to be the pathway to how the President seeks to run the country in the remainder of his tenure and if he eventually succeeds in getting a second term.

It is preliminary in this discourse to attempt the deconstruction of the rule of law and its implications in a constitutional democracy. In its classical formulation by A.V. Dicey, the rule of law is about a government, a people and institutions governed by law devoid of whimsical arbitrariness. It is about no one being above the law, equality before the law, equal protection of the law, supremacy of the constitution and due process of law.  A former Secretary-General of the United Nations articulates it thus: “A principle of governance in which all persons, institutions and entities, public and private, including the State itself, are accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated, and which are consistent with international human rights norms and standards. It requires, as well, measures to ensure adherence to the principles of supremacy of law, equality before the law, accountability to the law, fairness in the application of the law, separation of powers, participation in decision-making, legal certainty, avoidance of arbitrariness and procedural and legal transparency”.

The President is not a lawyer, political scientist, sociologist, etc. and cannot lay claim to any jurisprudential or philosophical orientation as to seek to postulate a new theory of societal governance. Evidently, this speech must have been crafted by one of his numerous aides and it is expected that these aides have a legal background considering that this was a speech presented to a distinguished gathering of lawyers who are ministers in the great temple of justice. Whether the President wrote the speech himself or an aide did, the starting point is to tell him that there can be nothing more fallacious and disingenuous than his proposal. The law is the foundation of society, everything proceeds from it and all branches of human endeavour are guided by laws. The fact that the constitution is supreme and any law or policy inconsistent with it is void to the extent of its inconsistency venerates the supremacy of the grundnorm which is the highest law in the land. The constitution did not state that national security and national interest are the pillars or the fundamental norms of governance.

Within the foregoing context, it is also the law that articulates and defines national security and national interest. The two are considerations that can inter alia inform and be taken cognisance of while interpreting the laws of the land. The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 states in Section 45 as follows: “(1) Nothing in sections 37, 38, 39, 40 and 41 of this Constitution shall invalidate any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society (a) in the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health; or (b) for the purpose of protecting the rights and freedom or other persons (2), An act of the National Assembly shall not be invalidated by reason only that it provides for the taking, during periods of emergency, of measures that derogate from the provisions of Section 33 or 35 of this Constitution; but no such measures shall be taken in pursuance of any such act during any period of emergency save to the extent that those measures are reasonably justifiable for the purpose of dealing with the situation that exists during that period of emergency: Provided that nothing in this section shall authorise any derogation from the provisions of Section 33 of this Constitution, except in respect of death resulting from acts of war or authorise any derogation from the provisions of section 36(8) of this Constitution”.

The above section provides for laws that derogate from certain fundamental rights for purposes including defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health or for protecting the rights and freedoms of others. Thus, the constitution does not provide for an arbitrary or whimsical exercise of executive power in derogation of rights. Such action can only be justified under a law, with the law making process of First, Second, Third Reading and a public hearing in between before the product is harmonised between the Senate and House of Representatives and comes to the President for his assent. This provides a good opportunity for public inputs and debate before the law is passed. Furthermore, those measures must be reasonably justifiable for the purpose of dealing with the situation that it seeks to protect. The foregoing does not take away the right of individuals whose rights are affected by such a law from challenging the derogation law in the courts.

Thus, the final word on whether the exercise of the power to derogate is justifiable lies with the judiciary. If the President is attempting to justify previous inexplicable actions of his administration, especially in disobeying orders of court vindicating the fundamental rights of citizens, then his alibi failed before it started. National security and interest must be pleaded in court as the reason for the denial of rights and the court will take a considered position on the arguments. So, in the cases of the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, and leader of the Shiite sect, Ibrahim El Zakzaky, where the court had ordered their release after listening to the submission of lawyers on both side, representing the executive (the state) and the accused, it is contrary to reason and common sense; utterly absurd and ridiculous for the President to seek to justify his contempt of court based on a warped understanding of clear constitutional provisions. The Supreme Court in the case referred to by President Buhari-Dokubo-Asari V. FRN(2007) 5-6 SC at page 150, upheld the pronouncement of both the Federal High Court and the Court of Appeal in refusing the Appellant bail on the basis that the appellant failed to meet the minimum demands for the grant of bail. In the Dokubo case, the Supreme Court considered the arguments of both sides and made a ruling on the merits and facts of the case. At no time did the Supreme Court encourage the executive to disobey court orders under the guise of national security.

If this is the pathway to how the President seeks to continue run the country in the remainder of his tenure, then all Nigerians have a fundamental obligation to reject tyranny, arbitrariness and desecration of the constitution by telling the President in clear terms that we cannot tolerate such backward and medieval behaviour. And if the President seeks the vote for a second term, of an enlightened people and affirms apriori that should he succeed in getting the vote, he will disobey court orders, then, we are not bound to vote ourselves into slavery. We are bound to reject the slave master.

1999-2018: The democracy scorecard

Nigeria ready for democracy or, put in another way, are Nigerians ready for democratic consolidation? These questions are germane and imperative considering where we are at the moment. The question, are we ready for democracy, makes sense because what we have had since 1999 is not democracy but autocratic civil rule. It has been nothing other than the rule by godfathers, mobsters and former unrepentant dictators who seem bent on controlling Nigeria from the frontlines and puppet strings after their years in power. The term, democratic consolidation, is relevant to those who think we are in a democracy, and as such, we need to move to the next level of the democratic agenda.

But we are not in a democracy because democracy is about human rights and development. For human rights, we have witnessed a little improvement compared to the days of the military dictatorship, but we are not there yet as we have moved forward and then backward in a one step forward, and another step backward movement. It has just been about the movement in a barber’s chair that leads to nowhere but movement on the same spot. And this is not where we are supposed to be.

The Peoples Democratic Party had its chances for 16 years to set Nigerian firmly on the path of progress and development. However, it chose to bungle the opportunity when it elected President Olusegun Obasanjo and other succeeding presidents from the party. Members of the party did not understand democracy but were focused on personal aggrandisement and driving the arrogance of power to new heights while deriving the perks of office to the maximum available. It is admitted that Obasanjo engineered some reforms, but his score was poor overall. He delivered so little with so many opportunities to excel and change the Nigerian landscape.

Obasanjo was a man who had the opportunity the first time between 1976 and 1979 and secondly for eight years between 1999 and 2007 to change the history of Nigeria. But he chose to blow the opportunity on the arrogance of a megalomaniac. And the greatest disservice he did to Nigeria was not to allow genuine primaries at the presidential and other levels within the party, coupled with his desire to subjugate the legislature. Thus, Obasanjo set the stage for the denigration of internal democracy in our political parties.

Enter, the late President Umaru Yar’Adua who did not rule long for us to have enough time to properly assess his style of governance. His key highlights were his 7-Point Agenda and his profession to the rule of law. But there was evidence that he did not understand governance at the highest level, being someone who never desired or aspired to rule or lead Nigeria, but was only invited by Obasanjo to assume power. He was a reluctant and unprepared President who was struggling with his ill-health, at the same time, trying to understand federal governance challenges as well as setting his agenda of governance. Unfortunately, God called him back and not much changed. The confounding part of his regime was the fact that he sought to revise a number of President Obasanjo’s agenda even though they came from the same party and he was handpicked by the same Obasanjo. And the issues he revised and failed to agree with Obasanjo and delayed policy implementation were the few good points of the Obasanjo regime.

President Goodluck Jonathan came as a self-professed breath of fresh air, with so much euphoria about his education, being the first person with a doctorate to rule Nigeria. His amiable personality and the fact that he comes from a minority group all made him a hot cake. There was a wildfire of goodwill and expectations from Jonathan. Unfortunately, the lethargic comportment of the PDP also enveloped him as he could not control the corruption, excesses and the mischief from his party and they ended up crashing the goodwill of the party on the altar of the All Progressives Congress. But the ascendancy of Jonathan was against the zoning formula of the PDP, which had agreed to the rotation of power between Northern and Southern Nigeria and among the six geopolitical zones. Since Yar’Adua did not complete his tenure which was interpreted as the turn of the North, the expectation was that another Northerner should have succeeded him. Thus, the groundswell of opposition to President Jonathan was beyond his sins in power but fuelled by a desire for return to the original power sharing formula.

The APC benefitted from the prevalent mood in the country and promised to be different. Specifically, President Muhammadu Buhari benefitted from this mood and got elected into power. Incidentally, we have been on the APC change agenda for over three years but the more things change, the more they remain the same. Indeed, in many sectors, there has been retrogression. Nigerians wanted change, yes, we got change, but not in the direction we desired. We are simply at the point of total stagnation, with the leadership not coming forward with any new ideas of governance. They are simply using the old ideas of the PDP with little or no polish but implementing them in the most crude and barbaric of ways.

Nigeria now witnesses its President and Attorney-General of the Federation justifying disobedience to court orders which was rare in the PDP days or at best, in the memory days of Prof Yadudu as Gen Sani Abacha’s Attorney-General. We now witness killings by herdsmen with impunity while the President asks us to pray and refuses to do anything about protecting the right to life. We now have a presidential spokesman who is impunity personified with the effrontery of asking land owners to forfeit their lands or be killed by herdsmen who evidently are above the law. We have a President who hails General Yakubu Gowon for introducing the National Youths Service Corps while keeping mum on his Minister of Finance who allegedly lied on oath and falsified exemption document to show that she did the youth service when in actual fact, she did not serve. Just like in the Obasanjo regime, the anti-corruption agencies have been turned into vendata machines to chase the President’s political opponents out of town under the guise of a war on corruption.

There has been no progress, at least the kind of progress comparable to the quantum of resources and opportunities available to the country. According to a report by the Brookings Institution, data from the World Poverty Clock show that Nigeria is now the poverty capital of the world, now with a collapsed economy which grows slower than its population. Make no mistakes about it; we need a change of leadership. But it is up to Nigerians to decide where the pendulum will swing and that decision needs not be restricted to the two dominant political parties. Nigerians should shine their eyes, as they say.

2019 Elections And Health Care Funding

Nigeria is on its way to critical elections in February 2019. Now therefore is the time for aspirants, candidates and political parties to ask for votes and support. It is also an opportunity for the citizens, being the electorate, to ask critical questions and bring up core issues of interest to the front burner. One of such critical issues is the state of health services, which from all available indicators produced by national and international organisations, places Nigeria at the bottom rung of civilised societies. Our indicators are only comparable with those of nations coming out of many years of war and conflict.

From low life expectancy, poor maternal, new born and child health indicators, prevalence of communicable and non-communicable diseases; doctor-patient ratio and the ratio of other medical personnel to the population, available hospital beds, health goods, services and facilities, Nigeria is portrayed as a nation that does not prioritise good health care. The implication is that we do not take our lives seriously because the right to health is a component of the right to life. The easiest way to deprive a man, woman, boy or girl of their life is to deny them of health-supporting conditions and facilities to the point of abrogation.

