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SPECIAL REPORT: Fraud Allegations, Unremitted loans, Crop Failure, other Anomalies Dog Nigerian Govt’s “Rice Revolution”

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Speaking to a packed audience at the 10th Bola Tinubu Colloquium, an annual conference held to mark the birthday of Mr Tinubu, the national leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), in Lagos in March, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said agriculture was at the core of the government’s economic policy.
He said his boss, President Muhammadu Buhari, decided “to invest heavily in agriculture as a means of creating jobs in the hinterlands, provide enough phone locally and for all of the urban areas.”
“I am sure many would already agree that this has been a tremendous success. Several millions of Nigerians have been employed in agriculture,” he boasted.
“In fact, Mr. President tells a story of his own village where people used to lease out farms to farmers from Kano but now nobody leases out their farms anymore. Everybody is on his own farm. The more interesting part of that story is that not only are more people going to Hajj, they are also taking more wives,” Mr Osinbajo said as the audience roared with laughter.
What his audience may not be aware of was that many of those whom Mr Osinbajo claimed travelled to Hajj or married additional wives may not have done so from the proceeds of actual farming but from their share of the over N55 billion disbursed by the government for the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP), its flagship agriculture programme, which they thought was largesse for voting in Mr Buhari, who is himself a smallholder farmer.
A PREMIUM TIMES and Buharimeter investigation in five states – Lagos, Ekiti, Kebbi, Kaduna and Ebonyi – and in neighbouring Benin Republic, revealed that the ABP, which was touted as the answer to Nigeria’s quest for self-sufficiency in rice production, has failed in most places with the government unable to recoup a large chunk of the N55 billion loan, already disbursed.
The ABP has given rise to a multitude of angry farmers who claim the programme has been hijacked by local politicians who disburse funds to fake farmers and has become a means of rewarding political patronage, our investigation uncovered.
An effort by the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) to salvage the programme is merely slogging by as complaints of the supply of expired herbicide, bad seeds and other funding, are threatening to derail it.
PREMIUM TIMES and BUHARIMETER Investigation further showed that the government’s boast of attaining sufficiency in rice production at the end of 2018 is mere wishful thinking as smuggling of rice from Benin Republic is still rife.
The Anchor Borrower’s Programe
If the sweltering heat of Birnin Kebbi was taking a toll on him, Mr Buhari did not show it as he read a prepared speech to a cheering crowd at the official launch of the ABP in November 2017.
“Economic diversification is no longer an option for us as a nation, it is the only way to reclaim the economic momentum and drive to prosperity,” he said.
“One way to do this is to go back to the land and develop our agricultural production. That is why I have high hope about the prospect of the CBN’s Anchor Borrowers Programme and its potentials to create millions of jobs and lift thousands of smallholder farmers out of poverty,” he added.
But contrary to Mr Buhari’s optimism, less than three years after, the programme, which has been described as “revolutionary” has run into trouble waters in several states, leaving a trail of bad loans running into several billions of naira, disappointments, accusation of diversion of funds.
According to the CBN, “the programme thrust of the ABP is provision of farm inputs in kind and cash (for farm labour) to small holder farmers to boost production of these commodities, stabilise inputs supply to agro-processors and address the country’s negative balance of payments on food.”
The programme, among other things, is expected to increase banks’ financing to the agriculture sector and to create new generation of farmers as well as to boast employment. Each farmer is given a loan of N250,000 per hectare of rice for land cultivation plus inputs such as herbicide, fertilisers and water pumps.
At harvest, farmers are expected to sell their produce to anchor or off-takers; the anchor will then pay the cash equivalent of the produce into the farmers’ bank accounts. The programme, among other things is expected to increase banks’ financing to the agriculture sector and to create new generation of farmers as well as to boast employment.
The targeted commodities include cereals (rice, maize, wheat etc.), cotton, roots and tuber, sugarcane, tree crops, legumes, tomatoes and livestock. But following the government avowed policy in rice sufficiency at the end of this year, the programme was mainly aimed at rice farmers. Farmers are issued the loan at nine per cent interest rate per annum.
Farmers interested in the loan are to form themselves into groups and cooperatives. They must demonstrate evidence of farm ownership and make a commitment to use the facility – both cash and input – for the purpose for which it was granted. They are also required to open bank accounts and obtain Bank Verification Numbers (BVN) before they can access the facility.
Also, as members of the ABP’s Project Management Team (PMT), state governments are expected to provide extension services to all participating farmers, logistics support and establishing a special ‘farmers’ court to try defaulting parties.
Free Money In Bullions Vans
The road to hell is said to be paved with good intentions. While the ABP might have been “revolutionary”, everything about its implementation suggests otherwise. The programme kicked off on a wrong footing. At least six months after the president’s rousing speech in Birnin Kebbi, and well after the planting season, farmers were still wondering if it would ever take off. The promised inputs and funds were nowhere to be seen. When the programme eventually kicked off, many of the guidelines in the programme were thrown overboard.
Instead of the loan being paid into farmers’ bank accounts after they must have made a five per cent equity contribution, money was ferried in bullion vans and handed over to them in cash.
“Farmers collected loans and they thought it was national cake being distributed to them. There were some local government chairmen in the north that told them that they shouldn’t bother themselves to pay the money because when they visited their farms, there wasn’t anything to show for the money they got,” Segun Atho, the deputy national president of RIFAN, told PREMIUM TIMES.
“And do you know they have to pick this money with bullion vans to their various locations?” he asked.
Mr Atho said many of the beneficiaries were not genuine farmers but people with political affiliations.
He also claimed that original ABP was exclusively implemented in the north of the country and no state in the south of the country benefitted from the programme.
Disillusioned Kebbi farmers
As we rode on his motorcycle through the vast rice plain along the Jega River in the Aliero area of Jega Local Government Area, in Kebbi, my guide, Umar Al-Hassan, who is also a rice farmer, reiterated Mr Atho’s accusation.
“The loan was disbursed indiscriminately. It was given to those who don’t farm, they don’t do anything pertaining farming and they were given the money in cash,” he said.
“Assuming now the local government chairman will say his people have not been taken care of. Party chairman will come and say his people are not taken care of. Member of the state assembly will say his people have not been taken care of. Senators, members House of Reps. Tell me, what can you do?”
He said in Jega, farmers bio-metric and mapping of farms were done after the money had already been disbursed just to create a semblance that the guidelines were adhered to.
PREMIUM TIMES spoke to no fewer than 10 farmers in Jega, none of them claimed to have benefitted from the ABP. While they all claimed they registered for the programme as instructed, they claim they have waited in vain for the both inputs and money.
With frustration written all over his face, Saidu Usman showed me round his farm. His almost ripe but yellowish rice plants sat on a paddy that has become parched and cracked. He lamented the crop were at the stage where they needed water the most, but he has run out of money to buy fuel to power his water pump.
But the lack of water may just be the least of his worries as rodents and birds were beginning to feast on his crop.
“The farmers here need government help. We would take anything, be it chemicals, herbicide or other necessary inputs. But whatever the government plans to give to us, they should hand them directly to farmers and not through politicians,” he said in Hausa.
Just outside Mr Usman’s farm, we ran into Yusuf Usman who had a shiny water pump tied on his motorcycle. He said he was forced to buy the new water pump after the old one he was using was stolen from his farm.
“I didn’t get anything from the government. No water pump, no pipes, no seeds, nothing. I had to buy everything by myself. I am just managing, because if there are no assistance from the government, a farmer cannot farm as he wants.
           “My rice is beginning to flower, so it needs water now. I have to sell my goat to buy this pump,” he said.
The landscape of the Aliero rice plain looks like a giant checker board of green, yellowish-green and brown patches. While some patches of the plain looked well-taken care of with thriving plants, others looked asphyxiated with stunted and withered plants. But majority of the farmlands were scorched, uncultivated or abandoned.
About 1.5 kilometres from Saidu Usman’s farm, three farmers sat on their motorcycles enjoying the protection a neem tree offers from the sun while they chatted lazily. All of them claimed to be aware of the ABP but swore they did not know any farmer in the Aliero area who had benefitted from the programme.
One of the men, Ilyasu Garba, who owns 1.5 hectare of land, said this year is the worst farming season as far as he could remember. He said he managed to raise money to cultivate his land this season by trading in different commodities at the nearby market.
“Many farmers have deserted their farms because of the hardship. See for yourself,” he said with a sweeping gesture at the surrounding parched land and abandoned farms.
“These farms have been left uncultivated and this is the first time since I can remember that these farmlands have been left like this. There are people who even cultivated their land at the start of the planting season but abandoned their land after their crop failed because they didn’t have money to buy fuel to power their water pumps.”
      As we rode further into the rice plain on Mr. Al-Hassan’s motorcycle, uncultivated and abandoned farms became more prominent. In a corner, a youth was trying to fix an old and oily water pump under a neem tree. Further down the plain, two men were coercing an aged camel which was pulling a plough on a dry and sandy farm.
“If you go to Birnin Kebbi, there are brand new tractors, power tillers and other implements parked there that should have been given to farmers like them. I don’t understand why they are not being put to use,” Mr Al-Hassan said.
Sitting outside his stall at Jega market, a large and middle-aged man, Ibrahim Maiyadi, said since 2015 he had opened at least five bank accounts but had not gotten any loan or input for his farms. He said he was able to partake in this year’s planting season from the profit he made from his cloth business.
He said because he could not afford enough fertiliser, yield per hectare has dropped by almost 50 per cent.

