All Yoruba governors;
All Yoruba speakers of houses of assembly;
All elected National Assembly members from Yoruba speaking states; and
All Yoruba traditional institutions
This open letter addresses the Yoruba position on the proposed "National Water Resources Bill 2020," an executive bill submitted to the National Assembly for consideration and passage into law. We appeal that you work strenuously and in alliance with others from across the country for the total rejection of this obnoxious bill.
1. Nigeria was founded as a federation and our first and still the most autochthonous Constitution was negotiated on the principle of federalism. Consequent upon this principle, each federating unit has the unassailable right to determine what power or responsibility to cede to the central government.
2. At no time, whether in the past or present, did the Yoruba people agree to cede the management of water resources in their domain to the central government. We therefore view the proposed bill as an affront and a deliberate ploy by its proponents to subjugate the interest of our people.
3. We are forced to question the procedure by which a bill assumes the tag of an executive bill. Was it ever discussed and approved at any meeting of the Federal Executive Council? If yes, then it is shameful that Yoruba members of the federal cabinet, along with members of other stakeholder nationalities, agreed to such a proposal. If not, then on what basis is this bill worthy of being called an executive bill?
4. With crude oil and solid minerals, Nigeria's history is replete with an opaque and unaccountable mode of governance, with attendant incapability to manage resources in a sustainable and non-prejudiced manner.
5. There is therefore no justifiable reason to add water to the list of resources to be exclusively managed by the Federal Government. This is the Yoruba position, which is further reinforced by the comments below.
The following sections, clauses and portions of the proposed bill highlight the reasons why this bill should be opposed by every well meaning Nigerian.
Management of resources at the lowest appropriate level is touted as one of the principles that will guide this proposed bill, but its provisions are characterised by the usual centralisation of power and responsibilities, revenue collections, appointments, and policy directives. For instance, the proposed bill criminalises the usage of water except as stipulated in the bill. The import of this is that we will all have to obtain license to drill borehole in our backyard from a proposed Water Resources Regulatory Commission.
The Minister shall have the power to make regulations, policies and strategies for the proper carrying out of the provisions of this Act and functioning of the Ministry in accordance with this Act as well as in accordance with other directives he may receive from the President and any guidance from the Council
How effectively can one person sitting in Abuja regulate the use of water in Nigeria's far flung states? This should not be the function of a minister but that of the federating units. Under no circumstance should one person be saddled with the responsibility of regulating a crucial resource like water. Such power vested in one person is prone to abuse and there are clear examples.
empowers the proposed Water Regulatory Commission to "be responsible for economic and technical regulation of all aspect of National water resources exploitation and provision"
The bill, when subjected to its full dimension, meaning and context reveals a sublime attempt to take over, manage, and nationalise the economic potentials and derivatives of the water resources in the federating units. Instead of encouraging the tested principles of federalism to unleash the growth potentials of Nigerians at the lowest level of governance, the federal government is growing a rapacious appetite to put a lien on every aspect of Nigerians' lives.
The Commission may, subject to regulations made under this Act and conditions imposed, authorize all or any category of persons to use water by notice in the Gazette -
(b) in relation to a specific water resource; or
(c) within an area specified in the notice,
This is another repressive clause in the proposed bill that unmasks the neo-colonial intention of its proponents. The federal government has never hidden its desire to grant foreign herdsmen certain rights that obliterates the rights of local farmers. This clause, if the bill is allowed to pass, expressly grants that and we wonder if it is not another attempt to institutionalise the rejected RUGA policy.
Subject to this Act, any right, obligations, or duty accruing to any person or authority by virtue of any licences, permits, approvals or agreements with respect to any of the activities for which provision is made under this Act, together with any rights in or over any land or water vested in any person pursuant to the Water Resources Act Cap W2 LFN, 2004, as well as the River Basin Development Authority Act, Cap 396 LFN 1990, shall continue to vest in such person or authority as if it had accrued, vested or been acquired pursuant to this Act.
Any law, regulation, bye-law, or notice, of any State or Local Government Council in force immediately prior to the date of commencement of this Act, in relation to any subject matter or activity provided for under this Act shall be of no force and effect to the extent that it is covered under this Act.
If we contrast Section 132(4) to Section 133(6), it becomes clearer why every well meaning Nigerian should oppose this bill. This bill in Section 132(4) seeks to take over the duties, rights, and acquisitions of existing federal agencies pursuant to its provisions while in Section 133(6), it seeks to nullify the existing rights, duties, and acquisitions of sub-national governments in the same manner. This is neo-colonialism packaged as democratic initiative.
Hon. Olawale Oshun
Mr. Ayo Afolabi
Mr. Kunle Famoriyo
Elder S. O. Abogunrin - President, Yoruba Council of Elders Kwara State.
Alh. Abdullateef Bamidele - Secretary, Afenifere Renewal Group, Kwara State Chapter.
Alh. Abdulkareem Yusuf - President, Jebba Descendants Union in Moro LGA.