Yes, politicians will come and promise free, quality and acceptable health services, but the central question we need to ask is; how will the services be funded and where will the human, material and financial resources be generated from to achieve this? In terms of economic accessibility (affordability): How will the party increase affordability of health care? Considering that budgetary resources for health may never be enough to adequately fund health care services, how else will the party improve financing for health? Nigeria’s out-of-pocket health expenditure is about 72 per cent of total health expenditure, which is one of the highest in the world, at a time the country has acquired the notoriety of having the largest population of the poor in the world.

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights states that “Health facilities, goods and services must be affordable for all. Payment for health care services, as well as services related to the underlying determinants of health has to be based on the principle of equity, ensuring that these services, whether privately or publicly provided, are affordable for all, including socially disadvantaged groups. Equity demands that poorer households should not be disproportionately burdened with health expenses as compared to richer households”. Also, “The committee … states that even in times of severe resource constraints, the vulnerable members of society must be protected by the adoption of relatively low cost targeted programmes.”

Political parties and candidates need to disclose to Nigerians their plans for improving health insurance as the current coverage of both public and private health insurance is less than five per cent of the population. Health insurance and prepaid health care pool resources from a large number of insured for the treatment of persons who need the services; facilitate access to health care and reduces the burden of out-of pocket-expenditure. For health insurance to be effective, it has to be universal and compulsory while the state intervenes to provide resources for the poorest of the poor who cannot afford to pay the premiums.

Nigeria is heavily indebted and its debt to revenue ratio is more than 40 per cent. The Federal Government has been borrowing money from the World Bank and other sources to finance health sector activities. Examples include the borrowing of $200m to fund vaccines procurement in 2015 and the $500m loan being used for the Saving One Million Lives Programme-for-Results (SOMLPforR). How would the political parties and candidates respond to this development? Would the parties continue to borrow for health care? Although the health programmes are laudable, borrowing for health care financing is not sustainable.The candidates should think through innovative local resource mobilisation mechanisms to fund the health sector sustainably. This will include expansion of non-oil revenue. Creation of the enabling environment for the organised private sector and small businesses to thrive may help to improve the revenue profile of the country and improve quality of life.

Nigerians need to find out the position of the parties and candidates on the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF). Section 11 of the National Health Act provides for a BHCPF as follows: (1) There is hereby established a Basic Health Care Provision Fund (in this Act referred to as “the Fund). (2) The Basic Health Care Provision Fund shall be financed from – (a) Federal Government annual grant of not less than one per cent of its Consolidated Revenue Fund; (b) grants by international development partners; and (c) funds from any other source. The stated percentage of the Federal Government grant is the minimum and not the maximum, meaning that it can be increased. What other sources as stated in subsection (d) can the party exploit in increasing funding for the BHCPF? What percentage of the Consolidated Revenue Fund will the party commit to the BHCPF? If there are plans for the expansion of funds available under the BHCPF, what strategies would the party use in the expansion?

Considering the experiences of states in accessing the Universal Basic Education Fund, parties need to be interrogated on how they intend to operationalise and improve access to the BHCPF? The UBEC fund is available but states, due to a number of reasons, are not accessing the idle funds.The National Health Act in Section 11 states: “(5) For any State or Local Government to qualify for a block grant pursuant to subsection pursuant to subsection (1) of this section, such State or Local Government shall contribute (a) in the case of a State, not less than 25 per cent of the total cost of the project; (b) in the case of a Local Government, not less than 25 per cent of the total cost of the project as their commitment in the execution of such project. (6) The National Primary Health Care Development Agency shall not disburse money to any (a) Local Government Health Authority if it is not satisfied that the money earlier disbursed was applied in accordance with the provisions of this Act; (b) State or Local Government that fails to contribute its counterpart funding; and (c) States and Local Governments that fail to implement the National Health Policy, norms, standards and guidelines prescribed by the National Council on Health”.

In conclusion, political parties and candidates need to develop a governance and political agenda for health. We cannot afford to continue on a muddle through approach which simply seeks to get power and later think of how to solve health challenges. Let the agenda be unveiled and let the health funding debate begin.

CSJ Bags United Nation’s Special Status

The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) has been granted the United Nation’s special consultation status through its arm-Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).ECOSOC had adopted the recommendations of its committee on Non-Governmental Organisations, which rated CSJ as worthy of being actually engaged with the council and its subsidiaries as well as the UN’s secretariat, programmes funds and agencies in various ways.

Consultative relationship with NGOs also enables the council or one of its bodies to seek expert information or advice from organisations with special competence in a subject matter.

CSJ may now request the Secretary-General, through the committee on Non-Governmental Organisations, to place items of special interest in the provisional agenda of the council.

It is also entitled to designate official representatives to the United Nations headquarters in New York and the United Nations offices in Geneva and Vienna.The Lead director of CSJ, Eze Onyekpere, said the recognition is a further call to duty, assuming that he and his team will not relent, but continues to pursue the course of humanity.

Leave The Legislature To Flourish

Nigeria is under siege by the current crop of leaders who are supposed to protect democratic norms, instead, they are engaged in acts which are diametrically opposed to the continuation of democracy. In no other institution is this challenge of the clash of powers more manifest than in the legislature. The struggle for the control of the National Assembly has exposed the weak links in our democratic chain.

During the ill-fated military dictatorship, the executive combined legislative powers in the Armed Forces Ruling Council at the federal level and the military administrators at the state level. By the grace of the military usurpers, the judiciary was allowed to exist, even though they were only permitted to blow muted trumpets through the Federal Military Government (Supremacy and Enforcement of Powers) Decree. The legislature, as an arm of government, was not allowed to exist. The legislature is the assembly of the elected representatives of the Nigerian people; it is the hallmark of a democracy, as distinct from a president and a vice president who are the only elected members of the executive arm. Other members of the executive are appointees who serve at the pleasure of the President. The judiciary on the other hand is a non-elected branch of government.

In recognition of the essence of the legislature, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 provides for the legislature in Section 4 as the first arm of government, the provision for the executive is in Section 5 whilst the judiciary is provided for in Section 6 respectively. The constitutional sequence of the arms of government is not a mistake or merely perfunctory considering that sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through the constitution derives all its powers and authority. As such, the independence and virility of the elected representatives of the sovereign are key determinants of a democracy.

From 1999, Nigerians made the mistake of electing a former military dictator to lead the executive arm of government and he continued with the mindset of ruling from his previous experience as a maximum ruler. President Olusegun Obasanjo did not hide his disdain for the legislature as he sought to control the institution, expose it to public ridicule and contempt and interfered on many occasions in the running of the National Assembly through constantly sponsoring the removal of the leadership. At the time President Obasanjo was announcing to Nigerians that the legislature was collecting fat furniture allowances, he failed to tell the people that those were allowances approved by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission for very senior cadres of public office holders. Thus, from the permanent secretaries, ministers, judicial officers and even the President himself had collected their own furniture allowances. But the focus was on the National Assembly. He created a siege mentality which portrayed the lawmakers in a very bad light so that from the very first day, the members had an image problem with Nigerians. Yes, the members of National Assembly also contributed through their action and inaction to their poor image. However, they may not have committed more infractions over and above those of the elected and unelected members of the executive.

Fast forward to 2015 and another former military dictator in the saddle, this time with the ruling All Progressives Congress, could not get its acts together as to who leads the National Assembly. Since the emergence of Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara as Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives respectively, the National Assembly has not known peace. The ruling party kicked since Saraki was not their choice but he was the choice of the majority of the senators as demanded by the constitution. Saraki was dragged before the Code of Conduct Tribunal and the case continued until the Supreme Court resolved it in his favour.

The acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, appointed by the President, who statutorily requires the clearance of the Senate, but failed the test twice, was asked to continue occupying the office by the President. The Inspector-General of Police, taking a cue, has on several occasions, refused to appear before the Senate even when it was clear that he had failed in the performance of his duties and owed the representatives of the Nigerian people an explanation. Surprisingly, otherwise eminent jurists began to equivocate when they started supporting positions which encouraged the denigration of the legislature as if the National Assembly is the equivalent of its leadership. Evidently, when an otherwise knowledge man or woman says an official can continue in an acting capacity for years, such a person questions the rationale of the law demanding screening and clearance. However, this questioning should be done through a bill to reform the law and not to treat extant laws with disdain.

We witnessed a situation where on the orders of the Inspector General of Police, the homes of the Senate President and the deputy were barricaded, so as not to allow them to exit their residence. Nigerians watched this on television only for the police spokesman to attempt a denial. Before then, thugs were let into the Senate chambers and the mace, the symbol of authority, was stolen and the police and other security agencies looked on helplessly. Up till date, no concrete action has been taken against the perpetrators. The same police boss disobeyed the orders of the President to relocate to Benue State during the crisis that took so many lives. It has become an open season for everyone in the executive, especially the security agencies to threaten the legislature culminating in the Director-General of the Department of State Services, Lawal Daura, deployed masked operatives to invade the premises of the National Assembly last week. Instead of the Commander in Chief apologising to Nigerians for such a treasonable act of a man who reports to him, even after sacking him, the ruling party is spinning to heap the blame on the leadership of the Senate.

Not yet done, the chairman of the ruling party, Adams Oshiomhole, who is not a senator, is threatening the leadership of the Senate with impeachment in circumstances clearly suggesting that he seeks to procure the impeachment through unconstitutional and illegal means. Yet, his party cannot muster the numbers for the impeachment.

It is time to call out the executive and the hierarchy of the ruling party to leave the legislature alone. The members are mature enough to select and remove their leaders if there is the need. It has to be done on the floor of the Senate or House of Representatives and according to the rules set in the constitution and the rules of the respective houses.

Evidently, the National Assembly faces more crises every time a former military dictator is elected President. The President does not need to come personally to interfere in legislative proceedings. As the Commander in Chief, the President is responsible for every infringement committed by those who should report to him. We need to see sanctions, for illegal actions of the security agencies. The sanctions go beyond relieving an officer of his responsibilities. Prosecutions should follow obvious illegalities.

Where are the budget implementation reports?

The very basis of the authority of government is the will of the people which is given through periodic elections. Governance as such is delegated power, given by the citizens to a group of persons to hold in trust for them. Part of the architecture for the exercise of the delegated power is a reporting system whereby those entrusted with power for the common will report to their masters, being the citizens who are the ultimate sovereigns, on a regular and periodic basis. Also, those who exercise power on behalf of the people are expected to do so transparently so that every citizen can follow the process of governance.

In no area of governance is this demand for transparency and accountability more expected than in fiscal and economic governance. This is the area of governance that manages the public wealth and resources and disburses them for the benefit of the populace according to an agreed formula. And the budget represents allocation of resources and their disbursement for the benefit of all. Enter the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007 which seeks to define the exercise and parameters of this reporting obligation. It was enacted as an Act to provide for prudent management of the nation’s resources, ensure long-term macro-economic stability of the national economy, secure greater accountability and transparency in fiscal operations within the medium term fiscal policy framework, and the establishment of the Fiscal Responsibility Commission to ensure the promotion and enforcement of the nation’s economic objectives; and for related matters.