“We usually get about 120 bags of rice per hectare in a good year but because of lack of support, we now get between 65 and 75 bags of rice per hectare.”
He said having opened 5 bank accounts without getting the loan, he believed the ABP was a scam.
“They instructed us to get more farms with the assurance that we would be given N250,000 per hectare. But at the end of the day, I heard some farmers were only given water pumps and fertilizers. Each of those account was opened with N5,000 that is N20,000 in all. That money could have been used to fuel to power my water pumps.”
 
At Argungu, a town which gained international fame for its once-popular fishing festival, the story of woes continued. Uncultivated and abandoned rice paddy lined the general area of the milky Mata Fada River.
My guide, Mohammed Gulma, a journalist turn farmer, was visibly angry. He accused Kebbi State officials of demanding bribes from farmers before registering them for the ABP. He also repeated the accusation that politicians gave the funds to their friends and cronies who aren’t real farmers.
 

An official of the Kaduna State Ministry of Agriculture, who demanded not to be named because he could not secure official clearance to speak, said N4 billion was disbursed to over 11,000 farmers in 2016 but less than a billion was recovered. According to him the state even recovered that much because beneficiaries were threatened with arrest and prosecution.
“Unfortunately, the repayment was a problem. There were so many issues. Some of them were implementation and some of them were behavioural. By behavioural, I mean farmers are not very good in paying back loans. But like I said, some of the problems were implementation issues, for instance, some of the farmers complained; and this is correct, we know, they collected inputs late and it was really a problem,” the official said.
“It wasn’t that those that got the loans were at large. But what can you do with a person that reported problem to you from the onset? For instance, when they have infestation of diseases, most of them reported. Sincerely speaking what can you do to a person that you supposed to give input by May/June and on record you haven’t given input to him by the end of July or the middle of August and he happens to record very poor yield. The highest you can do is let him go.
“The insurance did not help matters. But upon the receipt of all the complaints as at when due only a fraction of the complaints was paid by the insurer,” he said.
CBN’s spokesperson, Isaac Okorafor, did not return several calls made to his mobile number over several weeks. He also did not respond to sms and email requesting his comment on the programme.
The Agberemi Failure (Ekiti State)
In Ekiti State, a co-operative society of 357 civil servants named Agberemi participated in the ABP. Each of the civil servants turned farmers was given a hectare of land in a cluster farm in the Oke Ako area of the state. They were not given cash but their land prepared for them and other inputs provided. In 2016, Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbe, visited the state to flag it off. Mr Ogbe praised the Agberemi cluster farm as a shining example of how Nigerians can enjoy the agricultural opportunities provided by the Buhari administration.

But behind the fanfare, the civil servants were nursing a palpable fear: they had commenced the planting in late July/ early August just after the planting season. They knew they had a fifty-fifty chance for the crop to either succeed or fail. They fervently prayed for rain and hoped it keeps running until December. The rain did indeed come but stopped abruptly in October when their crop was beginning to flower and needed water most.
The rain did not return until in December during harvest. Then it was too late.
“We lost completely. We were expecting a minimum yield of three tonnes per hectare (totalling about 1,071 tonnes); but in total we couldn’t realise 70 tonnes. So, it was a failure,” said Ogunrinde Agbeloba, the secretary of the co-operative, who is also a host of a popular agriculture show on radio.
He said the harvest was so poor that they decided not to sell the grains for food but to sell them as seeds for future planting.
The President of the Agberemi co-operative who is also a director at state the Ministry of Agriculture, Tai Komolafe, told PREMIUM TIMES that the Nigeria Agricultural Insurance Corporation (NAIC) only agreed to pay compensation for the 150 hectares of the farm that did not produce anything at all.
“We committed up to N100,000 per hectare and that was exactly what they were expected to indemnify so we are expecting N100,000 times 150 hectares. Which would have been over N15 million we are expecting from them. We are processing an appeal for upward review,” he said.
Mr Komolafe said to repay the over N60 million loan they took in full, they intend to return to the farm this year.
“We have decided to enter the farm early this year. Last year we got to the farm late because money was not released to us by the Anchor Borrowers Programme until July last year. Last year the minister promised us some irrigation facilities. We have not seen anything. But if we start farming in the peak of the rainfall, there won’t be need for irrigation,” he said.
An official of NAIC, Ahmed Arabi, requested that inquiries be sent via email. He promised to pass them over to his bosses for response. Several days after, no response was received from NAIC at the time of publication.

The RIFAN Model

Following the challenges encountered by the CBN/state governments’ version of the ABP, the RIFAN this year decided to come up with its own model. According to Mr. Atho, instead of giving cash to farmers, farmers are supplied inputs such as seedlings, fertilisers and herbicide. They also have their land prepared for them.
“Let’s say a farmer is collecting loan for one hectare we have to EOP (Economy of Production) for that. If you are cultivating half hectare, we also have EOP for that. Under the model, the maximum land you can cultivate as a smallholder farmer is five hectares while the minimum is 0.5 hectare,” he said.
The value of the loans is calculated by the value of the inputs and assistance given.
The poster boy for the RIFAN Model in Ekiti, Kolawole Rotimi, a former Lagos-based insurance salesman who returned to his ancestry home in 2011 after being unsatisfied with his flourishing city job.

