Accountability, openness and transparency are principles whose seeds have not found fertile grounds to grow in Nigeria. Fingers may be pointed to the strong inclination to corruption which continues to sniff-out breath from these core principles of modern development. The World Bank board of directors had last week approved $114.28 million financing to help Nigeria prevent, detect and respond to the threat posed by COVID-19 with a specific focus on State level responses. The Bank had disclosed this in a statement titled “Nigeria to boost states capacity for COVID-19 response” released last Friday. This included a $100m credit from the International Development Association and $14.28m grant from the Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility. The World Bank said: “Through the COVID-19 preparedness and response project (CoPREP), the government of Nigeria will provide grants to 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory as immediate support to break the chain of COVID-19 local transmission and limit the spread of coronavirus through containment and mitigation strategies.” According to the Bank, the $100million credit with Project ID number: P173980, is due to be paid back over 30 years, with additional 5 years grace period. It said that grants to States would be conditional on States adopting COVID-19 response strategies which were in line with the Federal Government guidelines and strategies. According to the World Bank, “CoPREP will enhance the institutional and operational capacity for disease detection through provision of technical expertise, coordination support, detection, diagnosis and case management efforts in all states and the FCT as per the WHO guidelines in the strategic response plan.” It was said that it would also help the government mobilise such response capacity through trained and well-equipped frontline healthcare workers and strengthen the public health care network for future health emergencies.
The World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, Shubham Chaudhuri, had in this regard said that “Nigeria has ramped up its efforts to contain the COVID-19 outbreak, but more needs to be done at the State level, which are at the frontline of the response. The project will provide the states with much needed direct technical and fiscal support to strengthen their position in combating the pandemic. In addition, it added, the project would finance federal procurements of medical equipment, laboratory tests, and medicines to be distributed to the states based on their needs.”
However, suspecting foul play based on past experiences of infidelity on the part of the Nigerian government, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, (SERAP) had in response sent an open letter to the World Bank President, Mr David Malpass, urging him to use his “good office to encourage the Federal Government and the 36 state governments to publicly commit to transparency and accountability in the spending of the $114.28m credit and grant for COVID-19, which the Bank’s Board of Directors recently approved for Nigeria, including by publishing details on a dedicated website.” SERAP also urged the World Bank President to “put pressure on authorities and the 36 state governors to accept voluntary scrutiny by Nigerians and civil society regarding the spending of the funds and use of the resources, including on how they will spend the money to buy medical equipment, and improve access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene.”
In the letter signed by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, dated 8 August, 2020, SERAP had said: “The World Bank has a responsibility to ensure that federal authorities and state governments are transparent and accountable to Nigerians in how they spend the approved credit and grant. The Bank should tread carefully in the disbursement of funds or distribution of resources to states if it is to reduce vulnerability to corruption and mismanagement.” The CSO further expressed “serious concerns that the money and resources may be stolen, diverted or mismanaged by state governors without effective transparency and accountability mechanisms, especially given increasing reports of allegations of corruption and mismanagement of COVID-19 funds by agencies of the Federal Government and state governments, and impunity of perpetrators. Insisting on transparency and accountability would ensure repayment of the credit, and protect the project objectives and intended purposes for which the funds and resources are approved, disbursed and distributed. The Bank’s power to provide credits and grants is coupled with a fiduciary responsibility to ensure that governments spending such funds meet international standards of transparency and accountability, including those entrenched in the UN Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party.”
The letter which was also copied to the World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, Shubham Chaudhuri, read further: “Implementing these recommendations would prevent a repeat of alleged diversion and mismanagement of recovered Abacha loot disbursed by the Federal Government to state governments. The World Bank should make clear to all the governors that it will cancel the credit and grant should they renege on their transparency and accountability commitments to spend the money and use the resources exclusively for COVID-19 related projects, and not to steal, divert or mismanage them. As the level of Federal Government monitoring of the spending of the credit and grant and use of the resources by state governors may be based on political considerations, the Bank’s influence might be the only restraining force state governors will take seriously. SERAP encourages you and the World Bank in any future engagements with state governments in Nigeria to insist on accessing information on how governors are spending security votes, and the amounts of public funds states are allocating to pay former governors life pensions, among others, as well as consider the level of corruption within each state before approving any credits and grants. SERAP also encourages you and the World Bank not to sacrifice international standards of transparency and accountability in the rush to provide COVID-19 credit and grant to the 36 state governments.”
