SITUATION ROOM EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER THE STATE OF THE NATION – TUESDAY, 25TH JUNE 2023
Issued: Abuja, 2:30pm
The Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room (Situation Room) expresses concern over the state of the nation and the difficulties created by on-going policies on exchange rates and premium motor spirit (PMS) deregulation. These policies have come at high costs to Nigerians and there are no clear intervention programmes by the government to address the hardship that the policies have induced on citizens almost two months since initiation, further worsening inequality and poverty conditions in the country.
CORRUPTION IN THE OIL INDUSTRY
Over the years, there have been several reports and commentaries on the level of corruption in Nigeria’s oil and gas industry. Despite the removal of the shady subsidy, we are worried that the institutional weaknesses that enabled the stealing of public funds in the name of subsidy remain in place. Situation Room is also concerned about the continuous impunity of Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) and security agencies by burning vessels conveying stolen crude oil despite the government having an operational standard policy for forfeiture of assets linked to proceeds of crimes. By burning these vessels, they are destroying evidence that can lead to the prosecution of ringleaders of oil theft and effectively denying the country an opportunity to recover its asset.
The Federal Government should boldly confront and immediately dismantle the underlining weaknesses in the petroleum sector as well as in its entire public accounting system. The Federal Government should also come up with a realistic plan for putting back the country’s refineries into operation.
INFLATION AND COST OF GOVERNANCE
With prices of PMS rising above 200% in the last two months, Nigeria’s inflation rate further surged above 22% in June 2023, having the most devastating effect on transportation and food components, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). Data for July will significantly be higher as Nigerians are worse off due to a further hike in PMS prices.
Despite this situation, public schools are increasing fees across board at the same time, thereby placing an additional burden on many poor parents. This situation has created serious tensions and anger among citizens, which could serve as a trigger for conflict particularly as the unemployment rate among young people is very high.
While we acknowledge the government’s intention to provide buffers as well as reduce the cost of governance, it has failed to come up with a clear plan of action. Starting with the presidential fleet and government entourage at all levels, and entitlements of members of the National Assembly, FG must make deliberate efforts to considerably cut down the cost of governance and plug leakages in the civil service. Additionally, State Governors must take their hands off Local Government Councils’ funds to enable interventions at the lowest levels.
The government would have to intervene in the transport sector in the form of mass transit buses in partnership with private sector players for maintenance and sustainability purposes. Government must also tackle head-on and decisively the state of insecurity as well as the many conflicts across the country that are causing a severe food shortage condition.
Situation Room is urging President Bola Tinubu to appoint individuals with impeccable characters and fitting competencies to stir the country out of the current state of the economy.
CBN’S UPDATED “KNOW YOUR CUSTOMER” QUESTIONNAIRE
The Central Bank of Nigeria continues to serve Nigerians with terrible policies per time. The newest, which is the most needless policy in the face of the spiralling value of the Naira as well as the galloping inflation rate, is the Customer Due Diligence Regulations 2023 released on 20th June 2023 demanding social media handles of customers. This draconian censorship regulation clearly violates the right of citizens to freedom of expression as enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal Republic and would take Nigeria back to the days of dictatorship. It also violates the recently assented Data Protection Law that aims to protect data subjects and minimize the extent of data that can be extracted from citizens. The regulation must be withdrawn forthwith.
DETENTION OF THE SUSPENDED EFCC CHAIRMAN AND SUSPENDED CBN GOVERNOR
Situation Room notes with concern how the Federal Government, through the Department of State Services (DSS), placed in custody the suspended chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr Abdulrasheed Bawa and the suspended governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr Godwin Emefiele. Mr Bawa has remained in detention without being charged to court and the public informed of any allegation against him. This is fundamentally a breach of a citizen’s right to a fair hearing.
Situation Room welcomes the arraignment of Mr Emefiele. There are ample grounds to prosecute the suspended CBN governor for obvious violations of extant laws while in office. For instance, Situation Room had called for his removal as Governor of the apex bank on 2nd August 2022 for violating Section 9 of the CBN Act 2007 by venturing into politics and asking the court to declare him eligible to run for President without resigning from the office.
However, the Federal Government is expected to always comply with provisions of the Constitution by approaching the court with appropriate charges and letting the court determine the fate of any accused person. By keeping suspects in detention in the manner it has done with Mr Bawa and Emefiele, the Federal Government is violating rights of citizens and creating an impression that it is all out to witch-hunt.
President Bola Tinubu was involved in human rights campaigns and the struggle for democracy during the military era. Having attained the Office of the President, he must abide by the oath of office he took to protect the rights of every private citizen and not allow institutions under him to go rogue.
Members of the National Assembly on their part should show that they are representatives of the people by protecting their rights and representing their interests. They are required to speak and intervene on hardship that their constituents are suffering. Additionally, federal lawmakers would need to publicly indicate interest to cut down their costs and truly follow through.
Lastly, Situation Room calls on Nigerian citizens to put their State Governors to task and demand accountability for their actions or inactions regarding the State of the Nation. Each citizen has certain responsibilities and obligations that relate to active participation in society and holding the government accountable at all levels. In the end, it is our collective vigilance and action that will make any government to be responsive to our plights.
Convener, Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room
Co-Convener, Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room
Co-Convener, Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room