The FRA provides for evidence-led budgeting system with checks and balances and clear lines and times of reporting by the authorities on the budgeting process. In Section 48 (1), it provides that “the Federal Government shall ensure that its fiscal and financial affairs are conducted in a transparent manner and accordingly ensure full and timely disclosure and wide publication of all transactions and decisions involving public revenues and expenditures and their implications for its finances”. The key words governing this transparency and accountability obligation of the government to the people are “full and timely disclosure”, “wide publication of all transactions and decisions”. Again in Section 30, it states as follows: “1) The Minister of Finance, through the Budget Office of the Federation, shall monitor and evaluate the implementation of the annual budget, assess the attainment of fiscal targets and report thereon on a quarterly basis to the Fiscal Responsibility Commission and the Joint Finance Committee of the National Assembly.2) The Minister of Finance shall cause the report prepared pursuant to subsection (1) of this section to be published in the mass and electronic and on the Ministry of Finance website, not later than 30 days after the end of each quarter”.

Current events in the budget reporting process indicate an abdication and abandonment of this statutory mandate by the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Budget and National Planning Commission and the Budget Office of the Federation. The law places the obligation on the Ministry of Finance through the Budget Office of the Federation to ensure reporting. However, the website of the Budget Office of the Federation indicates that as at the time of writing this discourse, the last budget implementation report (BIR) published is that of the third quarter of 2017. None for the fourth quarter of 2017 and no consolidated 2017 BIR have been published. Also, there is no BIR for the first and second quarters of 2018. This is a retrogressive movement compared to the situation in the years preceding 2015, before the change of administration. Although, the reports in that era also came late but they were published much earlier than what we are witnessing presently.

The FRA’s position on the timing of the publication of the BIR is to provide information that can be used to fine-tune budget implementation and learn from mistakes or failures, so as not to repeat them. The extant scenario seems oblivious of this arrangement. For instance, the 2017 BIRs were supposed to inform the 2018 budgeting process, from preparation to implementation. Already, the implementation of the 2018 budget has started without the requisite 2017 BIRs. Again, the 2019 budget Call Circular is out and federal ministries, departments and agencies are already preparing their 2019-2021 medium term sector strategies without the benefit of the full year BIR for 2017!

Further, because of the distortion in the timing of the preparation, approval and assent to the federal budget, the budget reporting process has become an exercise in futility, a lie and a wasted effort that goes to no issue. Take for instance the year 2017, the first and second quarter budget implementation reports were produced at a time and for a period, the 2017 federal budget was not in existence because the 2017 federal budget did not receive presidential assent to become law until mid-June 2017. Even the third quarter BIR which is the last BIR published on the Budget Office’s website could not in fact and in law be referring to the third quarter of the legal and factual 2017 federal budget. Laws take effect from the date they were enacted and the 2017 federal budget started from mid-June and was scheduled to run for 12 consecutive months from the date of presidential assent. Thus, the legal and factual period of the first quarter of the 2017 federal budget was from June 12 to September 12. Thus, the purported third quarter BIR was indeed the actual first quarter BIR of the 2017 federal budget. The reasons for the refusal, neglect and failure to publish further BIRs after the actual first quarter of 2017 and purported third quarter 2017 BIR are not in the public domain. If there are any reasons at all for this failure, they are not reasons cognizable under extant fiscal jurisprudence

Thus, the disclosures by President Muhammadu Buhari and the Finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun, on the extent of implementation of the capital votes of 2017 are not founded on any empirical basis. Where is the report that details budget implementation for the whole year? The figures which have been presented are at best, back of the envelope unconfirmed figures that have not been subjected to the rigours of empirical analysis. The figures seem more like public relations stunts not founded on the law.

However, some of the responsibilities of the Ministry of Finance under the FRA in relation to the budgeting process have been illegally transferred to the Ministry of Budget and National Planning in a way and manner that suggests a disdain for the law. For a government to restructure the responsibilities of a ministry and still refuse to amend the law that stipulates these responsibilities is a violation of the rule of law. Indeed, the amendment of the law should have been the first act once the federal government takes the decisions to restructure the mandate of ministries.

Evidently, the Federal Government is not living up to its obligations under sections 30 and 48 of the FRA. Nigerians are left in the dark about how their budgetary resources are managed. Nigeria’s federal fiscal governance cannot continue in this opaque dance in a regime that claims to be dedicated to fighting corruption. The Ministry of Budget and National Planning and the Budget Office of the Federation must live up to their statutory duties.

When Politics Trumps Governance

The tenure of constitutionally elected political office holders in Nigeria is four years. It is the same for the executive and legislature and the legitimate expectation is that full scale governance activities will be carried out in the 48 months.

However, since the return to civil rule in 1999, it appears that this period is usually abridged at all levels of governance in Nigeria. Nigerians recognise the period of the lame duck, especially when an administration is in its last few months, after exhausting the full two-term constitutional tenure in the executive. This discourse seeks to interrogate the issues and challenges arising out of this awkward scenario and how politics always trumps governance in the Nigerian setting.

The first issue that pops out is that the first few months of administration, especially at the federal level, have been wasted. This is more evident in the Muhammadu Buhari administration that took about six months to appoint ministers and constitute the core of governance. As of today, a number of boards of agencies have not been constituted, some months to the next election. The implication of this is that the structures for effective governance were lacking and there is evidence to show that this tardiness contributed to the lack of direction in the economy which made worse a bad situation and eventually plunged the country into a recession. Nigeria is still suffering from the pangs of this negligence of duty till this day. Stories at the federal and state levels of meeting an empty treasury or underestimating the level of the problems left by the previous administrations are too pedestrian and run of the mill to be taken seriously. Such excuses only show the elected officials as lacking the capacity to govern effectively.

A second issue has been the fact that all the presidents, from Olusegun Obasanjo to the incumbent, had little or no ideas about a progressive people-centred governance before they mounted the saddle. Before becoming presidents, they were not associated with any economic, political, social, etc. philosophical, jurisprudential or developmental movement or theory of governance domesticated to our historical experience on how to develop the country. They all came unprepared, hoping to learn on the job and probably as their spirits directed them. It was about turns to rule and inordinate positioning to take control of the levers of power without a concrete idea of how power will be exercised for the benefit of the people, who are the ultimate sovereigns. But the fate of close to 200 million Nigerians should not be subject to an unprepared leader for a trial and error exercise. The disturbing part of it has been the fact that the leadership recruitment process has fought and discouraged any contender with a nuanced position of political leadership and governance. It is a system that discourages debate and robust interrogation of issues; rather, it discusses the mundane which has no links to the qualities and demands of the office the contestants want to occupy. Some presidential candidates had avoided well-organised presidential debates and still won the race.

The third issue is about the unfair and unjustifiable scenario where taxpayers and the public purse pay elected officials who render little or no services to the people. They were elected and paid for a purpose and once they are unable, refuse or neglect  to render that service, either arising from infirmity of mind or body or deliberate mischief based on calculations for political gain, the basis for the remuneration is severed and the natural expectation and applicable principle is “no work no pay”. Government, most often, seeks to apply this principle to organised labour when they are on strike and there is no reason why the same should not be extended to political leaders.

A fourth issue is that in the last year of the tenure, before elections, politics comes out in full to trump governance. All the media discourse is about permutations on who will be the next president, governor or legislators that will return to their seats. The contenders become grossly distracted and every decision will now pander to the political climate. We have entered that season at the federal level. The National Assembly has proceeded on its mid-year legislative break and will be back in September. Between now and then, political parties will be in the thick of conventions, congresses and primaries and the executive and legislative officials will be working for their re-election. Thereafter, the campaigns will set in until the elections in February 2019. With the relationship between the executive and legislature, it will be difficult for the two to agree for any bills passed to get assent or for the legislature to re-work the bills and get back to the President. The 2019 federal budget will also be likely delayed because it may likely get to the National Assembly late. Even if it gets early to the legislature, they will be too distracted to work on it, except as a rubber stamping process.

In this period of focus on politics as against governance, impunity becomes the norm and the rule of law takes a back seat. The current scenario where the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, is accused of certificate forgery to the knowledge of the President who abhors corruption and the minister has refused to say a word to defend herself or resign while the President and the anti-corruption agencies see and hear no evil, on no account can this be termed a scenario of governance. Rather, politics is in the air and it is so thick that it beclouds the sense of reason of all who should have acted to stop the charade. In this administration, it seems the political hangover of 2015 has been so thick that the concept of treating like cases alike contextualised in the case of Babachir Lawal, the dismissed Secretary to the Government of the Federation, has been discarded. State administrative resources including coercive resources seem to be focused on one agenda, which is the return of the incumbent to power. The deployment of the security agencies to the residences of the Senate President and his deputy last week bears this out.

To avoid this kind of scenario where politics perpetually trumps governance, Nigerians need to elect leaders with a trajectory of known developmental thoughts aptly captured in a manifesto that has been subjected to robust debates and interrogation. The leader must be ready to lead with an intellectual capacity beyond the mundane. Building strong institutions, rather than the extant attempt at building a cult of personality is also imperative for the society to continue in the desired direction even if the political leaders are distracted or seek to subvert the system. Finally, Nigerians need to put the feet of elected officials to the fire from the first day after swearing in, to the day before they hand over. The honeymoon period for elected officials in Nigeria seems rather too long and this allows the elected officials to lay the wrong foundations which they eventually use in the later periods of their administration.

Budget Timeline: Override Presidential Veto Now

In public finance management as well as the budget cycle, there is a time to prepare budgets, another for implementation, reporting, monitoring and evaluation and audit. The cycle continues and rolls on and on. All activities of the budget are guided by law including the commencement and the conclusion. The Nigerian Financial Year is described in the Financial Year Act as the period starting from January 1 to December 31 of every year. Again, Section 318 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) defines the financial year as any period of 12 months beginning on the first day of January in any year or such other date as the National Assembly may prescribe. For now, the National Assembly has not prescribed any new date as the official beginning of the financial year. However, in recent years, the financial year has been undulating depending on the time the National Assembly finished the approval of the budget and when the President assented to the same. The 2015 Financial Year was different from that of 2016, 2017 and the current 2018 year which just started in June.

The National Assembly, in its wisdom, as part of the constitution alteration process, decided to amend Sections 81 and 121 of the constitution to ensure appropriate timeframes that accord with the Nigerian Financial Year Act. It therefore started from the public beginning of the budgeting process which is the presentation of the budget by the President to the National Assembly and the Governor to state Houses of Assembly. The amendment (Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (Fourth Alteration, No. 28) Bill, 2017) proposes that instead of the old order, where the President and governors present the budget estimates at any time in each financial year, they would now be bound to present the same not later than 90 days to the end of the financial year. The essence of the amendment is to give the legislature adequate time to examine, vet and approve the budget before the end of the presentation year and the beginning of the New Year. The amendment proposes a new subsection 1 (a) to the two sections by giving a time line to the National Assembly and state Houses of Assembly to pass the budget for the incoming year before the end of the financial year in which the budget estimates are presented, vis, before the commencement of the next financial year.  Essentially, budgets will no longer be presented late or approved late like happened in the last three years. The budget will now be ready on or before January 1 of every year.