Mr. Rotimi, who is the secretary of RIFAN in Ekiti State, took me to a four-hectare land prepared for him under the RIFAN model of the ABP at Ijero-Ekiti. He said the RIFAN model is better than that run by state government where cash was given to farmers.
“(It) has more control in terms of monitoring. When something is not liquid, you can’t easily spend the money on other things. There are tractors on ground for farmers once the tractor prepares your land that is okay. It won’t come to you in form of cash but in the long run, it would be better off than when you get cash, and something happens in the family, and you say Oh! There is CBN money with me,” he said.

But this model also comes with its own drawbacks. Mr Rotimi complained that some of the inputs and services provided were overpriced.
He complained bitterly that the tractor operators sent by RIFAN service providers only spoke Hausa and this was causing conflict with the farmers who were having problems communicating with them.
“I am at Ijero now, I want to locate the tractor and the tractor operator because I don’t want the tractor to get stuck in the mud, I called him, but he doesn’t understand what I am saying. I am asking him, where are you? He doesn’t even understand,” he said with despair over the phone.

He also complained that the service providers were paying farmers N205 per litre for diesel which is sold for N220 per litre.
“We asked them to park the tractors in the farms, but the operators have been told to bring the tractors back to Ado-Ekiti at the close of work every day.”
At the warehouse of the Ekiti State Agricultural Development Programme at the Odo-Ado area of Ado Ekiti, I witnessed cartons of expired herbicides being replaced. Mr Rotimi said that was the second replacement within a month after the first replacement was discovered to be even more dated than the original herbicide supplied.

In Ebonyi, the Chairman of RIFAN, Livinus Okoh, told PREMIUM TIMES that the rice seeds they were supplied had to be returned because it failed to germinate, and inputs were supplied late for dry season farming.
He also said they were supplied organic fertilisers that were close to the end of their shelf lives.
“The organic fertiliser they gave us here, its expiry date will be on June 15. Our farmers refused to use it because our planting season starts in July,” he said.
He said what rice farmers in the state needed was cash to prepare their lands for planting. If not, it shows that the programme is not succeeding because some of them may dump it (input) without cash to prepare their land.
Mr Atho, however, dismissed the complaints of the farmers.
“Don’t listen to them, they are saying all of these because they wanted cash to be given to them, so they can use it for something else. What else do they want? We prepare their land, we give you pumps, fertilisers, herbicide and we pay for the diesel used.
“About the expired herbicide, I don’t see a problem as long as the bad one has been replaced.
Smuggling Havens
While the ABP is dogged by a myriad of problems, in the South-western borders of Nigeria with Benin Republic, smuggling of Thai and Vietnamese rice is flourishing like never before.
While rice smuggling activities are petering out in the popular Seme border with a few cars and a cluster of shops still dedicated to it, the new smuggling hub is Owode-Apa, west of Badagry.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Nigerian Political Parties Discussion Series Held at Sheraton Hotel

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The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) in  partnership with Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA)  organized  Nigeria political parties discussion series held at Sheraton Hotel, Abuja.
The dialogue commenced with introduction led by Mr Shamsudeen Yusuf, Senior Program Officer at Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD).The programme, according to him, is intended to bring political actors, stakeholders and the general public to discuss governance issues and political party system in Nigeria.
Th representative of the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) Catherine, stated that OSIWA has been a funder and CDD partner for a number of years on the Nigeria Political Party Debate series (NPPDS). She said that this idea generated a lot of interest and conversation prior to 2015 general elections and what political parties have to offer.
The moderator proceeded to introduce the panelists comprising Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, All Progressive Congress (APC) National Publicity Secretary; Dr. Agbo Emmanuel, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Deputy National Secretary; Mr Aminu Idris, Director of Elections and Party Monitoring; Independent National Electoral commission and Chief  Peter Ameh; National Chairman Progressive People’s Alliance (PPD). She mentioned that the objective of the dialogue is to robustly discuss issues around increasing number of political parties in Nigeria and to examine the challenges these will pose ahead of 2019 elections.
Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, All Progressive Congress (APC) National Publicity Secretary  started by  saying  high number of political parties is not a challenge but it can only be if it does not deepen democratic process.
Dr. Agbo Emmanuel, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Deputy National Secretary further said  high number of parties can be attributed to the disagreement among members of existing political parties and the desperation of individuals to be prominent and exert leadership control, this leads to breakups’.
Inec representative Aminu Idris, Director of Elections and Party Monitoring INEC responded by saying the more we have several parties the more people are represented and said that for the first time INEC is having continues voters’ registration and permanent voters’ cards (PVC) will be shared soon before the general elections.
Panelists includes

  • Bolaji Abdullahi, All Progressive Congress (APC) National Publicity Secretary
  • Dr. Agbo Emmanuel Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) National Publicity secretary
  • Peter Ameh, National Chairman PPA
  • Aminu Idris, Director of Elections and Party Monitoring INEC.

Assessing the Freedom of Information Act in Nigeria

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Jideani Chukwuemeka, Executive Director Ethics and Corporate Compliance Institute of Nigeria, has said that Nigeria has not met her mark as a people and as a society with regards to transparency in governance and the fight against corruption. He noted this, on Monday, while speaking as a guest on the Buharimeter Radio Show, hosted by the Centre for Democracy and Development with Nigerian Info, Abuja. Mr Chukwuemeka, while giving his expert assessment of the Freedom of Information Act said that, “The measure of Democracy is how easy it is for citizens to access (government/ public) records and information and how involved the citizens are in the development of policies, and the implementation of those policies.”
The freedom of information act was signed on May 28, 2011, as an avenue for the citizens of Nigeria to access public information that are not considered a threat to national interest by the government. Since its inception, however, the process of engaging the FOIA has been fraught with challenges, as only 60 Public institutions have submitted the annually required reports to the Attorney general’s office out of 880 public institutions in Nigeria. Mr Jideani stated that some of the problems associated with the process of retrieving information from the Public Institutions included, the lack of a Citizen’s Guide on how to obtain public information, the lack of an Ombudsman to ensure the public agencies adhere to the act and the fact that the civil servants are inhibited in their delivery of information by civil service rules. “It is frowned at to be innovative in the Civil service,” he said.
Chukwuemeka however, noted that Nigeria has made progress and improvements have been seen in recent governments’ approach towards transparency and policy creation. He cited the signing of the Open Government Partnership by President Muhammadu Buhari in London, the open and transparent nature of public procurement and the availability online of the federal budget since 2007, as proof that tremendous progress have been made in a bid to stem corruption and promote transparency by the Nigerian government.

Declaration on the Security Situation in Nigeria

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The N-Katalyst Forum (“The Forum”) is a non-partisan, non-profit, non-governmental association of progressive Nigerians drawn from across different backgrounds, professions and persuasions, united in their vision of an undivided and indivisible Nigerian nation, and in their commitment to the enthronement of good governance, and social, economic and political justice in the Nigerian State, and the respect and advancement of the fun damental human rights of all Nigerian citizens.
II. The Forum held its second annual retreat at Abuja on 17th to 19th May 2013 during which it reviewed the affairs of N-Katalyst in the intervening period following the Forum’s inaugural retreat in Abuja in Ma rch 2012 and charted a course for progress.
III. The Forum also reviewed the state of affairs in Nigeria, especially the severe security challenges confronting the nation, and analyzed the escalating insurgency in the Northern states, which has culminated in the recent declaration of a State of Emergency by President Goodluck Jonathan in the North East States of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe. DECLARATION Preamble Following a comprehensive review of the security situation in Nigeria, N-Katalyst
 
1.Found the prevailing security situation in several parts of Nigeria, especially in the Northern states,extremely troubling.
 
