Secrecy In Govt Denies Nigeria OGP Membership Status
The refusal of President Goodluck Jonathan and other public officials to publicly declare their assets as required by law has been identified as the chief reason why Nigeria has been denied membership of the Open Government Partnership, an influential global anti-corruption initiative backed by major nations.
The partnership was launched by world leaders in 2011 to ensure governments’ commitment to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption and use new technologies to strengthen governance.
Its membership has grown from eight to 60 countries in just two years, and is now viewed as key mark of a country’s high transparency standard.
While Nigeria was spurned, six African countries have been admitted to the prestigious body. They are Ghana, Liberia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and South Africa.
The partnership’s Programme Associate, Jack Mahoney, told newsmen that despite showing an interest, Nigeria has failed to meet the benchmark required to be accepted as a member.
“Nigeria is very close to eligibility, but has not yet reached the necessary score. At last count performed in March 2013, the Nigerian Government scored an 11/16, and is therefore one point away from the 12/16 minimum score required for countries to be eligible to join,” he said.
Top on the list of the reasons given why Nigeria is still falling short is the blatant refusal of President Jonathan, alongside other public officials, to publicly declare their assets.
Last year, during a media chat, Jonathan showed utter disregard for transparency when he insisted that he was not going to declare his assets publicly.
“The issue of asset declaration is a matter of principle. I don’t give a damn about it, if you want to criticise me from heaven. The issue of public declaration, I think is playing to the gallery. You don’t need to publicly declare any assets. If I am somebody who wants to hide, it is what I tell you that you will even believe,” the president said.
Mahoney also told newsmen that for the country to be accepted as a member, it needs to publish its annual Audit Report measured by the Open Budget Index (OBI).
The OBI measures the state of budget transparency, participation, and oversight in countries around the world.
Last year, Nigeria’s budget scored a woeful 16 point out of 100, leaving the country at the 80th position out of the 100 countries surveyed. With 93 points, New Zealand was rated as the country with the most transparent budget followed by South Africa with 90 points.
Mahoney said Nigeria needs to also improve its score in the Democracy Index (DI) to be considered for membership. The DI is compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit, and it measures the state of democracy in 167 countries based on 60 indicators grouped in five different categories: electoral process and pluralism, civil liberties, functioning government, political participation, and political culture. In 2012, DI Nigeria was ranked the 7th most terrorised country in the world.
Meanwhile, three Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) have called the Federal Government to task over the inability of the country to qualify as a member of the Open Government Partnership (OGP).
Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Budget It Nigeria, and Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC) say “Nigeria’s inability to meet OGP’s eligibility requirements constitutes a major slur on the country’s image and reputation, particularly in the light that six other African countries are already members of the OGP.”
The groups, therefore, advised the government to “ensure that audit reports of public accounts, particularly by the Auditor-General of the Federation, are proactively disclosed and made available to members of the public,” and also “ensure that incomes of all categories of public officers are proactively disclosed as required by Section 2(3) (d) (vi) of the Freedom of Information Act and other applicable laws.”
In addition, the groups challenged “the Code of Conduct Bureau to bring itself into compliance with the Freedom of Information Act by acceding to requests from members of the public to disclose asset declarations in its custody submitted by elected and senior government officials, which constitute information maintained by it as a public institution within the meaning of the Act,” as well as “improve citizen participation and civic engagement in policy-making, and in all aspects of governance, including around the issue of Nigeria’s membership of the OGP.
Naira, Fuel Scarcity, Insecurity, Inflation Push 24m Nigerians
Protracted insecurity, fuel scarcity, naira redesign policy and consistent high price of food commodities have been identified as key drivers that are pushing over 24 million Nigerians into food and nutrition insecurity.
While the withdrawal of the old currency notes form circulation constituted a bottleneck to households’ ability to access cash as well as food commodities, the prolonged scarcity of petrol, and the associated hike in pump price across the states on the other hand, has led to astronomical rise in transport fares and cost of food products in Nigerian markets beyond affordability.
An analysis done by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) together with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and other development partners has revealed.
The results show that insecurity especially, insurgency in the north-east states, mostly in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states; armed criminality and banditry in some north-west states (Sokoto, Katsina, Zamfara and Kaduna), as well as north-central states of Benue and Niger are also responsible for the hunger.
High food inflation as evident in soaring food commodity has limited households access to food, and lack of employment and reduction in household income due to the long-term effect of COVID-19 pandemic are also culpable.
The March 2023 Cadre Harmonise (CH) analysis conducted in 26 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) precedes a period of multiple shocks which affected livelihoods of many households last year.
The overall figures show that 24.8 million people including 18,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are expected to be in crisis (CH phase 3) or worse between June and August 2023 in those states.
While the analysis indicates that about 17.7 million people including 14, 000 IDPs are currently in acute and nutrition insecurity from March through May 2023.
In addition, 4.1 million of this population in Borno (1.9 million) Yobe (1.2 million) and Adamawa (1 million) states are projected to be phase 3 between June and August 2023.
FAO country representative to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Fred Kafeero, during the release of CH result in Abuja, weekend, expressed worry of further increase vulnerability to food and malnutrition during the lean season.
According to Kafeero, Nigeria needs to re-commit and use available means and resources to mitigate further deterioration of the food security situation in the country.
For this reason, FAO said it has continued to support the government in leading the implementation of CH processes nationally, both in terms of funding and technical support, despite resource limitations and competing demands.
The Permanent setcretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Ernest Umakhihe, assured partners of governments’ commitment to upholding the outcome and recommendations arising from the result with a view to enhancing the food and nutrition security situation in the concerned states through objective intervention programme.