This amendment has secured the approval of both Houses of the National Assembly and that of the required majority of state Houses of Assembly in accordance with Section 9 of the constitution. But President Buhari has failed, refused or neglected to give assent to the same. It has been more than 30 days since the bill was forwarded to the President for his assent and there is no information in the public domain on his reasons for refusing assent to it. Ideally, this would have come by way of a letter to the National Assembly. This refusal of assent is surprising considering that the President had in many speeches, including the 2018 budget signing speech, indicated his intention to return the financial year to the January to December timeline and even blamed the National Assembly for delayed approval of the budget. Evidently, this bill should have been a celebrated quick win for the administration, a low hanging fruit that would have been used to shore up the public finance management credibility of the administration. Rather, we have a situation where the administration is snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

If the National Assembly had given the executive a timeline without prescribing one for itself, the President might have had a defence for his refusal to assent. It could have been argued that both the executive and legislature need to regulate themselves by submitting to a constitutional timeline. And it would be considered improper for legislators to exempt themselves from the timeframe. In this case, no reasonable person can fathom a reason that makes sense in the company of reasonable Nigerians. So, what is the way forward? Should the legislature fold its hands and watch the progress of Nigeria go to the dogs simply because the President is refusing to do his job? Is it that high level public officials who manage the budgeting process have not given the President a proper advice to guide his decision on assent? What exactly is wrong because the refusal makes no sense!

Section 58 (4) and (5) of the Constitution comes in handy. It provides as follows:(4) Where a bill is presented to the President for assent, he shall within thirty days thereof signify that he assents or that he withholds his assent.(5) Where the President withholds his assent and the bill is again passed by each House, by two-thirds majority, the bill shall become law and the assent of the President shall not be required. The constitution is clear and requires no further elaboration. It is now up to the National Assembly to exercise its powers for the peace, order and good government of Nigeria and override the presidential veto without any further delay. Any other course of action will be a great disservice to the long suffering people of Nigeria. Nigerians do not expect that the executive/legislative rift should get in the way of such clear headed amendments. There must be irreducible minimum levels of cooperation between the two arms of government, no matter the situation; otherwise, the government will need to throw in the towel and call for fresh elections under the Doctrine of Necessity.

This refusal raises a fundamental poser which dogged the 2014 constitution amendment process when the National Assembly decided to strip the President of powers to give assent to amendments of the constitution. The line of reasoning goes thus; The National Assembly is required to garner two-thirds majority vote to amend sections of the constitution and the Fundamental Rights provisions even require four-fifths majority vote to effect amendments. Thereafter, the amendments need the resolution of not less than 24 state Houses of Assembly. Yet, the bill comes back for the assent of one man – the President and Commander-in-Chief who reserves the right to throw spanners into the wheel of the decisions that have travelled this long journey. President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015 refused to assent to this constitution amendment and therefore killed all the other beautiful amendments which were contained in just one bill. The National Assembly learnt from that experience and has now split the different amendments into different bills so that disagreement on one will not delay assent to others. This discourse takes the position that presidential assent to a bill that has travelled this long is unnecessary. It is part of the constitutional architecture that can only promote dictatorship in both the long and short term.

Time is of essence in virtually every human endeavour or activity. Good timing produces optimum results for activities. Generally, human nature is about seasons and cycles. One budget season closes at the right time and another starts.

Leadership As A Defining Factor

There are certain recurrent features in countries that have evolved and grown from a poor and backward status to a developed, prosperous and continually evolving one. They have been blessed with good and purposeful leadership. But it is not just about blessing, which creates the impression of some benevolent spirits gifting them with good leadership. They have worked and made sacrifices for the emergence of good leadership at all tiers of governance. In the alternative, a ruling class that is committed, patriotic and knowledgeable have emerged and taken concrete and targeted steps that moved the whole society into modernity and development.

Various challenges have been confronting Nigeria as a nation since independence and these challenges have refused to go away. These challenges cannot be wished away; they must be resolved by human beings, since in the first place, they were products of human interaction. It is the position of this discourse that the most fundamental of our challenges is the failure of leadership, illustrated in the picture of a mediator or umpire becoming a combatant or a party to the crisis while still insisting on his mediating role. The leader is the social engineer who uses the instrument of law and policy formulation, implementation and review to solve societal challenges and leads the nation to its manifest destiny. In this context, law is formulated in a process that targets solutions to critical challenges; it is not ad-hominem or made to hold down the progress of any section of the country.

The energies and resources of every country is limited and is best utilised in a scale of preference to get the best out of the opportunity of their deployment. It is the task of leadership to drive the energies of the people in a most productive way through a visioning process that understands that the challenges and forbearances of today drive the achievements of tomorrow. Therefore, leaders invest in a visioning process which brings about a certain level of unanimity of purpose; being an amalgam of many sub-visions which crystallises into the big national picture. A national agenda emerges, where every group and sub-group finds a space for the realisation of its sub-vision or agenda. But the caveat is that none of the sub-visions should be so contradictory of each other as to lead to its non-realisation or the destruction of the livelihoods of other groups. There is also the element of complementarity where each group within a nation finds that its prosperity and progress will be enhanced by the progress of other sub-groups. For instance, more purchasing power from consumers of commodity A will lead to increased income for the producers of the commodity which will then lead to a mutual interest between producer and consumer groups. Great visions are then converted into laws and policies through a process of collaboration between the executive, legislature and the people – from civil society, the private sector, academia, etc. Once the legislature enacts the laws, the executive runs with them to transform the society to new heights. This will include new laws and policies in agriculture, education, health, housing, industries, etc. which would emerge from a broad consensus of the people.

Good leadership builds national cohesion and claims the benefits of progress in any sub-group for the whole nation, rather than seeing innovation and development as benefitting or to be attributed to a part of whole. The most beautiful example is when Nigeria plays a football match and a goal is scored, it is usually the flag of Nigeria that is raised. Many Nigerians do not sing the national anthem but for football matches. However, a scientific invention in one part of Nigeria never attracts this kind of national support to take it to the next level. Industries, businesses and ideas that create employment and add value across the whole federation have been sabotaged because of their location. Again, the fact that a section of the country is more educationally advanced than another section, cannot found a policy that seeks to hold back the group from advancing further; rather, it should be a background for increasing the opportunities available to the group that is backward through a competitive race to the top. It should not and cannot be a race to the bottom as is presently the case.

Proper management of religious diversity should not have created the kind of challenges that we witness today. It should have been managed as the blessing of the rainbow and we would be available to take the benefit of every available name through which blessings could be granted to humanity.

Also, leadership taps and converts challenges, weaknesses and threats to opportunities through a process of re-engineering and re-definition of issues. It is about optimism, creativity and getting the best out of any situation, no matter how bad it seems. For instance, the herdsmen challenge of today is a robust opportunity waiting to be converted into the prosperity of a booming industry that involves meat, dairy, leather and whole value chain of animal feed, meat products, transportation, etc. It is also an opportunity to create jobs for conflict managers and transformers and get a new thought process in the populace that properly directs anger, grievances and feelings of hurt into historical moments of transformation to a higher level of development. The offer by the Kano State Government for free land that can support hundreds of thousands of cattle has been spurned by the government at the centre as it seems unwilling to take it up. The large land mass of Niger State (more than double the entire South East of Nigeria) which is blessed with water and arable land can also support big cattle ranches. These are opportunities waiting to be harnessed.

Good leadership builds confidence in the people through the instrument of the rule of law, access to justice, equality before the law and equal protection of the law. When people break the law especially, when there are grave violations of human rights, the leadership conducts a through unbiased and impartial investigation, brings perpetrators to justice through the courts employing due process, mete punishment to offenders, give guarantees of non-repetition and compensation to victims of violations. Leadership is not about appearing helpless and watching tens of people slaughtered on a daily basis while requesting that we pray to God. It is also not about sticking to failed service chiefs who watch and fail to prevent the spilling of innocent blood.

Nigeria needs a new brand of leadership, a charismatic, cosmopolitan and knowledgeable leadership that drives reforms, utilizes the energy of the people in a positive way; takes no side in conflicts but mediates as an impartial umpire. An ethnic champion, religious fundamentalist masquerading under any guise, a divisive personality or an insensitive fellow can only take Nigeria backwards. The leadership should build societal confidence through adherence to the rule of law. It should be a leadership that can inspire the young generation with its qualities, positive quotable quotes. Nigeria is in dire need of a true leader who truly belongs to all Nigerians and cannot be appropriated by any sub-division of the country.

Lessons From The Executive Legislative Budget Feud

The controversy arising from the passage of the 2018 federal budget on the respective roles of the executive and legislative arms of government in the budgeting process presents an opportunity for learning and progress. It is not a scenario of saints and sinners or where one of the parties can assume a moral high ground, as there is none to assume. But if we choose to waste the learning experience, then we are bound to continue the yearly ritual of controversy that leads to nowhere.

It is pertinent to recall that this controversy is not new. It has been with us since the tenure of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Thus, it is as old as the current democratic dispensation. However, we have kept on repeating the mistakes inherent in the challenge without taking away the positives that would lead to the reform of the budgeting process. The 1999 Constitution provides for separation of powers, as well as checks and balances.

Budget making is one area where we cannot practice a theory of water-tight separation of powers because the President is given the power to present estimates, while the National Assembly is given the power to approve, to appropriate (which is just about the powers of NASS), to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Federation. Thus, the two arms have legitimate claims about their participation in budget making. But the exact contours of where the respective duty of the executive and legislature ends is not spelt out in the constitution.

The first point of departure is that the making of a budget is like the making of a baby. It takes a male and female to produce a baby and this does not preclude the artificial insemination process. Thus, the executive and legislature need to cooperate, collaborate and work on the same page, if we are to get a development oriented budget either at the federal or state level. The federal budget neither belongs to the executive nor the legislature; it is the budget of the people of Nigeria. So, the idea that the executive owns the budget simply because they produce policy, prepare the financial estimates or implement the budget misses the point. On the other hand, any claim of absolute powers of the legislature in the budget making process stands logic on its head.

In reforming the budget process, we have to start from ensuring that the financial year runs in accordance with the provisions of the Financial Year Act which defines the Nigerian financial year as the period, January 1 to December 31 of every year. To achieve this, we need the collaboration of the executive and legislature. Available information indicates that the legislature has taken a step to achieve this by amending section 81 of the Constitution to ensure that the President presents the federal estimates not later than 90 days to the end of the financial year. The implication is that the estimates will be laid before the legislature three months to the end of the year, which is a reasonable time for NASS to conclude the approval process.

Why President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to sign this bill, which also got the approval of not less than 24 State Houses of Assembly, is baffling, especially since he stated his desire to return Nigeria to the appropriate financial year calendar.