2.Noted with alarm that the militant insurgents appear to be very well armed with the most modern deadly weapons and have deployed these sophisticated weapons, and their familiarity with the local terrain to inflict heavy casualties on both the security forces and the civilian population.
 
 3.Noted with concern the obvious initial unpreparedness of the Nigerian State to respond to and apprehend the insurgency in the Northern States.
 
4.Concluded that the prevailing conflict situation in the North East of Nigeria characterized by militant insurgency and the government’s counter-insurgency
operation amounts to a situation of Non-International Armed Conflict (NAIC),although the Nigerian government is unwilling to admit to such categorization.
 
5.Noted that the government appears unwilling to fit the security situation in the North East into any of the clear categories of armed conflict defined by law, with the disturbing effect that the counter-insurgency seems to be conducted outside the ambits of both Human Rights Law and Humanitarian Law.
 
6. Noted that the lack of clear legal categorization of the conflict has led to the absence of a legal framework within which the conflict may be defined and
regulated, and has made it difficult to determine the appropriate standards of accountability and responsibility by which to assess the conduct of Nigerian
security forces in the theatres of conflict.
 
7. Found very disturbing allegations that some of the features of conflicts include human rights abuses and other horrendous crimes in the theatres of conflict, including Law enforcement extremism, unaccountable or ‘rogue’ law enforcement,general violence against women and sexual violence against both male and female genders, all of which crimes are encouraged by a pervasive sense of impunity
.
8.Noted with concern the prevalence of reports of rivalry and mistrust between and among security and law enforcement agencies which impair the operational capability of the agencies and occasionally degenerate to inter – agency violence during which innocent Nigerians are put at grave risk.
 
9.Noted with concern the pronounced lack of effective victim identification processes, leading to a failure to identify and name victims and casualties of the conflict hether from amongst the civilian populations or from amongst security operatives.
 
10.Noted with concern that a ‘political economy’ may have developed around the security challenges in Nigeria, with the effect that certain elements may be
deriving financial benefits from the prevailing state of insecurity,especially from the resources budgeted for the prosecution of the counter-insurgency and from the extortion of citizens.
 
11. Noted that there seems to have developed a culture of silence with respect to the impact of the security conflicts on civilian populations in the theatres of conflict, with the effect that the severe trauma to which the victims of these conflicts are subjected are not being addressed or even acknowledged.
 
12. Noted with particular concern that Nigeria’s Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) appear to have been equally ill-prepared to react to the situation and confront the challenges that it has thrown up.
 
13. Identified as some of the consequences of the lack of preparedness on the part of the CSOs the inadequacy of humanitarian response, the paucity
of information on the true state of affairs inside the theatres of conflict, especially on the experiences of civilian populations trapped in these theatres
,and the absence of the necessary mechanism for the provision of legal remedies to aggrieved persons.
 
14. Noted that the legal profession in Nigeria has been rather silent on the conflicts raging at various
theatres all across the nation, and has been generally ineffectual in addressing the legal challenges associated with the conflicts, especially the need for legal redress for infringements on human rights and the abuse of the rule of law.
 
15. Expressed concern that the organized bar may have been intimidated, cowed into silence, or scared away from the North East region.
 
16. Noted with great concern that the prevailing security situation in Nigeria may portend grave consequences for the general elections on 2015. Now therefore, the N-Katalyst Forum hereby formally:
 
A. Calls on the Federal Government of Nigeria (‘the government’) to define the legal framework with in which the counter-insurgency operations going on
in several parts of Nigeria are being prosecuted, and define the rules of engagement for the operations.
 
B. Calls on the government to demarcate and streamline the areas of engagement and authority of the various law enforcement and security agencies to eliminate or at least reduce incidences of inter -agency rivalry and conflict.
 
C. Calls on the Government to ensure the enthronement of a higher degree of professionalism in the security agencies, including their indoctrination on the
fundamentals of Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Law.
 
D. Calls on CSOs to be alive to their responsibilities to the civilian populations in theatres of conflict and to the victims of the conflicts amongst both the civilian population and the security and law enforcement agencies.
 
E. Calls on the official bar to awaken to its obligations to the people and to the law and boldly confront the legal issues thrown up by the prevailing security situation in Nigeria.
 
F. Calls on the government and the Independent National Electoral Commission tocommence with urgency the processes for erecting robust legal and logistical structures to forestall and apprehend electoral violence in 2015.
 
G. Declares its willingness to work with the government, the security agencies and other CSOs to address the several issues raised in this Declaration, and hereby offers its hand of partnership in this regard.
 
Issued at Abuja, Nigeria, this 19th Day of May,2013
 
Dr Jibrin Ibrahim
John St Claret Ezeani
Saka Azimazi
Maryam Uwais
Chris Kwaja
Ahmed Baba Ahmed
Asma’u Joda
Dr Otive Igbuzor
Aisha Oyebode
Hubert Shaiyen
Yusufu Pam
Prof. Mohammed Tabiu
 
 

Nigeria’s 2019 elections: The preparations, people and prospects by Idayat Hassan