Umakhihe, who was represented by the Director, Department of Planning and Policy Coordination, Ibrahim Tanimu, called on all participants to contribute positively to the issues emanating from the results to enhance its quality, usefulness and acceptability by the spectrum of stakeholders.
PENGASSAN Committed To Workplace Gender Equality
The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) has reiterated its commitment to the adoption, implementation of policies and strategies that promote gender equality in workplaces.
Speaking at an event to celebrate the International Women’s Day (IWD) in Abuja, PENGASSAN’s President, Festus Osifo, asked for mechanisms to report gender-based violence and provide support to victims/survivors.
He demanded more access to health care for women, particularly in rural areas where traditional health care are not available.
According to him, “Innovation and technology have been a driving force in the global economy. Over the past few years, we have seen significant strides towards gender equality in various spheres of life, but there is still a long way to go.
“In the digital space, we believe that there is a huge disparity in women involvement due to certain factors that inhibit their abilities to develop the necessary digital skills which diminish their opportunities to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
“Women face a lot of technical capabilities. These capabilities are always questioned as against their male counterpart.
“Women in technology may also face harassment and discrimination, both overtly and subtly. These women may struggle to find role models and mentors who have similar experiences.
“Many of these women struggle to balance the demands of their careers with their personal lives. This can be particularly challenging for women who are also raising families or caring for elderly parents”.
By: Stories Compiled By Tonye Nria-Dappa
Stakeholders Rally For Africa’s Energy Dev
Stakeholders at the just-concluded African Refiners & Distribution Association (ARDA) conference have canvassed for concerted investment in African Downstream, clean fuels, energy poverty eradication.
Critical stakeholders in the African energy have resolved to mobilise for greater investment in the continent’s energy sector.
Arising from the 2023 edition of the African Refiners & Distribution Association (ARDA) conference, which ended yesterday in Cape Town, South Africa, the participants called for increased investments to accelerate Africa’s deployment of downstream infrastructure, including pipelines, storage facilities and refineries, to enable the continent to address energy poverty and achieve energy independence and sustainability.
To this end, the African Finance Corporation (AFC) revealed that it has deployed about $800 million towards supporting Africa’s refinery sector with an additional $210 million in its near-term pipeline.
Cumulatively, the AFC and the African Export Import Bank (Afreximbank) are investing about $16 billion in oil and gas projects across Africa.
The Global Head, Client Relations, Afreximbank, Rene Awembeng, said the company’s oil and gas portfolio exceeds $15 billion with a healthy pipeline across the entire continent.
He noted that the continent is in a critical situation where demand for energy continues to rise on the backdrop of surging population.
At the conference, stakeholders also called for retention of funds within the continent to finance the over $190 billion yearly energy investment need of the continent.
About $15 billion of the funds is being invested by Afreximbank, while AFC already invested over $800 million with additional over $200 million expected to be finalised.
With the continent relying mainly on importation of petroleum products at a time when foreign exchange demand is hovering at $100 billion yearly and required energy investment annually stands at $190 billion, Awembeng said large infrastructure development, including, refineries that would meet demand on the continent must be prioritised and supported.
He added that the creation of Africa Energy Bank remained sacrosanct to fund fossil fuel and Africa energy transition agenda.
Expressing regret that Africa remained an importer of all refined products, he said: “Africa has not invested in its refineries or refining capacity. We’ve not invested in our storage facilities. We’ve not invested in our pipelines sufficiently to meet the demand.
“So, with the COVID crisis, and now the Ukraine crisis, we are now in a very difficult position.
“A lot of the international banks and some of the banks that were financing oil and gas transactions have retreated from Africa for a number of reasons, leaving the burden on African financial institutions and some of the development financiers like the African Export Import Bank to look into the problem.
“The challenge now is that we have significant capacity to meet the demand of $190 billion every year to finance oil and gas requirements in Africa.
“Do we have capacity on the continent to support the $15 billion of rehabilitation of refining capacity required in North Africa, West Africa and East Africa? I don’t think we are.
“So, we are going into a crisis where if you look at also what is happening with food security in terms of fertilisers and grain, we have to import plus the high costs of importation of refined products. We are in a very challenging situation as a continent to be able to finance oil and gas”, Awembeng said.
In an opening statement, ARDA President, Marième Ndoye Decraene, emphasised the role improved collaboration between African downstream players and ARDA members plays in facilitating the full exploitation of Africa’s hydrocarbon resources to achieve a just and inclusive energy transition.
According to Decraene, with energy demand set to grow across the continent by 45 percent through 2050, “Our objective is to ensure Africa’s growing demand is met with cleaner fossil fuels.
“We must combine our efforts to develop a strong and effective platform to ensure the energy mix and environment are prioritised.
“We need to create a strong regulatory framework, ensure the transfer of technology, innovation and skills to maximise the downstream industry.
“Financing remains a problem and we need to make sure there is available funding and that projects are bankable while accelerating renewables penetration.
“Our aim is to make use of platforms such as ARDA Week to strengthen our current energy capabilities and come up with solutions on how Africa can address global factors hindering the industry”.
ARDA’s Executive Secretary, Anibor Kragha, said Africa’s downstream players can play to ensure the continent balances achieving energy security and environmental sustainability.
“Energy security is the short term need we have. We are not the biggest polluter in the world, hence we are focusing on uninterrupted, secure and affordable supply of energy, and not what other global parties and markets are focusing on, which is decarbonisation.
“Storage and distribution needs should be a focus. However, reducing emissions from the fuels industry should also be prioritised. By 2030, we need cleaner transport, clean cooking and power solutions”, Kragha said
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