The second point is about consultation, good faith; the two arms working in confidence as partners and understanding that one arm cannot go it alone. This will involve having agreements at the preparation stage about the parametres of the budget, anchored on the Medium Term Expenditure Framework and the Medium Term Sector Strategies. Such consultation will involve opening up the preparation process early enough so that legislators make their inputs to Ministries, Departments and Agencies housing their proposed constituency projects. This will provide the opportunity for priorities to be agreed upon so that nominated projects will be made to fit into the system with requisite technical studies, environmental impact assessments, etc. In as much as legislators will nominate constituency projects, an agreement must be reached so that such projects must be on issues where the NASS has legislative competence under the constitutional schedules. It may not be the best option for the federal government to be funding projects which under the division of roles between the federal, state and local governments, belong to states and local governments.

The third issue is that the budgeting system will be reformed for capital project continuity and spending within available resources to avoid spreading national resources too thin on so many projects which cannot be completed in the short and medium terms. The Project Implementation and Continuity Bill proposed by Vision: 20:2020 had sought to guarantee that existing projects are not abandoned but completed first before provisions are made for new ones. It provides a framework for prioritisation so that resources are not wasted during the long period of gestation between award of contracts and project completion.

The fourth is that the President must understand leadership and carry other arms of government along in the delicate task of balancing conflicting interests. Always trying to blame another arm of government or coming to the public to portray the other arm in bad light will backfire because at the end of the day, the President will still go back to the NASS for whatever amendments that will be proposed. Of course, the NASS has responded to the President’s allegations. When there is much misgiving between institutions that should collaborate for our development, progress will stagnate and bickering will take the place of good governance.

What stopped the President from drawing the attention of the leadership of the NASS to his reservations with the approved 2018 budget rather than coming to read a public speech which heavily criticized the legislature? Assuming the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives were available in Nigeria and had attended the budget signing ceremony, would the President had expected them to sit there and listen to his scolding? Definitely, the President will still send a formal communication to the NASS and he expects them to happily approve his requests.

Nigerian Presidents since Olusegun Obasanjo have been enjoying this public spat with the NASS, but this has not changed anything. Rather, the contenders are digging deeper into a hole. If the approach of the executive had been working all these years, these challenges would have stopped. However, it is not working and will not work. Therefore new strategies and new thinking is needed. Collaboration is the way, coupled with a good dose of patriotism and knowledge.

Buhari’s Economic Scorecard At 3 (2)

Reforming the economy came with a Federal Government promise of increased local content in government commerce. The Executive Order on Support for Local Content in Public Procurement by the Federal Government of May 18, 2017 was a welcome development.

ccording to the order: “All Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government of Nigeria shall grant preference to local manufacturers of goods and service providers in their procurement of goods and services….Made-in-Nigeria products shall be given preference in the procurement of the following items and at least 40 per cent of the procurement expenditure on these items in all the MDAs of the Federal Government shall be locally manufactured goods or local service providers; uniforms and footwear; food and beverages; furniture andfittings; stationery; motor vehicles; pharmaceuticals; construction materials; and information and communication technology”.

However, provisions for vehicles in the budgets are still suffused with requests of foreign brands which have locally made or assembled equivalents while information technology procurements are still top heavy with foreign brands and services which also have local equivalents. This is also tied to such policies as the National Automotive Policy which, of late, seems to have been consigned to history. Nigeria needs to activate and implement with great passion and rigour, any policy that will strengthen its capacity to produce what it needs.

The Petroleum Industry Bills (governance, fiscals, host community, etc.) were expected to have strengthened the oil and gas sector, increase transparency, value for money and earn more income for the economy. The expectation was that collaboration between the executive and the legislature would have prioritised the bills and they would have been out of the legislative mill within six months or the first anniversary of the administration. They were supposed to be executive bills. However, it seems the government was not interested in pursuing such an agenda. As I write, only one out of the four bills has scaled through the legislature and awaits presidential assent.

The administration met the value of the naira at less than N200=1USD. But today, the naira has been so devalued that at some point it was almost N500=N1USD. But it has recovered to about N365=1USD. At some point in time, the Central Bank of Nigeria stated that it has more than enough foreign exchange to meet the local demand for foreign exchange and asked banks not to collect foreign currencies into domiciliary accounts.

Thereafter, it somersaulted and it was clear that the CBN was grandstanding and political considerations had taken over pure technical monetary policy issues. This sent very worrying signals to investors and persons who had foreign currency. Yes, the low price of oil in the international market and the declining foreign reserves were factors in plunging of the value of the naira, but the policy somersault and lack of coherence in the management of monetary policy contributed to the free fall of the naira. The worrisome aspect of Nigeria’s economic management is that things that go up hardly come down. With improved price of crude oil and greater accretions to the foreign reserves, the value of the naira has not improved. It has simply settled at around N365 to 1USD.

The soaring lending rate of over 20 per cent per annum is not the way to stimulate economic recovery and growth. This places economic agents in Nigeria at a disadvantage in terms of cost of production and service delivery thereby making them uncompetitive.

To the extent that we need to reduce inflation and rein in other macroeconomic fundamentals to stabilise our economy, a middle approach should be found to ensure access to credit at single digit rates. The argument that double digit inflation rate cannot support single digit interest rates falls in the face of single digit deposit rates paid by banks to depositors. If that argument held water, then the CBN should regulate the spread between deposit and lending rates. A situation where depositors are paid interests less than the inflation rate whilst those seeking loans are compelled to pay over 20 per cent per annum is a recipe for the type of economic disaster we presently witness. The middle of the road approach is to tie lending and deposit rates to a corridor that enables depositors get good returns on their deposits whilst banks make reasonable returns from their intermediation.

Otherwise, there is absolutely no incentive for anyone to save money in a bank except for safekeeping since the money you depots will be less that the value you collect at the end of the year. Considering that Nigeria has one of lowest savings and capital accumulation rates in the world, the banking system should not be seen to penalise Nigerians who save money in the banks.

Further, in a period of grave financial crisis, the dilemma on how to raise funds to rejuvenate the economy comes to the fore. Do we take more loans or do we energise the process of enhanced domestic resource mobilisation? Taking more loans builds up sovereign debts which must be repaid either in the long, medium or short term. However, mobilising domestic resources such as the National Housing Fund for the housing sector; compulsory and universal health insurance for the health sector; a Road Fund for the road sector, etc. are proven strategies for funding public investments. The expectation had been that laws for health insurance and road funds would have been enacted early in the life of the administration. The existing Housing Fund should have been reorganised with competent professionals to drive greater resource mobilisation for housing loans and mortgages which will be matched with public funds.

Greater investments in housing will have facilitated economic revival through greater number of Nigerians employed as artisans in bricklaying, carpentry and wood work, electrical works, plumbing, etc. whilst the companies producing cement and allied products would have increased their capacity utilisation and productivity as well as income liable to companies income tax. Compulsory and universal health insurance law complemented with innovative sources of funding would reduce the demand for public funding of health care while ensuring reduced out of pocket expenditure in health.

The administration was elected on a promise of increased transparency and accountability. However, the details of all statutory transfers are still secret three years into the life of the administration. The only one that has just been opened is the vote of the National Assembly and the opening was a product of increased civil society agitation for the legislature to be more transparent. Nothing has been done by the administration to open up the votes of Independent National Electoral Commission, Public Complaints Commission, National Human Rights Commission, National Judicial Council and Niger Delta Development Commission. The administration is called upon to note that the secretive nature of these votes is not only illegal but also unconstitutional.

In conclusion, the Buhari administration can still make an impact in the last stretch of its tenure if it can introduce and implement more well-nuanced policies and understand that the Nigeria’s economic situation is in dire straits and it needs to act urgently.

Buhari’s Economic Scorecard At 3 (1)

It is already three years into the tenure of four years for the President Muhammadu Buhari administration. This column, today, reviews the economic performance of the administration and raises the central poser: Are Nigerians better off today than they were at the beginning of the administration in May 2015? If the answer is in the positive, what are the indicators of the improved standard of living? If the answer is negative, what are the key challenges and measures that can be taken to ameliorate the situation?

The GDP Reports of the National Bureau of Statistics show that the economy grew by 2.84 per cent and 2.11 per cent in the third and fourth quarters of 2015. In the first, second, third and fourth quarters of 2016, the economy declined by -0.67 per cent, -1.49 per cent,-2.34 per cent and -1.73 per cent respectively. It further declined by -0.91 per cent in the first quarter of 2017 and thereafter began to grow by 0.72 per cent, 2.17 per cent and 2.11 per cent in the second, third and fourth quarters of 2017.

The growth decelerated to 1.95 per cent in the first quarter of 2018. Incidentally, throughout this period, the population of the country grew by an average of three per cent per annum which meant that even in the quarters when the GDP expanded, the expansion was less than the growth of the population.

Essentially, there has been negative movement and in the few quarters of positive movement, the economy merely stagnated and had gone nowhere near the preceding 10 years of growth at not less than 6.5 per cent per annum. Although we have exited recession, there are still genuine concerns about the health of the economy considering that economic growth projections from local and international experts for 2018 and 2019 are still less than three per cent growth. This is not good enough.

For employment and underemployment, the statistics are grim. The administration met unemployment at 8.2 per cent in the second quarter of 2015 but it moved up to 9.9 per cent, 10.4 per cent, 12.1 per cent and 13.3 per cent in the third and fourth quarters of 2015 and the first and second quarters of 2016 respectively. By the third quarter of 2016, unemployment had reached13.9 per cent whilst it became 14.2 per cent by the fourth quarter of 2016. The rate escalated to 14.2 per cent, 16.2 per cent and 18.2 per cent by the first, second and third quarter of 2017 respectively. Thus, unemployment had more than doubled and it is reported that no fewer than 10 million Nigerians lost their jobs during the period under review. Underemployment moved from 17.9 per cent to 21.2 per cent during the period under review. These statistics come on the back of the redefinition of the criteria for determining unemployment by the NBS which has liberalised the criteria for stating that an individual is employed. Otherwise, the figures of unemployment would have been very frightening.

Inflation as reflected in the Consumer Price Index was 9.30 per cent in the third quarter of 2015 and ended the year at 9.43 per cent. For 2016, it rose to 11.27 per cent, 15.27 per cent, 17.53 per cent and 18.45 per cent for the first, second, third and fourth quarters respectively. It started a downward journey in 2017 as it declined to 17.92 per cent, 16.53 per cent, 16.01 per cent and 15.73 per cent respectively. In quarter one of 2018, it settled at 14.33 per cent. This shows that the price of goods and services has been on the upward spiral since the administration came into power. Although it has slightly moderated, it is yet to return to the single digit rate it was at inception of the administration.

According to the Debt Management Office, the Buhari administration met Nigeria’s debts at N12.118tn at the end of June 2015, but today, the debt has risen to N21.725tn at the end of 2017, an addition of close to N10tn in three years! The challenge is that this huge borrowing is coming at a time when debt repayment figures have grown to about 40 per cent of actual retained revenue. The statistics of debt to GDP may not be relevant here considering that debt repayment is not done with the size of the GDP but with actual available revenue. Moreover, the debts have been incurred at a time the GDP is shrinking.