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With less than a year to go, how are preparations going? Who is running? What will be the key issues?
It is now less than a year before Nigeria’s critical general elections. In those polls, currently scheduled for 16 February and 2 March 2019, tens of millions of citizens will vote in what could be some of the country’s most fiercely fought contests yet.
How are preparations going? Who is running? What will be the key issues?
Preparations for the elections
Since Mahmood Yakubu took over as chair of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in 2015, the body has carried out over 167 elections. One was nullified in court. INEC has also undertaken several institutional reforms. This includes launching a new strategic plan, working on a youth engagement strategy, and reviewing its gender policy. It has promoted deserving staff and, in an unprecedented move, prosecuted officials found to have committed wrongdoing in the 2015 elections.
Ahead of 2019, the commission has set up a committee to review the voting process and transmission of tallies. For the first time since the return to democracy in 1999, INEC is also conducting continuous voter registration.
Despite these giant strides, however, the body is facing some challenges.
Because of delays caused by a dispute between the president and Senate, for example, INEC still only has 30 out of 37 Resident Electoral Commissioners, the key officials responsible for organising elections at the state level. Continuous voter registration, which opened in 2016, has also experienced glitches, with some citizens complaining of being unable to register. This led INEC to recently deploy additional registration machines and increase the number of registration centres to 1,446 nationwide. Meanwhile, the cost of running the elections may also present a challenge. This is especially the case given that Nigeria has just exited a recession.
The commission has also been given additional headaches following last month’s local elections in Kano State. In the aftermath of that poll, a video emerged showing young children thumb-printing ballot papers. INEC did not oversee that election, but some claimed it had been responsible for registering the underage voters in the first place.
In response to this criticism, the commission set up a panel to probe the alleged underage voting and examine the nearly 5 million voters on the register in Kano. INEC has previously helped other countries in West Africa clean up their electoral registers, most recently ahead of Liberia’s run-off polls in December 2017.
Who is running?
In the 2015 elections, Nigeria had 40 registered political parties. Ahead of 2019, there are now 68, with 33 more being considered for registration.
The ones to beat this time around will be the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). This party was created ahead of 2015 through a merger of what were then the country’s four biggest opposition parties. Its growing ranks were further boosted when several figures from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), in power at the time, crossed the floor.
In the election, the APC enjoyed an historic victory and ended the PDP’s political dominance, which had lasted since 1999. But since those heights, internal rivalries have come to the fore and prevented it from emerging as a cohesive force. The APC continues to run as an amalgam of the interests that created it in the first instance, with intra-party disputes emerging at both federal and state levels.
The incumbent President Buhari is the front runner to be the party’s flagbearer in 2019. However, aside from his mixed record in office, his advanced age of 75 and ill health could arise as an issue. Many are asking whether he will be fit to govern if re-elected, especially given that he spent several months of his first term receiving treatment in London for an undisclosed ailment.
The main opposition PDP has faced similar infighting to the APC since 2015. After the election, the party faced a bitter legal battle over the leadership of the party with Ahmed Makarfi eventually confirmed as the party chair. Since then, the PDP has held a national convention in which new officials were elected. Some regions were marginalised, however, and the party has yet to calm concerns about the state of its internal democracy or shed its reputation for corruption, which it developed over its 16 years in office.
Several candidates are lining up to bid to be the PDP’s presidential nominee. They include former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who recently crossed over from the APC. Often described as a serial defector, Atiku has commenced consultations and is regularly voicing his opinions on policy matters. At 71, his age and unproven corruption allegations remains the albatross around his neck. Other aspirants from the PDP include controversial governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, and former governors of Kaduna and Jigawa, Ahmed Makarfi and Sule Lamido respectively.
Along with these two big parties, Nigeria could, for the first time, also see a powerful third party emerge in 2019. The most popular phrase in the country today is “Third Force” and various groupings are attempting to harness the appetite for an alternative to the APC and PDP.
30 opposition parties have joined forces under the banner of the Coalition for a New Nigeria (CNN). Former president Olusegun Obasanjo has helped set up the Coalition for Nigeria Movement (CNM). And groups such as the Nigerian Intervention MovementRevive Nigeria and Emerging Leaders’ Summit are also trying to jostle for position. Regarding the presidency, the likes of motivational speaker Fela Durotoye, former deputy governor of Central Bank of Nigeria Kingsley Moghalu, and founder of the online whistleblowing site Sahara Reporter Omoyele Sowore have all expressed their intention to challenge the main parties’ candidates.
At the same time, citizen-led groups are also making their voices heard. The Red Card Movement, led by former minister and #BringBackOurGirls campaigner Oby Ezekwesili, is calling for the APC and PDP to be “sent off”. Meanwhile, the Not Too Young To Run movement is demanding the inclusion of young people in the political space.
Unfortunately, there is less momentum behind efforts seeking to enhance the participation of women in politics. Less than 6% of Nigeria’s lawmakers are female, one of the lowest proportion in Africa, and while more marginal parties may make space for women and youth to lure voters, the same is likely to be less true of the big parties.
The issues that will determine the 2019 Nigeria elections
Insecurity
One of the biggest issues that will determine the 2019 general elections is insecurity, which is affecting communities across the country. Ongoing instability could affect the vote itself and will certainly be a big issue on the campaign trail.
On Boko Haram in the North East, the APC will claim to have successfully tackled the insurgency. The PDP and other opposition parties will argue against this and likely emphasise the dire humanitarian situation. The candidates may try to woo internally-displaced persons as the election nears.
Another matter will be the conflict between herders and farmers, which has arguably become Nigeria’s most pressing internal security threat. As hundreds have died in clashes over land disputes in a dozen states, the Buhari administration has been criticised for its poor handling of the issue. The conflict – and lack of accountability for heinous crimes – predates the APC’s rule, but its severity and death toll have escalated in recent years.
In the South East, Biafra separatists continue to call for independence. The most prominent voice in this is the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), whose leader Nnamdi Kanu has been missing for several months. The group has vowed that no election will take place in the south east until a referendum on secession is called.
Finally, gang violence has resulted in several deaths recently, particularly in the Niger Delta and South-South region. Worrying, these groups are often instrumentalised by politicians around elections.
The economy
The economy will be another crucial issue. Nigeria is still suffering from a fuel scarcity, while the economic downturn continues. When Buhari came into office, the price of dollar was around N170. Today that figure is closer to N360.
Nigeria exited its first recession in 25 years in the second quarter of 2017, but growth remains sluggish. The country continues to depend on oil, while UN- and under T employment have increased notwithstanding the administration’s novel social intervention programmes (SIP).
Corruption
Buhari rode to victory in 2015 as the anti-corruption candidate, vowing to launch a war on graft. Corruption will once again be an important issue, but the incumbent will struggle to present himself as the same clean crusader this time around.
While Buhari has embarked on some anti-corruption measures, critics note that his allies have avoided prosecution. Various of his associates have been fingered in scams, such as his chief-of-staff Abba Kyari, while the president has been perceived to have targeted his opponents.
The uncoordinated approach taken by agencies in the fight against corruption have contributed to the fact that Nigeria has actually dropped 12 places from 136 to 148 in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index.
Social media, fake new, misinformation and disinformation
As in politics and elections across the world, social media is set to play a major role in Nigeria’s 2019 campaign.
In the 2015 elections, hate speeches and misinformation spread far and wide, with Buhari targeted in particular. After the elections, incredible rumours and lies continued to abound, to the extent that there were even allegations that the man that eventually returned from London after prolonged illness was not in fact the real Buhari, but a cloned version from Sudan.
Ahead of the recently concluded Anambra governorship elections, we saw another example of how fast-spreading misinformation could almost skew a process. Rumours emerged on social media that soldiers had invaded schools in Ozobulu, Anambra State, and were forcefully injecting pupils with poisonous substances that cause monkey pox. This led to the shutdown of schools in Imo, Enugu, Abia, Anambra and Ebonyi state and even affected Rivers and Balyesa states. The false story was said to have been posted on the Facebook page of the IPOB, which had vowed to disrupt any elections in the region.
Nigeria’s social media space is generally highly susceptible from manipulation by influential individuals with vested interests and little sense of electoral ethics. They are ready to confuse or divide people along ethnic, religious or other lines to serve their own ends. In 2015, the PDP recruited Cambridge Analytica. In 2019, those with sufficient resources may again solicit the services of international PR firms with records of employing questionable methods.
 
 
 
Idayat Hassan is director of the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), an Abuja-based policy advocacy and research organization with focus on deepening democracy and development in West Africa.
This article was first published on African Arguments  www.africanarguments.org
 

Preliminary Statement of the EU EOM for the presidential, parliamentary and local councils elections in Sierra Leone

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Preliminary Statement of the EU EOM Sierra Leone 2018 for the presidential, parliamentary and local councils elections held on 7 March, presented by the Chief Observer, Jean Lambert.
This Preliminary Statement is delivered prior to the completion of the election process. The final assessment of the elections will depend in part on the conduct of the remaining stages of the election process, in particular, the tabulation of results, and the handling of possible post-election day complaints and appeals.  The EU Election Observation Mission (EOM) remains in country to observe post-election developments and will publish a Final Report, containing detailed recommendations, within two months of the conclusion of the electoral process.
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SIERRA LEONE GENERAL ELECTIONS 2018: COMMONWEALTH OBSERVER GROUP INTERIM STATEMENT 07 March 2018

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Statement by:HE John Dramani Mahama, Chair of the Commonwealth Observer Group to Sierra Leone
This is the Interim Statement of the Commonwealth Observer Group,and it is issued with the results process yet to be formally completed.
The Commonwealth Observer Group commends the people of Sierra Leone for the peaceful and orderly manner you went about the voting process on 7 March 2018. The Group has been present in Sierra Leone since 28th February.
Ahead of Election Day,we met with a broad range of stakeholders to gain a comprehensive picture of the electoral processes and environment.We met with the National Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone (NEC),political parties,civil society, including women and youth groups, media representatives, the Office of National Security, Commonwealth
High Commissioners and other national and international election observer missions.
 