SERAP therefore urged Mr Malpass and the World Bank to: “Disclose and widely publish the terms and conditions of the credit and grant, and the exact amount repayable by Nigeria in 30 years’ time, including the details of the interest, if any; and the consequences of Nigeria defaulting; Ask President Muhammadu Buhari to instruct the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to jointly track and monitor spending of the credit and grant by state governments; Ask state governments to allow the media to freely report on their spending of the funds and use of the resources, and not to clampdown on journalists and the media in the exercise of their constitutional responsibilities to expose corruption and hold governments to account; Ask state governments to explicitly commit to encouraging and protecting whistle-blowers as a way of ensuring that the funds and resources are not stolen, diverted or mismanaged;
Clarify if, to the Bank’s knowledge and information, the credit and grant have been approved by Nigeria’s National Assembly pursuant to its constitutional duties, including its oversight functions under Section 88 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended); Ensure increased transparency of sanctions and terms and conditions of the credit and grant to each state to enable Nigerians to ask questions as to the spending of the money and use of the resources from their state governments.”
The integrity of the Nigerian Government is undoubtedly questionable, particularly amidst the high profile records of financial misappropriation and lootings among other variant forms of nauseating corruption devices which have characterized successive governments in the Country. This no doubt has led to the loss of trust by Nigerians in the Government. While the world is watching Nigeria, it is necessary that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government begin the process of changing the narrative by proving and assuring both Nigerians domestically and the international community of efficient application of the funds for the right purposes, bereft of foul plays.
Also, significant it is to desist from the usual practice of making clandestine, the processes and details of the uses to which such funds are being applied. Just as the World Bank has made public the purposes to which the fund were provided for, it remains sacrosanct that the Nigerian Government should make open the processes and details of how the funds is expended as time goes by. Transparency, accountability and openness are therefore key to prove to Nigerians that the present President Buhari-led Government is truly hostile to corruption as widely claimed. To avoid international embarrassment, close monitoring mechanisms of the expenditures of all government agencies or departments, having bearing of receipts from the fund should be strictly set in place to ensure impeccable accounts of efficiency of use and effectiveness in purpose accomplishment. Unquestionable standards of audits should be put in place to check the activities and expenditures of all government bodies receiving from the fund to effect the set out purposes. Juxtaposing their expenditures with the actual results, pari parsu the intended purposes and expected outcome should be a benchmark for all government bodies having access to the fund, while punitive measures should be set aside for the prosecution of defaulters.
Kaduna drone mishap: Military must review rules of engagement, standard operating procedures
An accidental bombing of Tudun Biri village in Igabi local Government Area, (LGA) Kaduna state by the Nigerian Army, Sunday night, has attracted major concerns. The ugly development left much controversy..
Undisclosed scores of persons have been confirmed dead with dozens injured, following the bombardment which has been described as accidental and erroneous. While the Nigerian Air Force denied its involvement, later confirmation from official sources established the fact of the event. The Nigerian Army later owned up responsibility.
The Overseeing Commissioner, Ministry of Internal Security and Home Affairs, Kaduna State, Samuel Aruwan In a press statement that trailed the development personally signed and made available to Journalists in Kaduna on Monday had said the incident happened on Sunday night, while the Army was in a routine mission against terrorists in the area. He further stressed that search-and-rescue efforts are still ongoing, as dozens of injured victims have been evacuated to Barau Dikko Teaching Hospital by the government. According to him, the General Officer Commanding One Division Nigerian Army, Major VU Okoro explained that the Nigerian Army was on a routine mission against terrorists but inadvertently affected members of the community.