It is acknowledged that the price of crude oil which is Nigeria’s chief export plummeted and reached as low as $25 per barrel from an all-time high that averaged between $70 and $100 per barrel. This could have been partially responsible for the poor economic performance but the response of the administration to the crisis seemed to have worsened the situation.  Non-oil export value was N308,696m in the third quarter of 2015 declining to N134,984m in the fourth quarter. In 2016, it plummeted to N77,071m, N62,681m, N75,065m and N129,551m in the first, second, third and fourth quarters respectively. For 2017, the figures are N171,248m, N165,528m, N121,755m and N171,349m respectively for the first, second, third and fourth quarter.  This showed that non-oil exports have declined from the high-end value of N308,696 to about 55 per cent of the starting value.

Notably, the Federal Government’s budgets of 2016 and 2017 were presented very late in the year; the first on December 22, 2015 whilst the second came on December 15, 2016. The 2016 budget did not get presidential assent until early May 2016 whilst the 2017 budget got assent on June 12, 2017. The 2018 federal appropriation bill was presented on November 7, 2017 to the National Assembly and as of today still awaits presidential assent in the first week of June 2018. The foregoing is contrary to the full gamut of the Fiscal Responsibility Act. Budgets are not enacted for the mere fun of it, but to provide clear directions and guides for the government, the private sector and civil society on the way to move the economic performance to the highest level needed for economic growth and development. The administration has introduced uncertainty into the financial year to the extent that the financial year differs from year to year, considering the provisions of the Appropriation Acts which insist that the budget will run for 12 consecutive months from the date of its assent by the President.

Contrary to the clear provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, which require that Budget Implementation Reports be produced, published and disseminated within one month from the end of each quarter, the Buhari administration publishes these reports very late when they cannot be used to make inputs into the next budget cycle. For instance, despite the fact that 2017 has ended six months ago, only a draft third quarter budget implementation report for 2017 is available. This situation calls for improved fiscal transparency.

On the positive side, the administration met the foreign exchange reserves under $30bn but has since moved it up to $47bn. This is a positive development that should be sustained to grow the reserves which will help to stabilise the economy and the currency in the event of a shock. But with the increased price of crude oil, it is pertinent to rebuild the stabilisation fund in the Excess Crude Account.

To be continued.

Imperatives Of Political Finance Reforms

Upon assumption of office, one of the first issues of monumental corruption revealed by the Muhammadu Buhari administration was the diversion and distribution of money meant for developmental purposes to political actors for presidential and other campaigns by the former National Security Adviser to the outgone administration. Indeed, the media feasted on the revelations and it was dubbed “Dasukigate”. In the last couple of days, the anti-corruption agencies are still charging new politically exposed persons to court for the said diversion of money. The popular sentiment in Nigeria is that all diverted monies should be recovered and returned to the treasury and anyone found wanting for violating the laws should be penalised in accordance with due process.

There was a popular expectation that since what was revealed in the Sambo Dasuki scandal is a political or campaign finance malfeasance that the government was going to initiate reforms to plug the loopholes that could enable a repeat performance of the same malfeasance. This raises the posers: How would political parties and candidates raise resources for electioneering without violating the relevant laws? What incentives would be available to enable popular participation in campaign financing? How would campaign finance be made more transparent and accountable to the people? How can we block the use of public resources for unauthorised partisan purposes? A lot of questions are hanging for which the government of the day has failed and neglected to provide answers.

With the reforms so far unfurled by the Buhari administration, it seems that campaign finance reform is not on the agenda any more. There is no proposal for the amendment of the Electoral Act or an executive policy which would have plugged the campaign finance leaks. But this is not the way to go. Societies succeed and make progress through learning from mistakes of the past and saying “never again” through the instrumentality of reforms. If we fail to initiate reforms, we are likely to repeat the same malfeasance in the 2019 and future elections.

But there is an aspect of the 2015 campaign finance imbroglio which no one has asked critical questions about. Somehow, we know how the ruling party in the previous administration, the Peoples Democratic Party funded their electioneering, how did the current ruling party, the All Progressives Congress, fund its way to power? Did the APC raise its hands in the air and conjured funds from nowhere or did they not pay for the expenses that go with electioneering?  Every reasonable person knows the cost of moving around in chartered aircraft, lodging in the most expensive hotels, hiring stadiums, top grade musicians and comedians, paying agents across all the polling booths in the federation, newspaper, radio and television advertisements, etc. The former ruling party might have spent more than the APC in the 2015 elections, but definitely, the latter still spent a humungous amount of money.

In the last couple of weeks, the media reported of the demand made by the APC for all its governors to cough up N250m each to pay for the national convention of the party. Although the party executives tried to put a spin to it by indicating that the governors were supposed to pay dues to the party, the question is: What manner of dues would amount to N250m for a governor? To the best of my knowledge, no governor earns up to N250m in the four years of occupying the seat if we are to use their remuneration as detailed by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission. Every legitimate income combined, from their basic and the plethora of allowances, no governor would earn up to half of that amount in four years. So, where did the APC expect the governors to get the money from if it did not directly and indirectly encourage them to steal state resources and hand them over to the party secretariat?

The impression one gets out of the foregoing is that there is no honesty of purpose and volition to tackle political finance challenges by the current administration. It seems the administration is bent on building cheap political capital out of the misdeeds of the previous administration whilst keeping quiet on its own violations of the law. Once the law becomes selective whether in investigation or prosecution, it simply becomes a weapon of mischief in the hands of an incumbent and makes electioneering more of a “do-or-die” affair, a winner-takes-all contest that would be fought with all ferocity.

Thus, as we head to the 2019 elections, we need an honest and decent conversation about political party and election funding where key actors and the Nigerian society will appraise the challenges and come out with solutions to the issues raised. Campaign finance challenges did not start today but it has continued because of the lack of resolve and dishonesty of leadership. From the days of the Forster Sutton Tribunal up to the Coker Commission, to the Buhari/Idiagbon administration that jailed politicians for election related expenditures, the challenge has refused to go away because no one has attended to it.

In the final analysis, what is required is an honest disclosure of the issues and challenges by all stakeholders. Nigeria has enough creative men and women who can bring solutions to the table. There can be no better time to have this discussion than now considering that the 2019 elections are around the corner and we need to avoid a repeat of 2015. We are not an island, all alone by ourselves in the world; we can borrow ideas. State funding could be an option; tax incentive to ensure that Nigerians can donate more to campaigns is yet another option. Tighter public finance rules would also guarantee that money would not leave the treasury for purposes not budgeted while regulatory reforms from the Independent National Electoral Commission could guarantee greater obedience to the rules. The choice facing the nation is obvious. We either reform our political finance procedures or stagnate.

Who Will Tell The President?

Who will tell President Muhammadu Buhari that Nigeria under his watch is sliding in a reverse gear? That things are falling apart under his watch and that the Nigeria of our dreams is fast disappearing into the uncharted anarchy of democratisation of incompetence, denial of fundamental rights and freedoms and increasing hardship in the land? The leader cannot pat himself on the back for a job well done, mark his own scripts and score distinctions when the examiners, as the ordinary people are groaning under great hardship arising from executive action and inaction.

In this discourse, I seek to examine the denigration of human rights and fundamental freedoms and the denial of the very basics of democratic tenets under the watch of President Buhari. Any discourse on human rights ought to start with the right to life because rights are only for the living and get extinguished in death. The thousands killed since the beginning of this year paint a picture of a country in war, the blood of the innocent crying to the high heavens for vengeance. Yet, the President and our security chiefs are scoring themselves as great performers in securing the nation. The killings in states like Benue, Taraba, Kaduna, and Kogi no longer command the front pages. They have become routine and the people killed are expendable. They do not count; they are neither taxpayers nor bonafide citizens who have made a contribution to the society. The story of the identities of the killers keeps changing; from herdsmen, Boko Haram, non-Nigerians especially of the stock trained by the late Libyan leader, Muommar Gaddafi, who died about eight years ago. Who is really in charge and who cares about the victims?

Another fundamental tenet of society is the idea and concept of justice which speaks about treating like cases alike, non-discrimination, equality before the law and equal protection of the law. These are key pillars of social engineering and cohesion, societal transformation and respect for the rule of law. What we currently have is institutionalised contempt for this lofty ideal. The law looks at faces of citizens before deciding to mete out favours or punishment. Under Buhari, all citizens are equal but some are more equal than others has become the creed of governance. And the enforcers of this creed are without scruples and do not care about what fellow citizens may think or say. We have a government that claims to be seriously fighting corruption. In one breath, it investigates and puts on trial some persons suspected to have committed petty and grand corruption. The citizens are happy that punishment may soon follow a crime and monies will be recovered to the treasury to serve the public good. In another breath, a member of the administration belonging to the favoured elite is caught with his hands straight in the cookie jar and the anti-corruption, no-nonsense President and prosecutors of financial crime look the other way.

Clear evidence of criminality available in the public domain no longer matters and is of no issue. Pray, what is the difference between the crimes allegedly committed by many members of the previous administration who are facing their day in court and what the former secretary of the Buhari government, Babachir Lawal did? The difference is that the former served in a government different from the current one. When investigations and prosecutions become instruments for the expression of party patronage and loyalty, the rule of law is imperilled, societal morality degenerates and the message is sent to all – join the ruling party and you can get away with blue murder! What a message and what a morality. This is the morality of the animal kingdom, evoking the basest instincts of our humanity in a race to the bottom.

Again, Nigerians woke up to see live television pictures of gangsters invade the Senate in broad daylight, took away the mace and threatened everyone in the chamber. Where is the report of the police and other law enforcement agencies on the incident? Who has been arrested or who is facing prosecution? The pictures of the invaders were caught on camera and have been shown on television across all Nigerians homes and there is no report. Yes, the Senate needs to be put in its place because the powers-that-be do not like the face of the leaders of the Senate. Thus, the institution has to be desecrated and life goes on as if nothing wrong happened. The other day, some recognised and highly placed Nigerians brought a petition for the recall of Senator Dino Melaye and invoked the Independent National Electoral Commission to use public resources to organise a signature verification which showed that a majority of the signatures were forged and included the names of dead persons. INEC also defended cases filed by the senator against his recall. Of course, now the exercise has failed, the police and the law enforcement agencies have seen no evil, nor heard one; there is no forgery, nothing wrong but the business of running perceived opponents out of town must continue. Where is the integrity of law enforcement? So, laws are to be enforced based on the shape of the face and nose of the alleged culprit or complainant.

We are back to the era when the executive decides the court orders to obey and those to violate with impunity. The court order for the release of a former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, has been disobeyed. The central questions are; is the allegation against Dasuki for an offence for which the court can exercise its discretion to grant bail? When the court has exercised its discretion, is the President who swore to defend the constitution permitted to treat the order with contempt and levity in a democracy? These posers cannot in good conscience be answered in favour of the President and his executive.  Also, the Federal Government disobeyed the court order for the release of the Shiites leader,Sheik El-zakyzaky and held him in illegal detention for so long. Now that his supporters have started daily legitimate demonstrations against this gross abuse of the rule of law, the state rushes to charge him for murder. This is clearly an afterthought and an abuse of process. Why detain a suspect for over two years before remembering to charge him to court? The facts grounding this charge did not suddenly emerge. They have been available from the first day of his detention.  The same executive that disobeyed the court order for his release is going back to the court to try the beneficiary of the order which was violated. Assuming the court comes to the conclusion that the accused is innocent and should again be set free, will the Federal Government obey the order?