 
Download full Statement here  Commonwealth Observers PDF

Nigeria’s 2019 Elections: Preparations, Politics and Prospects In February 2019, Nigerians will vote in the country’s sixth election since the return to democracy in 1999

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In February 2019, Nigerians will vote in the country’s sixth election since the return to democracy in 1999. The stakes will be high, as immediate security and economic pressures combine with longer-term policy challenges such as population growth and employment provision, and environmental degradation and land management, in a context in which patronage, political settlements, and at times intimidation and violence, remain strong determinants of outcomes. Citizens, and especially those who will be eligible to vote for the first time and who were born after the 1999 transition from military rule, will demand more of their elected officials, as recession, inflation, conflict and insecurity have taken their toll.
Much depends on the preparations of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the lead up to the elections to produce a credible process. But the conduct of political parties, their primaries later this year and the space they create for women’s participation, as well as the independence and sharpness of the media and an involved and vigilant civil society, will be significant influences on the conduct of this election and more widely on Nigeria’s future.
Idayat Hassan, director of the Centre for Democracy and Development, will discuss INEC’s preparations, give her assessment of the importance of these elections for young people and women, and offer her view of the influence of political parties on how events in Nigeria will unfold in 2018 in the lead up to the elections next year.

Peace in northeastern Nigeria requires justice for military crimes not just Boko Haram atrocities

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One day the Boko Haram insurgency will come to an end. When it does, there will be a painful time of reckoning. But for lasting peace to come to northeastern Nigeria, one important fact must be acknowledged from the start: there are perpetrators and victims on many sides.
After eight and a half years of conflict, no one knows when the guns will fall silent. Government declarations of victory are still routinely followed by the jihadist group committing yet another violent outrage.
Boko Haram is proving hard to defeat. It has survived a split between Abubaker Shekau (the ranting leader seen on the YouTube videos) and a rival faction led by Abu Musab al-Barnawi that is aligned with so-called Islamic State. It has weathered the food shortages that have affected rural communities across Borno State. And it has resisted a sustained offensive by the Nigerian military targeting its strongholds in the Lake Chad region and the Sambisa Forest, further south.
The brutality of Boko Haram – its killings, torture, rapes, and abductions – are well known. But the Nigerian military and a pro-armed forces vigilante group called the Civilian Joint Task Force, or CJTF, are also accused of committing human rights violations – well documented by Amnesty International.
The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has identified eight possible cases of crimes against humanity in relation to the conflict in northeastern Nigeria. These include six possible cases against Boko Haram and two against the Nigerian security forces. 
There have been various negotiation efforts between the government and elements within Boko Haram. This has involved talking to both factions of the insurgency, and has resulted in the release of two batches of the Chibok school girls.

Justice for whom?

If these negotiations were to go a step further and result in a ceasefire and peace agreement, or if somehow the Nigerian military finally found the skill and commitment to “win” the war – what would peace look like? There would certainly be a demand for accountability and justice, but justice for whom?
The challenge of transitional justice in Nigeria is illustrated by a scoping paper by the Centre for Democracy and Development. It identifies the several categories of victims and perpetrators – and the issue is complicated.
Appearing on both sides of the ledger – as both victims and perpetrators – are the Nigerian military, the CJTF, Boko Haram ex-combatants, government officials, and civilian collaborators.
Within the military, for example, the rank and file see themselves as not only victims of Boko Haram, but also of corrupt government officials and senior officers who have lined their pockets with the resources that should have been spent on fighting the insurgency.
In researching the report, I asked a lot of people in the three northeastern states of Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa what transitional justice should entail on the day peace returns.

Can’t trust Boko Haram

What was clear is that there is a great deal of anger towards Boko Haram. That includes those the government is trying to reintegrate through its Operation Safe Corridor demobilisation programme.
The overwhelming opinion was that all insurgents – even those who have surrendered – should be prosecuted.
It’s a powerful emotion, especially among the displaced. The sentiment commonly heard amounts to this: “we are suffering in IDP camps, with little food and only basic services, while the perpetrators are in a rehabilitation camp, drinking bottled water and sleeping under mosquito nets.”
Many believe the ex-combatants are not at all repentant: they surrendered merely out of hunger, or to save their lives – because they had run afoul of their Boko Haram commander or been out-gunned by the military.
The common denominator was: “Boko Haram can never change, they cannot be trusted.”

Army crimes

The armed forces and the CJTF are also clearly seen as complicit in rights violations and should be held to account, although in this regard opinion is less unified.
Their perceived crimes range from extra-judicial killings, sexual violence, cruel and unlawful detention, to simple theft.
Take the Knifar Movement. This group of displaced women from Bama in northern Borno have organised themselves to fight for the release of their husbands, detained by the military on the alleged grounds they belong to Boko Haram – charges the women deny.
In a petition to a judicial commission on human rights abuses by the military, they named 466 people they alleged were killed by the military in Bama, and another 1,229 currently held in Giwa Barracks in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State. They also accused the military and CJTF of raping women and girls in government-run IDP camps, even releasing a YouTube video to press their case.
Another victims’ group is Jida Dole [Justice by Force]. It comprises Giwa Barracks detainees but also includes Maiduguri residents protesting the military’s conduct at the height of the insurgency, before Boko Haram was expelled from the city.
Most people see justice as holding members of the military and Boko Haram to account, but others are more focused on financial compensation for their material loss.
Others still want the “truth” in a conflict where conspiracy theories are rife. Common questions: Who funds Boko Haram? Are the politicians and the military complicit in the continuation of the war?

The problem with amnesty

Operation Safe Corridor is about to release the second batch of supposedly deradicalised ex-Boko Haram fighters back into the community.
But a good deal of controversy surrounds the programme. Very little work has been done to prepare communities for the returns, and it is unclear under what legal framework it operates.
Granting a blanket amnesty in this insurgency – without taking note of the victims – will make peace and justice more difficult to achieve.
Furthermore, it doesn’t actually prevent the perpetrators from being tried for war crimes under international law. This implies that amnesty is insufficient as the sole transitional justice mechanism.
Instead, groups like the Centre for Democracy and Development want a system that can deal with both perpetrators and survivors responsibly. This would be a welcome development in Nigeria, where historically such issues have been handled in an ad hoc political way – never holistically – with accountability swept under the carpet.
Since the country’s return to democracy in 1999, there have been various attempts to address grievances.
The Human Rights Violations Investigation Commission – popularly known as the Oputa Panel – was set up by former president Olusegun Obasanjo to look into crimes committed between 1966 and 1999.
The commission sat for five years, received over 10,000 submissions, but heard just 200 cases publicly. The glaring omission was that the final report of the panel was never officially released to the public – names were not named; there was no truth, no justice, no real reconciliation.
In addressing the Niger Delta militancy, where youths took up arms to protest exploitation and environmental degradation in the oil-rich region, a blanket amnestywas also adopted as a means of post-conflict peacebuilding.
But experience has shown this is only an interim solution and there is no accountability to the victims. The resurgence of militancy in the Niger Delta is proof that impunity stores up trouble.
These lessons must be learnt in the case of northeastern Nigeria.
Ih/oa/ag
Idayat Hassan is the Director, Centre for Democracy and Development based in Abuja