On a later development, amidst more knocks trailing the Sunday night military accidental bombardment, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lieutenant General Taoreed Lagbaja paid a condolence visit to the community, tendering apologies. The Army Chief arrived the community in the early hours of Tuesday, accompanied by Principal Staff Officers from the Army Headquarters and the General Officer Commanding 1 Division, where he met with the Dangaladima Zazau, the District Head of Rigasa, Architect Aminu Idris, other leaders and members of the community.
A statement by the Director, Army Public Relations, Brigadier General Onyema Nwachukwu had explained, “The COAS in an emotion-laden speech expressed regrets on the unfortunate mishap, describing it as a very disheartening occurrence. Speaking further, Gen Lagbaja noted that in the recent past, the general area of Tudun Biri and adjoining villages were infested with armed bandits, who terrorised the communities, until troops of the Nigerian Army started conducting operations to sanitize the area and make it habitable. He pointed out, that the troops were carrying out aeriel patrols when they observed a group of people and wrongly analyzed and misinterpreted their pattern of activities to be similar to that of the bandits, before the drone strike. The COAS stated that he was in Tudun Biri to personally witness the site of the mishap and to convey sincere regrets and unreserved apologies on behalf of the Nigerian Army to the District Head and people of the community, as well as the Government and entire people of Kaduna State.”
Describing the incident as “disturbing,” President Bola Tinubu ordered an investigation Tuesday after the Army acknowledged one of its drones mistakenly struck the village of Tudun Biri as residents celebrated a Muslim festival.
Knocks have continued to trail the mishap. For instance, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, expressed concerns over the number of accidental Nigerian military air strikes which have killed dozens of civilians and left several others injured. Atiku, who was the Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2023 election, in a post on his X handle, on Tuesday described the latest miscalculated military drone attack as tragic.
”I am grieved by the news of the drone airstrike that killed dozens of people and left scores of others with various degrees of injury in the Tudun Biri community in Igabi Local Government Area of Kaduna State. Ironically, the victims of this unfortunate incident were celebrating the Maulud anniversary. The incidence of miscalculated air strikes is assuming a worrisome dimension in the country.
“I call on the authorities to launch a thorough investigation into this tragedy to avert future occurrences.
“Meanwhile, no resource should be spared in medical attention to the injured and assistance to the families of the dead. I pray that the Almighty Allah comforts the bereaved families and grants the dead eternal peace,” he had submitted.
Presidential candidate of the Labour Party in the 2023 election, Mr. Peter Obi had described the bombing of Tudun Biri Villagers by the Nigerian Army as regrettable. Obi in his assertion in a statement via his official X handle on Tuesday, said the incident is an embarrassment for the Nigerian Army and the country. Obi had said any incident that leads to harm or the loss of lives of the innocent people they are meant to protect should be avoided.
He stated, “I read with sadness, the devastating reports of the accidental bombing of Tudun Biri Village in the Igabi Local Government Area of Kaduna State, by a Nigerian Army craft that mistook the villagers for terrorists.
“The lethal incident left death tolls reported to have risen to 80, with several others injured. While our military continues to fight impressively against insecurity in many parts of the country, they must exercise utmost caution and professionalism to avoid this kind of embarrassment to both the military and the country.
“Fatal mistakes like this leave indelible trauma on the families who have lost their loved ones to this ugly and unfortunate mishap. I sincerely commiserate with families that lost their loved ones.
“It is regrettable that the problem of insecurity in our nation has persisted for so long that we are now paying such unintended human costs as collateral damage.”
The United Nations also deplored the incident. The UN human rights office said it deplored the attack, noting that it was the latest of at least four airstrikes that have resulted in significant civilian fatalities since 2017.
“While we note that the authorities have termed the civilian deaths as accidental, we call on them to take all feasible steps in future to ensure civilians and civilian infrastructure are protected,” said UN Human Rights Office spokesperson, Seif Magango said in a statement.
The UN added that, “We are particularly alarmed by reports that the strike was based on the ‘pattern of activities’ of those at the scene which was wrongly analysed and misinterpreted. There are serious concerns as to whether so-called ‘pattern of life’ strikes sufficiently comply with international law.
“We urge the Nigerian authorities to thoroughly and impartially investigate all alleged violations of international human rights and international humanitarian law, including deaths and injuries from air force strikes, and hold those found responsible to account.