Whenever the rule of law and respect for fundamental human rights and freedoms become  the prerogative of any man or a select few, no matter how highly placed; whenever court orders become subject to the review of members of the executive who are not schooled in the art of judicial interpretation,  the society is imperilled, endangered and is on the brink of anarchy. I have volunteered to tell the President, who swore to enforce the laws of our land, to enforce the orders of the courts, to guarantee human rights and fundamental freedoms. Mr. President, the buck stops on your table, do not plunge Nigeria into needless anarchy.

The insanity Of Nigeria’s Budgeting Process

The 2018 federal Appropriation Bill was submitted to the National Assembly on November 7, 2017. Although the timing did not meet fit and good practices as contemplated in our laws and sound public finance management practice, this was a departure from previous years when the budget was presented by the executive, very late in December, to the legislature. To the extent that everyone recognised that the budget would not be ready by January 1, 2018, the expectation was that it would be ready in the first quarter of 2018. And the National Assembly did give that promise to the Nigerian people.

However, 188 days thereafter, the Appropriation Bill has not left the legislature for presidential assent. This seems to be the longest period that the budget has stayed with the National Assembly before passage in modern public finance management history. Nigerians are generally unhappy with the performance of the National Assembly and the apparent dereliction of duty. The budget is not just any other piece of legislation but it is at the core of the economic function of the state by showing the priorities and the policy guidelines for private and public stakeholders. In economic thought process, running a government for almost half of the year without a new budget is like running a rudderless administration with no sign posts, and simply planning the affairs of the state “as the spirit leads” the executive.

This discourse intends to dissect the issues and challenges that lead to delays in Nigeria’s budget approval process and proffer solutions to the unnecessary impasse.  It is pertinent to recall that the 2017 federal budget was signed into law in June 2017. The 2017 Appropriation Act stated in its Section 1 that it was for the period ending on December 31, 2017 as recognised by the Financial Year Act and barred any further release of funds from the budget after the end of the financial year. However, in Section 11, the Appropriation Act stated that: “In line with the provisions of Section 318 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended, this bill will run for a course of 12 months starting from the date it is assented into law”. What is the implication of Section 11 of the 2017 Appropriation Act? Clearly, the legislators had mandated that the 2017 budget be implemented for 12 calendar months commencing from the date it became law by presidential assent. Thus, in the minds of the federal lawmakers, the non-passage of the 2018 Appropriation Bill is within the parametres of what they had earlier approved in 2017.

In my earlier reaction to Section 11 of the 2017 Appropriation Act and sections of similar nature in previous Appropriation Acts, it was my position that the legislators misunderstood the clear intention of Section 318 of the Constitution which grants them the power to define and articulate the financial year of Nigeria. It was just the power of the legislature to amend existing laws and nothing more. Thus, the National Assembly could redefine the Nigerian financial year to start in May and end in April of the following year and this would be a legitimate exercise of legislative powers. What the constitution does not provide is for the financial year to become uncertain, unclear and a yoyo based on the whims and caprices of legislators. Essentially, going by the conceptualisation and practical action of the National Assembly, the financial year as stated in the Appropriation Acts of 2016 is different from that of 2017 and 2018. This could not and cannot be the intention of the constitution makers.

Having dealt with this conceptual issue, it is clear that the presidential submission of the 2018 Appropriation Bill by November 7 of 2017 was late. Although the 1999 Constitution grants the President the latitude to present the budget for the next year to the National Assembly at any time within the immediately preceding financial year, the Fiscal Responsibility Act has established some timeline that would aid the presentation and approval of the budget. The Act mandates the Minister of Finance to prepare and present the Medium Term Expenditure Framework to the Executive Council of the Federation before the end of the second quarter of every year. The Act calls on the Executive Council to endorse the same by June ending, after which the MTEF would be sent to the National Assembly. It is to be recalled that the MTEF is the basis of the revenue and expenditure proposals in the budget. Thus, the MTEF is to be laid before the National Assembly by late June or early July before their mid-year legislative break. Its approval will lead to the preparation of the budget which is expected to be with the legislature not later than four months to the end of the year. The Appropriation Bill 2018 should have been with the legislature by the first week of September 2017.

After the early submission, Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government should be prepared to defend their budgets with the requisite information and documentation that will enable the legislature to approve the budget proposals. And this is an area that the National Assembly complained about early in the year leading to an order by the President for the MDAs to provide the lawmakers with the required assistance. Also, the National Assembly ought to draw up a timeframe during which they must work on and approve the budget rather than the budget approval process being an open ended exercise. Four months should be more than enough for consideration and approval of the executive proposals. Tardiness on the part of legislative committees and clear abdication of duty should be punishable under the rules of the Senate and House of Representatives.  The sanction should be stiff enough to deter violations of the time frame. Further, I dare say that any MDA that fails, refuses or neglects to provide necessary and sufficient information for the approval of their proposals within the timeline can be left out of the budget and their approval can come by way of supplementary budget when the right information has been provided. If this stance is provided by National Assembly which also sticks to it, the MDAs will be forced to be more ready and forthcoming with the required information.

As we are complaining about the late approval of the 2018 Appropriation Bill, who is thinking about the 2019 budget? The Minister of Finance through the Budget Office of the Federation should have been in the thick of preparing the MTEF 2019-2021 so that it will be ready before the end of June and the process for 2019 will roll out as stated above. No, the Minister and the bureaucracy will wait until it is late and the entire cycle of failure will be repeated. For 2019, the process will likely be more delayed because both the executive and legislature will be distracted by the politics, party primary elections, campaigns and elections proper slated for the first quarter of the year.

If we are a serious country, the time to start the 2019 budgeting process is now. In the final analysis, what is the definition of insanity? For me, it is repeating an experiment, a process, time after time, without altering any of the variables and expecting different results at each new experiment. This is what the executive and legislature have been doing with the budgeting process since 1999.

Funding health care under Basic Health Care Provision Fund

Nigeria’s health indicators can only be compared with countries either in war or just coming out of a war situation. Whether it is in maternal and child mortality and morbidity, life expectancy, doctor- patients ratio, hospital beds to the population, access to basic health services, out-of-pocket expenditure, the indicators are nowhere near the financial and human resources available to Nigeria. From available statistics, the country has not even started taking remedial steps to resolve the health contradictions. What is wrong or what has gone wrong?

This discourse intends to analyse the challenges facing the health sector especially from the financing and financial resource angle. It is pertinent to recall that worldwide, health is considered a basic human right with key functional parameters including availability of services, accessibility (including physical, economic, information and non- discrimination components of accessibility). The third parameter is acceptability while the fourth centres on quality. In light of the indivisibility, interrelatedness and interconnectedness of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, the right to health is inextricably linked to the right to life because the easiest way to deprive people of their life is to deprive them of health supporting conditions to the point of abrogation. To ensure a health system that meets these functional parameters, adequate public and private resources need to be mobilised.

In terms of public resources, Nigeria made a commitment to allocate not less than 15 per cent of its annual budget to the health sector. However, this commitment is more honoured in breach despite the fact that the commitment was made with other African countries in Abuja, our federal capital. Available evidence indicates that public funding at the federal and state levels has been poor. It was 5.78 per cent, 4.13 per cent, 4.14 per cent of the overall votes in 2015, 2016 and 2017 budgets respectively at the federal level. The proposal for 2018 is a paltry 3.95 per cent of the overall votes. If the actual health figures are converted into the US dollar, it will be $1.367bn in 2015; $1.269bn in 2016; $1.011bn in 2017 and $1.116bn proposed for 2018. Thus, the federal financing has been an undulating landscape that fails to match the forward ever commitment which admits of no retrogressive steps. Why is the funding in 2015 higher than 2016, 2017 and even the proposal for 2018. Only the government can provide the answer. But clearly, it is a violation of Nigeria’s commitments under various regional and international charters especially the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights.

The enactment of the National Health Act in 2014 brought a ray of hope that at last, the federal, state and local governments were ready to take steps to start the proper funding of the health sector. This hope revolved around Section 11 of the Act which makes provisions for the Basic Health Care Provision Fund, being a fund to be funded by not less than one per cent of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, grants from donors and funds from any other source. Since 2014, the Federal Government failed, refused and neglected to make budgetary provisions for the Fund. Civil society organisations have initiated all manner of advocacy to convince the Federal Government to implement the law including a suit filed by the Nigeria Medical Association and the Centre for Social Justice seeking the order of mandamus against the President for the implementation of the law. The Federal Government at the taxpayers’ expense is vigorously defending the suit in terms of seeking to justify its breach of the Act’s provisions.

However, the National Assembly seems more inclined to ensure the setting up of the Fund and the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, at a recent meeting of the Nigeria Medical Association indicated the National Assembly’s resolve to make provision for the Fund in the 2018 appropriation bill which they will soon enact. As soon as this announcement was made, the executive arm of government which is in court defending its failure quickly used its “@Asorock” Twitter handle to state that: “@AsoRock <https://twitter.com/AsoRock> is committed to spending 1% of its Budget on Healthcare, in line with the National Health Act. The policy decision reflects the @MBuhari <https://twitter.com/MBuhari> administration’s resolve to improve healthcare delivery in Nigeria. We also welcome @NGRSenate <https://twitter.com/NGRSenate>’s endorsement of the Decision.” What manner of resolve is this? Why should governance become an opportunity to turn the truth on its head, to deceive and to mislead? The executive arm of government was resisting the setting up of the Fund to the extent that donors came together to pilot the Fund to show its feasibility. Yet, the administration said it showed a “resolve”!

A very interesting dynamic of the Fund is about its management and administration. Section 11 (7) of the Act states unequivocally: “The National Primary Health Care Development Agency shall develop appropriate guidelines for the administration, disbursement and monitoring of the Fund with the approval of the Minister”. It also makes provisions for percentages that will be used by designated statutory agencies to fund different components of health care. Counterpart funding is expected from states and local governments up to 25 per cent of the cost of projects as their commitment to their execution.  Available information indicates that authorities at the Ministry of Health may not be too happy with the provisions of the law to the extent that the NPHCDA has not been allowed to perform its duty of developing the guidelines. It appears that up till date, there is no guideline, signed off by all relevant stakeholders available for the implementation of the Fund.

Nigeria is a country governed by duly enacted laws and policies. The health sector is part of the Nigerian society and should be governed by laws. The establishment, management and disbursement of funds accruing to the Fund should be done in accordance with the due process of law. The law binds everyone, from the highest authority being the President, to the Minister of Health and anyone who considers themselves higher than the authority of law clearly presents themselves as an outlaw and has no reason to continue in a position of public service. All stakeholders including the civil society must be carried along in the process of implementing the Fund so that Nigerians will be in a position to exercise oversight, as the ultimate sovereigns, over the allocation, disbursement, management, utilisation and reporting on the Fund. This will involve full publicity around fund releases, projects and activities that will be funded by the releases including the specific location of the services and projects, reporting time schedule and availability of the reports to the public in printed and electronic copies.