CALL FOR APPLICATION

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[mvc_team_profile memb_name=”MANIFESTO LAB” memb_prof=”CALL FOR APPLICATION TO PARTICIPATE IN POLITICAL MANIFESTO DESIGN LABORATORY “]
[mvc_team_profile memb_about=”The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) is calling for application from registered political parties in Nigeria to participate in its inaugural Political Manifesto Design Laboratory (Manifesto Lab). By parties that have never won any election or control significant portion of available elective offices at local government, state and national levels in Nigeria. Recognising the Lab as a critical component of CDD’s political party program ahead of the 2019 general elections, it will focus on building capacity of political parties, especially the newly formed political parties, on agenda-setting and how parties’ policies/programmes should be developed to gain political support and acceptance during elections. The manifesto lab will give parties the opportunities to learn the rudiments of not just manifesto preparation but how to prepare party programs that are Nigerian specific and can win votes. Through the Lab, key members of the political parties will gain practical knowledge, guidance and understanding on methods of developing an inclusive, ideological-driven and implementable party programmes, which would contain not merely a collection of campaign promises but also clearly articulate implementation strategies for making pledges a reality. Eligibility criteria Application is OPEN to all political parties in Nigeria. Application procedure Application for political parties opens on the 22nd of January and closes on the 9th of February 2018. For submission of application, assigned person should complete application form on our website (cddwestafrica.org) Selection process For a political party to send in a representative for the program, assigned person MUST complete application form and respond to all compulsory questions (marked*). Additionally, a political party MUST upload picture of its nominee, letter confirming nomination of its nominee by NEC and post-Manifesto Lab program plan. PLEASE NOTE: The programme will be organized in batches. About CDD The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) was established in the United Kingdom in 1997 and subsequently registered in Lagos – Nigeria in 1999 as an independent, not-for-profit, research, training, advocacy and capacity building organisation. The Centre was established to mobilise global opinion and resources for democratic development and provide an independent space to reflect critically on the challenges posed to the democratization and development processes in West Africa, and also to provide alternatives and best practices to the sustenance of democracy and development in the region. CDD envisions a West Africa that is democratically governed, economically integrated. The mission of the centre is to be the prime catalyst and facilitator for strategic analysis and capacity building for sustainable democracy and development in the West African sub-region.”]

Three Decades of Democratic Transition in Africa

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The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) on 9th of February, 2018, held a forum themed “Three Decades of Democratic Transition in Africa”, at the Sheraton Hotels and Towers in Abuja. The event was chaired by Professor Attahiru Jega, former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), while Professors, Jibrin Ibrahim, Ibrahim Abdullah and Jaenette Eno and Boubacar Ndiaye served as discussants. The trajectory of multi-party democracy in the last 30 years was traced and the forum concluded that countries fall into three strands of democracy in Africa. One, countries working towards true democracy; two, hybrid democracies, these are countries practicing a hybrid of democracy and authoritarianism, these countries follow the tenets of democracies but are authoritarian when relevant for their cause and finally the authoritarian states who are now conducting elections as a means of legitimatizing themselves in office. The integrity of elections was also identified as a factor that will play a key role in the stability and sustainability of democracy in Africa. 

Buharimeter Quiz Competition

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The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) organized its Buharimeter Quiz Competition in Lagos on the 25th of January 2018. The competition saw 14 schools participate. The Schools include Apata Memorial High School, Jubril Martins School, Methodist Girl’s School, Yaba; Igbobi College, Holy Child College, Anwar-Ul-Islam Model College, Ansar-Ul-Deen Girl’s High School; Florin School, Greener Pastures School and Ansar- Udeen College, Isolo, amongst others. The Quiz was moderated by Fateemah Yoosuf-Ibraheem
Anwar- Ul-Islam Model College emerged as the winner of the Quiz Competition, while the all boys’ Igbobi College and all girls’ Holy Child College, came second and third respectively. The event also featured a 60 seconds pitch debate, and a Citizen’s Corner, where participating pupils had the opportunity to assess the Buhari administration and also speak to what they would do differently if they are President Buhari

Our Director to join other researchers in reviewing the effectiveness of the @officialEFCC as part of the ACE Research Consortium

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Our Director to join other researchers in reviewing the effectiveness of the @officialEFCC as part of the ACE Research Consortium
This week, we meet Idayat Hassan, Director of CDD West Africa, based in Abuja. As part of the ACE Research Consortium Idayat is reviewing the effectiveness of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in Nigeria, and scenario planning for its future combatting corruption. We find out what brought her to this work.
Tell us about where your interest in democracy and development came from – what guided your career in this field?
I started to become interested in democracy in high school, during the Abacha era and the activities of the pro-democracy movements in Nigeria. This directed me to look deeply at democracy as a form of government and in fact the best form of governance, particularly with the oppression suffered by Nigerians, the detention of journalists and activists, consistent extra judicial killings… When I reflect today and I see how different things look as an adult compared to growing up and witnessing this, I feel overwhelmed and more determined than ever to protect democracy.
This informed my career – qualifying as a lawyer and working on rights promotion, and subsequently anti-corruption, before joining CDD. However, my work at the CDD has exposed me to democracy and development promotion on the African continent and across the globe. Working in West Africa means we are daily working to promote democracy – to deepen democracy as we say in CDD – and ensure there are no unconstitutional change of governments in the region.
How has this work on democratic transitions developed recently?
Recently it has become more and more evident that while elections have become a norm in our region, the link between election and democracy is fast becoming a farce: what we have are elections without democracy in itself.
More and more ‘hybrid regimes’ have become the norm rather than exception in the region. We have elected oligarchs or simply electoral authoritarianism, as elections is used as a tool of legitimising political powers.
But more importantly, there is a rising disenchantment with elections not delivering development to the people. By development, for the average West African this means the delivery of basic public goods and services. This region hosts majority of the world poorest countries, and also the most corrupt countries on the Transparency International index and the most fragile states. Those three things – poverty, corruption, conflict – are triggering demands for greater accountability and certainly drives me in my work on democracy and development.  
What are you working on at the moment?
Accountability mechanisms, elections, political parties and security (good governance). I’m currently quite excited about the debates on deconsolidation of democracy, authoritarianism, illiberalism, social media and democracy.
I’m also doing some really fascinating work with colleagues across continents on decentralisation, multi-level governance and corruption. The work is revealing patterns of corruption and anti-corruption strategies not previously envisaged. With ACE, I’m excited to scope out some of the future scenarios for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, and to learn and share experiences with other experts around the world.
Read more about ACE’s projects in Nigeria.
 