“The government should also provide victims of any unlawful strikes and their families with adequate reparations.”
While it is known that bandits have long terrorised parts of Northwest Nigeria, operating from bases deep in forests and raiding villages to loot and kidnap residents for ransom, it is no doubt that military efforts to combat the terror is not negotiable. However, such efforts must not be unguided and carried out without intelligence.
It is known that Nigeria’s Armed Forces often rely on airstrikes in their battle against bandit militias in the Northwest and Northeast of the country, where jihadists have been fighting for more than a decade. As noted, it is important the Armed Forces review rules of engagement and standard operating procedures to ensure that such incidents do not repeat itself. It is pertinent that security agencies begin to work with reliable human intelligence reports on the ground before any offensive attack to avoid innocent casualties, as the case was in Kaduna.
Also important is the need to develop counterinsurgency strategies that will insulate the civilian population from tragic incidents of this nature. Acting on intelligence is important for the military to exercise utmost caution and professionalism to avoid this kind of mishap.
What Nigeria stands to gain at COP28 in Dubai
The connotations and denotations surrounding the ongoing Convention of Parties (COP) with Nigeria being described as having recorded the highest number of registered delegates from Africa at the ongoing COP28 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates should be accorded with less priority.
Our focus as the most populous black nation in the entire globe should be the positive impacts of the summit on our environments considering the fact crude oil is the major source of revenue to national coffers. Therefore, the activities surrounding extraction, mining and operational processes of oil production and even the mining Sector must be properly dealt with and these are some of the areas of concentration by the Federal Government led team by President Bola Tinubu.
According to a list published by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Nigeria is also third-highest overall in number of delegates at the conference.The provisional total for COP28 indicates that 81,027 delegates registered to attend the summit in person. With a further 3,074 attending virtually, this takes the overall total to 84,101, a report released on Friday. The figure is 30,000 more than those who travelled to Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt for COP27 in 2022, the previous largest in an almost 30-year history of summits.
The positive aspect is that Nigerians participating at the summit will have a broadened knowledge on the activities of climate change affecting the country and this will be spindown through policies formulation and implementation by the government.
Peeping through the article written by Special Assistant to Mr. President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Temitope Ajayi argued that those with sufficient understanding and knowledge on climate matters know that issues around the subject have layers and multiplicity of factors that require experts from various fields. There are lined-up technical sessions on financing climate actions at sub-national levels, regions and local governments. State Governors from Nigeria such as Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos, Dapo Abiodun of Ogun, Umo Eno of Akwa-Ibom have been really busy with their officials at COP28, making presentations, speaking at panel sessions and pitching some of their sustainability projects to development partners and investors.
According to him, multifaceted stakeholders from different countries including Nigeria are on ground in Dubai because they don’t want decisions that will affect them to be taken without pushing their own agenda. It is the reason delegates from China and Brazil are over 3,000 respectively. China is one of the world’s biggest polluters and Brazil is at the centre of global climate debate with her Amazon rainforest. These two countries know important decisions that will affect them will be taken and they have to move everything to be fully on ground and ensure they are fully represented by their best brains at every level of discussion and negotiation.
Like former President Muhammadu Buhari and other African leaders who demanded fair deal and climate justice for Africa at previous UN Climate summits, President Tinubu is leading the charge at COP28 on behalf of Nigeria and the rest of the continent, demanding from the West that any climate decision and action must be fair and just to Africa and Nigeria in particular, especially the debate around energy transition. President Tinubu has been unequivocal in his position that Africa that is battling problems of poverty, security and struggling to provide education and healthcare to her people cannot be told to abandon its major source of income which is mostly from extractive industries without the West providing the funding and investment in alternative and clean energy sources. President Tinubu and other officials on the Federal government delegation are in Dubai for serious business not jamboree. Our President has been very busy representing our country well. Since Thursday morning when he arrived Dubai, President Tinubu has spent not less than 18 hours daily in attending very important sessions, pushing our national agenda whilst holding bilateral and business meetings on the sidelines.