Nigeria is under obligation to take steps to the maximum of available resources for the progressive realisation of the right to health. More resources are expected to be made available to healthcare as the budget increases. Backward steps, as witnessed by the government’s refusal to implement a duly passed law, without compensatory mechanisms especially for the poor, constitute a gross violation of the health obligation. The Federal Government can no longer be allowed to sanction murder by refusing to fund health care, despite clear statutory provisions. Let us implement the Basic Health Care Provision Fund, as provided in the National Health Act now!

Implications of Dino Melaye’s Failed Recall

The failed recall of Senator Dino Melaye on Saturday provides an opportunity for lessons to be drawn from the implementation of the recall constitutional provisions. Out of 189,870 signatories to the petition for Melaye’s recall, only 18,742 were verified by the Independent National Electoral Commission. This is a paltry 5.34 per cent of the total number of registered voters in the senatorial district and therefore did not satisfy the requirement of the law demanding a simple majority of the signatures of voters registered to vote in the constituency.

The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 in Section 69 provides for the recall of senators and members of the House of Representatives. It requires that  a petition signed by more than one half of the persons registered to vote in the member’s constituency alleging that they have lost confidence in that member be presented  to the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission. Thereafter, the petition is subjected to a referendum conducted by INEC and if it is approved by a simple majority of voters registered in that member’s constituency, the member stands recalled. In between the presentation of the petition and referendum, a verification of the signatures of the petitioners is conducted by INEC. For the verification to succeed, 50 per cent plus one of the registered voters in the constituency need to be verified.

The provision for recall of legislators is based on the sovereignty of the people affirmed in Section 14 (2) (a) of the Constitution to wit; that sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through the constitution derives all its powers and authority. It is about the right of the people to change their mind on the mandate they gave to a representative, midway into a legislative term. It is democratic and tallies with the right of the people to choose their representatives. The Constitution is the supreme law of the land. In the secular world, it is the equivalent of the holy book in the great religions. Every other law derives its validity through compliance with the foundational principles and philosophy of the constitution and any law in conflict or inconsistent with it is void to the extent of its inconsistency. Provisions of such a foundational law are not to be invoked for mere atavism or just to prove an empty political point to a political opponent.

Media reports monitored last Saturday indicated that there was a very low turnout and the constituents were not in any mood to recall their senator. They were also unaware of the sins of Melaye that would have led to the commencement of the recall process.  They constituents simply stayed away and went about their normal routine business. Again, the media reported “fictitious and forged signatures and names of dead persons affixed to the recall petition by its promoters”. The constitution does not anticipate or provide that signatures would be forged or the names of dead persons be inserted in a petition to recall a serving senator. It is imperative to state that forgery is a criminal offence for which the offenders should face stiff penalties and sanction. It is the expectation that the police and INEC should proceed with the same rigour and vigour with which they moved to recall the senator and go after the culprits and bring them to book.

The constitution anticipates a good faith process based on honesty of purpose. For constituents to lose confidence in a legislator, there must have been some misdeeds or offences committed by the legislator. Maybe, they mismanaged constituency project money and converted the same to their personal use. Or they have committed a grievous offence known to the law. Alternatively, they sleep in the chambers of the Senate and fail to bring up issues of importance to the constituency in the Senate.  Also, the member has been docile without sponsoring appropriate bills and motions. None of these could be attributed to Dino Melaye in his representation of his people. I do not want to believe that people can make up their mind to recall a legislator for the fun of it to justify the number of petitioners who started the process. Alternatively, could it be argued that about 95 per cent of the persons who signed up for Melaye’s recall changed their mind? That would be magical and so drastic and would not have been the case in the logical and natural sequence of human action. It is a very remote probability.

The fact that those who perpetrated the forgery made the federal treasury to spend hundreds of millions of naira which should have otherwise been used to solve life and death challenges facing the nation makes the case for their prosecution more compelling. Our hospitals and schools are run down and need so much in resources to rehabilitate and our government states that the money is not available. Yet, some little minds on an ego trip decided to make Nigeria go through this punishing fiscal schedule. Yes, money must have been spent to defend the litigation from the Federal High Court to the Court of Appeal, pay the personnel that went to the field, and the logistics for the exercise, etc.

There must be a limit to the misuse of executive and state power to prove a point which has nothing to do with the interest of the people. Recalling a senator is not a tea party.

Due to the way the Melaye recall had gone initially, it encouraged some level of rascality leading to some persons in Senator Ennyinna Abaribe’s constituency in Abia to allegedly start the noise of his recall process. According to media reports, part of his sin is that he “insults” President Muhammadu Buhari in his contributions in the Senate. This is so trivial and if we do not learn lessons, it could start the process of a journey to nowhere that would waste public funds.

Let it be known that this discourse is not against the provisions of the constitution or the idea of recalling legislators. But the message is that recalls should be based on empirical evidence, good reasons and honesty of purpose. It should not be an opportunity to settle political scores or to flex muscles to show an opponent that you can lord it over them.

Let this serve as a deterrent to those who want to rig the system through forgery, so as to ensure that in future, no one will try to game the system in future.

Spending Without Appropriation, By Eze Onyekpere

This development provides the opportunity for the National Assembly to reaffirm the process and procedure for withdrawals from ECA and similar funds. Fiscal governance is at the core of good governance and indeed is central to the welfare of citizens and development of society. The expectation is that our resources should be managed and spent in accordance with constitutional stipulations.

The recent revelation that President Muhamadu Buhari authorised the release of the sum of $496 million from the Excess Crude Account (“ECA”), without legislative approval, for the purchase of Tucano aircrafts is trending. The president merely got the approval of the governors through the National Economic Council for the withdrawal from the ECA, considering that it is an account owned by the entire federation, consisting of the federal, states and local governments. This is a development with grave implications for constitutionalism, separation of powers and the rule of law.

Media reports indicate that the president, in a letter dated April 13, 2018 had written to the National Assembly seeking the inclusion of the $496 million in the 2018 federal budget currently pending before the National Assembly, after he had given anticipatory approval for the release of the money. The trajectory of events shows that the National Economic Council approved the withdrawal in December 2017, about one month after the president sent the 2018 federal budget to the National Assembly. Snippets of the transaction were heard in January and February 2018, and later at the beginning of April 2018. They were all about whether the money for the payment of the aircrafts had been released by the federal government and or whether the federal government had made a firm commitment without getting the National Assembly’s approval. The minister of defence, Dan-Alli indicated that the money had been spent, while the senior special assistant to the president on National Assembly matters denied that the money had been spent without legislative approval. He further recited the very well-known provisions of the 1999 Constitution on the exclusive powers of the legislature in respect of appropriation.

According to media reports, part of the letter of April 13 reads: “In the expectation that the National Assembly would have no objection to the purchase of this highly specialised aircraft, which is critical to national security, I granted anticipatory approval for the release of US$496.374.470.00. This was paid directly to the treasury of the United States. I am therefore writing seeking the approval of this House…. The balance of the requirements for critical operational equipment is still being collated from the different security services and will be presented in the form of Supplementary Appropriation Bill in due course”. The purport of this letter is that for a period of four months after the NEC approval, the president, the minister of finance and the minister of budget and planning failed, refused and neglected to take any steps to bring the request for the purchase of the said aircrafts to the National Assembly. This shows tardiness on the part of the executive, as a four-month interval was long enough to draw the attention of the legislature to the need and its urgency. The tardiness is further reinforced by the letter’s indication that four months down the line, the defence authorities are still collating the needs of the security agencies for a mere sum of US$1 billion. The same media reports indicate that the terms of the sale agreement were skewed against Nigeria and nothing has been heard to determine whether the terms were properly negotiated to reflect our national interests before the payment on the orders of the president.

The concept of anticipatory approval is unknown to Nigeria’s constitutional jurisprudence. What the relevant sections of the Constitution (section 80-83) require is authorisation before expenditure. Any expenditure made without legislative authorisation is unconstitutional, null and void. It clearly offends the rule of law because the authorising agent outside of the legislature is unknown to the law.

By this development, the president had effectively combined executive and legislative powers, since the money has already been paid. What purpose will the legislative decision serve if the president had already given the approval by paying for the transaction? In effect, the hands of the legislature have been tied. Assuming that the legislature decides to reject the transaction, what will happen to the resources already committed? Does this not amount to executive blackmail of the legislature, considering that the president in his letter already knew the mind of the National Assembly? Should the legislature reject this blackmail, would they not be open to the public charge of frustrating the war against insurgency and criminality across the federation?

The concept of anticipatory approval is unknown to Nigeria’s constitutional jurisprudence. What the relevant sections of the Constitution (section 80-83) require is authorisation before expenditure. Any expenditure made without legislative authorisation is unconstitutional, null and void. It clearly offends the rule of law because the authorising agent outside of the legislature is unknown to the law. Again, it stifles the separation of powers if one arm of government overreaches itself by combining the duties of two arms. The above letter of the president to the legislature seems to be an afterthought, rather than a normal way of expending money in government.

Can the president be heard to plead that an emergency situation arose? If there was an emergency, the natural thing to do was to rush a request to the legislature with a plea for expedited consideration of the request. This was not done. What is the emergency in aircrafts that would be supplied in 2020? It is not that the supplies will come immediately to energise the war against insurgency. What is the emergency if discussions for the procurement of these aircrafts started in the President Jonathan era? Alternatively, was the president advised or under the mistaken belief that he could spend money from the ECA without legislative approval? If it is true as another media house wants Nigerians to believe that the president was wrongly advised, it implies that he is surrounded by incompetent advisers who do not mean well for the country. Again, it shows that the president is incapable of deciphering wrong and good advice. Ultimately, the president carries the cross because no one can be heard to plead that he violated the law because he was wrongly advised, as ignorance of the law is no defence of a crime. In this case, spending without appropriation in circumstances similar to this is an original sin against the constitution and amounts to an impeachable offence.

…the National Assembly should deliberate on the president’s letter and request the president to show cause for spending without appropriation in violation of the constitution. If the response of the president is good enough, they should then proceed to the second phase, which is to review the terms of the sale agreement and weed out conditions that do not favour our country.

Going forward, the National Assembly should deliberate on the president’s letter and request the president to show cause for spending without appropriation in violation of the constitution. If the response of the president is good enough, they should then proceed to the second phase, which is to review the terms of the sale agreement and weed out conditions that do not favour our country. They should send a strong message to the president that on no condition would this be tolerated in future. There are already signs of anarchy and lawlessness in the security sector, and we should not allow same to repeat in the fiscal sector.

foraminifera

This development provides the opportunity for the National Assembly to reaffirm the process and procedure for withdrawals from ECA and similar funds. Fiscal governance is at the core of good governance and indeed is central to the welfare of citizens and development of society. The expectation is that our resources should be managed and spent in accordance with constitutional stipulations. Finally, President Buhari owes Nigerians an apology for this misdeed, with a promise that it would not happen again.

Eze Onyekpere is the lead director at Centre for Social Justice.