 

Boko Haram – the fear, the conspiracy theories, and the deepening crisis

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The fear is palpable in northeast Nigeria as Boko Haram intensifies its war on civilians. The military’s regular claim that the jihadists are on the run is patently false, and provides no comfort to anyone.
Instead, this is the reality.
– Since January, there have been at least 83 suicide bombings by children – a figure four times higher than last year.
– Of the four roads leading out of Maiduguri, the main city in the northeast, only the Maiduguri-Damaturu-Kano road is adjudged safe.
– In rural areas, people are not able to venture more than four kilometres out of the main towns in each local government area because of insecurity.
– In Maiduguri’s mosques, people now pray in relay. As one group prays, another keeps watch to guard against suicide bombers.
The death tolls are startling. In the last two months, high-profile Boko Haram raids have included:
– An attack on oil workers and soldiers prospecting in the Lake Chad Basin in which more than 50 reportedly died.
– The shooting and hacking to death of 31 fishermen on two islands in the Lake Chad Basin.
In response to the rising tempo of attacks, acting President Yemi Osinbajo ordered the deployment of all his military chiefs to Maiduguri in July. It hasn’t stopped the violence.
The insecurity has undermined farming in the northeast, resulting in serious food shortages in pockets of the region. Boko Haram has taken to seizing food and goods from communities in Damboa, Azir, Mungale, ForFor, Multe, Gumsiri – to mention just a few.
The military are also accused of threatening communities that do not vacate their villages and move to the poorly serviced internally displaced persons (IDP) camps.
Those that stay behind risk not only being plundered by Boko Haram, but also the confiscation of their goods and produce by the army, on the grounds that they are in league with the insurgents.
In the Lake Chad Basin in particular, Boko Haram is moving into the traditional fish and bell pepper trade. It not only helps finance their insurgency, but muddies the identification of who is a combatant.
Nowhere seems safe – even Maiduguri. In recent months there have been bomb blasts at the Dalori IDP camp, Maiduguri university, a general hospital, and a major coordinated gun attack on the city itself.

Know your enemy

The military not only appears powerless, but lacks the operational intelligence to thwart the attacks. That lack of awareness – over both the nature of the threat and how to deal with it – led the army’s head of public relations, Brigadier General Sani Usman, to accuse parents of “donating” their children to Boko haram as suicide bombers.
The raid by the military on the UN’s headquarters in Maiduguri in August was another example of woeful intelligence. The army said it was conducting a cordon and searchoperation for high-value Boko Haram suspects, and did not know it was entering a UN building because there was no insignia.

But the incident does point to the level of distrust over the work of humanitarian agencies. The word on the street in Maiduguri the morning of the raid was that the leader of one Boko Haram faction, Abubakar Shekau, was in UN House – along with a secret store of ammunition.

Conspiracy theories abound and aid workers are implicated. A common allegation is that they provide food, fuel, and drugs to Boko Haram under the guise of delivering humanitarian aid.
An additional gripe is that what aid is being delivered to the needy is not enough. The World Food Programme suspended food handouts in Borno this week after IDPs in Gubio camp rioted, destroying five vehicles belonging to International Medical Corps. They were protesting, they said, that they had not received rations in two months.
And then there are the grievances over aid agencies not employing enough locals, and that foreign aid workers do not respect local norms and traditions in what is a conservative society.
It’s an unhappy relationship. The overriding perception here is that the surge in aid agencies to the northeast is not what is required – people want security first, and then they can take care of their own needs.

Guarding the guards

But arguably the biggest problem is that the military are far from uniformly trusted to provide that security.
The most enduring conspiracy theory is that behind the eight-year war are conflict entrepreneurs in the military high command and the political class. They are accused of perpetuating the violence to feather their own nests, at the expense of the lives of Nigerian citizens.
Although there has been a series of major weapons purchases, from attack helicopters to an extremely expensive deal for ground-attack planes from the United States, it doesn’t seem to have added to the fighting capability of the military.
The confusion over who’s who is also exemplified by the tension between the army and the vigilante Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF). It is the CJTF that has been the military’s eyes and ears, the first responders manning the roadblocks in towns and villages. Armed with little more than traditional weapons, 680 of them have been killed so far in the conflict.
Yet the military distrusts them, believing that within their ranks are Boko Haram Fifth Columnists (which is probably true, along with criminals and other miscreants). But the CJTF see themselves as community defenders. They receive little or no remuneration for their work, and no insurance cover.
The atmosphere of suspicion over the enemy within extends to the tension between IDPs and those who remained in their communities when Boko Haram arrived. As IDPs return to those areas adjudged safe, it’s easy to label those that stayed behind as collaborators, brainwashed by the insurgents’ ideology.
As the counter-insurgency campaign stumbles on, Boko Haram clearly believe it now has the momentum, after being on the ropes last year – driven from all the towns they controlled.
The propaganda war certainly seems to be going their way.
Since the beginning of the year, Shekau has released 11 videos. The more low-key Boko Haram faction led by Abu Musab al-Barnawi (who publicly shuns indiscriminate attacks on civilians) has now stirred and published two videos in the space of a month.
There was once talk of ceasefires and negotiations – that seems very distant right now.
ih/oa/ag
 
Idayat Hassan is the Director Centre for Democracy and Development @Idayathassan

CALL FOR PAPERS FOR THE NEXT EDITION OF THE WEST AFRICA INSIGHT PUBLICATION ON MOROCCO’S ACCESSION TO ECOWAS

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The Centre for Democracy and Development is inviting academics, policy makers, independent researchers and public analysts to submit a well-researched think piece of not more than 3,000 words on Morocco’s accession to ECOWAS for its latest edition of the West Africa Insight WAI).
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was established on 28th May 1975 through the signing of the Treaty of Lagos, in Lagos, Nigeria, by Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo. The Community was established to promote economic cooperation and integration amongst its members. Initially, in 1964, President William Tubman of Liberia tried to establish cooperation between West African States. In February 1965, an agreement was signed among Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone but nothing came of this agreement. It took the intervention of General Gowon of Nigeria and General Eyadema of Togo to re-launch the initiative in April 1972 and this eventually led to the establishment of ECOWAS on 28th May 1975. According to the ECOWAS Treaty, The aims of the Community are to promote cooperation and integration, leading to the establishment of an economic union in West Africa in order to raise the living standards of its peoples, and to maintain and enhance economic stability, foster relations among Member States and contribute to the progress and development of the African Continent.
Morocco, a North African country bordering the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, announced its interest through application to join ECOWAS in February 2017. Morocco’s desire to join ECOWAS may appear like the failure of the Arab Maghreb Union in the current framework; though, this may open more promising prospects. Over the years, Morocco has been establishing economic relationship with countries in the region. In all, the King of Morocco to States has visited the region 25 times of which Senegal was visited 8 times for economic reason. In Nigeria; for example, Morocco’s visits have led to collaboration with the government of Nigeria on fertilizers and oil and gas exploration and export.  Cote de Ivoire and Mali are said to be the highest beneficiaries of Morocco’s aid in the region. Following the application to the West Africa bloc, the country has been admitted in principle into ECOWAS.  However, ECOWAS is yet to work out the details of Morocco’s accession according to the President of Ivory Coast.  It is likely that a final decision will be made by the ECOWAS Heads of State during their next meeting which is scheduled to take place in Togo, December 2017.
Policy analysts and scholars in the region have expressed discordant opinions about Morocco accession since its announcement to join ECOWAS. On one hand, some examined this development as having economic benefit to the region. It has been argued that the emergence of Morocco as a member of ECOWAS bloc may give rise to a strong stimulus for exports in the region; the multiplier effect overall of the activity can be quite significant. Others have disputed the feasibility of including Morocco, who exercises a Monarchical form of government, into ECOWAS seeing that the West African regional bloc is an advocate of democracy.
WAI seeks to expand the knowledge flows on trends, innovations and challenges across West Africa by monitoring trends as they unfold and fill in the paucity of data on West African Affairs.
Intending authors are invited to submit their CVs and a full think piece of not more than 3,000 words on or before November 10, 2017 succinctly capturing the aim of the contribution. Submissions should be made electronically to iomoigiade@cddwestafrica.org before the due date.