On the part of the Federal Government, the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris clarified that the delegation sponsored by the Government to attend the Convention of Parties (COP) 28 in Dubai is on serious business and not jamboree. He explained that the country’s participation in the summit is in line “with our status as Africa’s leading sovereign voice and player in climate action.”
According to the Minister, out of the 1,400 Nigerian delegates attending the COP28, only 422 persons are sponsored by the government. Listing the numbers he revealed that National Council on Climate Change has 32, Federal Ministry of Environment = 34, All Ministries = 167, Presidency = 67, Office of the Vice President = 9, National Assembly = 40 and Federal Parastatals/Agencies = 73 participants.
In noting the importance of the summit, the minister emphasised that “Nigeria as the biggest economy and most populous country in Africa, with a substantial extractive economy and extensive vulnerability to climate change, Nigeria has a significant stake in climate action, and our active and robust participation at COP is therefore not unwarranted. The Convention of Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is the world’s pre-eminent Climate Change Conference, attended this year (COP-28) by more than 70,000 participants and delegates from over 100 countries.
“Nigeria’s representation is very much in line with our status as Africa’s leading sovereign voice and player in climate action. Parties to this Convention from Nigeria include government officials, representatives from the private sector, civil society, the voluntary sector, state governments, media, multilateral institutions, representatives of marginalised communities, and many others.”
According to him, it is imperative to point out that the overall Nigerian delegation to COP-28 comprises Government-sponsored (Federal and State Governments) and non-government-sponsored participants (from Private Companies, NGOs, CSOs, Media, academia, etc).COP-28 presents an array of investment and partnership opportunities for the various sectors affected by climate change, and Nigeria is already benefiting from its ongoing participation, as demonstrated by the following: Nigeria and Germany signed an accelerated performance agreement to expedite the implementation of the Presidential Power Initiative (PPI) to improve Nigeria’s electricity supply. President Tinubu hosted a high-level meeting with stakeholders and investors on the Nigeria Carbon Market and the Electric Buses Rollout Programme on the margins of the COP28 climate summit.
“The President unveiled the Nigeria Carbon Market Activation Plan, co-chaired by the Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mr. Zacch Adedeji, and the Director-General of the National Council on Climate Change (NCCC), Dr. Dahiru Salisu.
“The Electric Buses program is only the first step in a series of innovative, clean, modern, and sustainable initiatives across diverse sectors, all aimed at simultaneously addressing climate change-related challenges, reducing carbon footprint, modernising infrastructure systems, and positioning Nigeria as an attractive destination for global investments.”
He maintained that Nigeria stands to benefit from the Loss and Damage Fund established during COP-27 in Egypt and formally operationalised at the opening plenary of COP-28 in Dubai. The Fund will provide substantial non-debt financing to support countries most affected by the impact of climate change. Hundreds of millions of dollars have already been pledged as contributions to the Fund. The President also met the President of UAE to concretise engagements between the two countries. This is aside from the bilateral talks held with several countries and multilateral partners.
There should be highlighted that, over the years, Nigeria has firmly demonstrated its climate action credentials by being the first African country to launch its Energy Transition Plan, the first African country to issue a Sovereign Green Bond, and one of the first to pass national climate change legislation.
It is pertinent to note that beyond the number of sponsored delegates being argued and trending on social media, Nigerians should beam their searchlight on collective benefits from various stakeholders cutting across public and private sectors, communities and socio-ethnic gains of the masses from the ongoing Convention.
The mirage of fiscal renewal in Nigeria’s 2024 budget
The unveiling of Nigeria’s 2024 budget by President Bola Tinubu was anticipated with a mix of hope and skepticism.
The hope was that the new administration would pivot from the fiscal imprudence that has characterised the nation’s budgeting for decades.
The skepticism stemmed from a history of unfulfilled promises and economic plans that have often sounded more impressive on paper than in practice. Unfortunately, the skepticism seems warranted as the N27.5 trillion budget proposal for 2024, dubbed the ‘Budget of Renewed Hope,’ falls short of the transformative fiscal recalibration that was promised.
At first glance, the budget’s title suggests a fresh start, a breakaway from the past. However, a closer examination reveals a continuation of the same old patterns: “envelope” budgeting, precarious funding assumptions, a bloated recurrent expenditure, a modest capital outlay, a substantial deficit, and an increasing debt burden.
This is not the bold overhaul that Nigerians were promised, but rather a reiteration of the uninspiring fiscal practices of the past two decades.
President Tinubu’s speech to the National Assembly painted an optimistic picture, one where the budget would lay the groundwork for macroeconomic stability, reduce the deficit, and increase capital spending in line with the administration’s priorities. Yet, the reality of the figures tells a different story.
The allocation of N9.92 trillion for non-debt recurrent expenses and N8.25 trillion for debt servicing—which alone consumes a staggering 45 percent of the total budget—signals a continuation of the government’s preference for consumption over investment.
This approach does little to inspire confidence in the budget’s potential to stimulate economic growth or alleviate poverty.Moreover, the projected deficit of N9.18 trillion, which represents 3.88 percent of GDP, though a reduction from the previous year’s 6.11 percent, still underscores a reliance on borrowing.
The planned new borrowings of N7.83 trillion, along with the anticipated N1.05 trillion drawdown on multilateral and bilateral loans, further entrench Nigeria’s precarious revenue position. The expected N298.49 billion from privatisation proceeds is not only insignificant in the grand scheme but also highly speculative, given the government’s historical reluctance to privatize.
The budget reiterates lofty goals such as fostering “job-rich” growth, improving investment stability, and enhancing human capital development. Yet, without a significant shift in the allocation towards capital expenditure and a realistic plan for revenue generation, these objectives seem more aspirational than achievable.
The heavy lean on debt servicing casts a long shadow over the prospects of meeting these goals, as it leaves little room for the necessary investments in infrastructure, education, and healthcare that are critical for sustainable development.
The ‘Budget of Renewed Hope’ was an opportunity for President Tinubu’s administration to demonstrate a commitment to changing the narrative of Nigeria’s economic management. It was a chance to present a budget that would not only reflect the current economic realities but also chart a clear path towards fiscal sustainability and inclusive growth.
Unfortunately, the 2024 budget proposal, as it stands, is a missed opportunity. It is a whimper in the face of Nigeria’s economic challenges, not the bang that was needed to jolt the economy towards a new trajectory.
As the National Assembly deliberates on this budget, it is imperative that lawmakers critically assess the proposed allocations and assumptions. They must push for a more balanced budget that prioritizes capital expenditure and addresses the revenue challenges head-on. It is only through such rigorous scrutiny and a willingness to make tough decisions that Nigeria can hope to achieve the macroeconomic stability and growth that the government so optimistically promises..
Nigeria’s recently announced 2022 budget has been met with criticism from experts who have raised concerns over its assumptions and allocation of funds.
The budget assumes an average oil price of $77.96 per barrel, which is precarious given that prices have averaged $74.38 on Friday.
Additionally, the estimated oil production of 1.78 million barrels per day is questionable, with production averaging 1.35mbpd this year. With 400,000bpd stolen and OPEC seeking to cut production to boost prices, the output target appears unrealistic.
Furthermore, the national budget is still overly dependent on oil and gas revenues. Other assumptions, such as inflation at 21.4 per cent and debt servicing, also raise questions. Inflation rose to 27.3 per cent in October, fuelled by high energy prices, rocketing naira exchange rates and runaway food prices.
The government’s spending over 90 per cent of its revenue on debt-servicing, and still borrowing at breakneck pace, means its deficits and borrowings could eventually exceed estimates. Experts describe annual budgets as an “important instrument of national resource mobilisation, allocation and economic management”.
However, this budget is largely more of the same annual fare, sustaining high recurrent spending. The N1.32 trillion or 5.0 per cent infrastructure vote falls short of the $1.5 billion required under the Reviewed Integrated Infrastructure Master Plan.
The social sectors, primarily education and health, which combined are allotted 12.5 per cent, continue to get short thrift.
This contradicts Tinubu’s electoral promise to allocate at least 10 per cent to health, and the 15 per cent combined agreed for health and education by African countries in 2010. Overall, the budget has been criticised for its assumptions and allocation of funds, which could hinder economic development.
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