Dr. Kehinde Akano - P.R.O, Shao Community Development Association in Moro LGA.
Alh. Abdulrahim Akore - Jagunmolu of Budo-Egbaland, Budo-Egba Descendants Union in Asa LGA.
Alh. Hassan Amao - National Secretary, Afonja Descendants Union in Ilorin East LGA.
Alfa Bello Alao - Oluode of Oke-Oyi in Ilorin East LGA.
Chief James A. Adebola - Alajogun of Apadoland in Ilorin East LGA.
Sheikh Abdulrahim Aduanigba - Chief Imam Yoruba of Ilorin (Ilorin West LGA)
This advertorial was published in The Nation Newspaper edition of 18th May, 2020, by the Committee of Yoruba Leaders in Asa, Moro, Ilorin West, Ilorin East, and Ilorin South LGAs.
The world is dealing with an invasive virus that has the potential to overwhelm public health structures with relative ease. Faced with the immediate task of developing measures to protect citizens, our governments are torn between managing two existential threats - confronting this pandemic and fighting endemic poverty in Nigeria.
Our view is that the maxim, 'health is wealth', should guide their actions. They must be bold to take tough decisions, think outside the box and develop measures that fit our peculiar situations. After consultations and reviews during the ARG meeting, the following proposals are recommended for consideration and possible implementation by relevant authorities.
MULTI-PRONGED PUBLIC HEALTH INTERVENTION
Easing into a new norm. This pandemic may cause radical shifts in the way we live, at least until a vaccine is developed. Even if a vaccine is developed for Covid-19, it is recommended that this lockdown should be seen as a precursor to a new 'normal', not a phase that will soon fade. This is in the light of possible pandemics in the future. We therefore urge our governors to focus on implementing policies that will ease us into this new norm.
Multi-level communication strategy. There appears to be few actors and many spectators in this fight against Covid-19 pandemic. Our governors should please consider involving respected community members and trusted community health workers who should be trained to disseminate the right messages using every kind of media space and formats.
Daily briefings led by the governors. It may be desirable for our governors, flanked by public health experts, cultural and religious influencers to address the citizens at a fixed time daily on live broadcast. Our people need information that inspire, empower, and motivate them to take collective actions. This may help to cast away fear mongering, restore confidence in the polity and prevent descent into lawlessness.
Prevent the spread of the virus to rural communities. From all indications, we have passed the exposure stage into the community transmission stage. Proactive measures must therefore be taken to prevent the spread into our rural communities. Whatever measure this will take must not be sacrificed, including reviewing payment and transportation means.
Wearing face masks. The use of cloth facemasks should be encouraged but we must desist from promoting it as a foolproof measure. Though, there is no clear scientific evidence, current belief is that wearing of face masks by the general population may help to slow down the transmission touch points and spread. This must be practiced with other regulations like avoiding non-essential movements, social distancing, washing of hands and environmental cleaning, especially of surfaces touched by hands.
Training of health workers and provision of personal protective equipments. Many hospitals are admitting Covid-19 cases before knowing it. It is therefore crucial to train all healthcare workers, as first responders to medical needs, about early detection, appropriate response to identified patients, and the lines of communication to relevant government agencies. Such trainings, we understand, are already available online. Our governments' responsibility therefore is to encourage all health workers to take the training and enforce strict compliance through carrot and stick methods.
Testing Centres. There should be increased testing capacity in all the states, as Lagos State has commendably done. This will help to identify cases faster and reduce the spread of the virus when such cases are taken into isolation
Practice of self-isolation should be replaced with government-controlled isolation. In addition to decentralising testing capacity, we recommend the establishment of isolation centres in each LGA also. Asking people to self-isolate in densely populated areas may be counter-productive.
LGA Covid-19 Task force team. Each local government area should establish its own task force team because state-wide strategies need to fit into peculiarities of each neighbourhood and this is where the LGA management team may come in useful.
Media Houses as strategic partners. The jury is out on the percentage of our people that still believe corona virus pandemic is a hoax. There however are hints that the number is substantial. Journalists, particularly the radio stations, can help fill this gap at this critical time and should be trained to report this pandemic and serve the people with accurate and inspiring information.
SOME ECONOMIC RECOMMEDATIONS
Democratise wealth through local production capacity. If, as it is being predicted, wearing of face masks and use of hand sanitizers will become normal public space etiquette, it is imperative that we turn this into economic stimulus. We encourage our governments to stimulate small scale industries to produce these in order to check opportunistic price inflation. With proper guidance and incentives, our tailors can make face masks and public health centres can produce sanitisers.
Distribution of relief to the most vulnerable. One way to ensure this is to introduce biometric data collection and other processes like queue management that only those without alternatives could endure. More importantly, this situation offers an opportunity to institutionalise a Universal Basic Income from government to citizens.
Prioritise social protection policies. In this situation as the world has found itself, only countries that excel in human capacity development through education, health and social protection policies will cope better. Specifically, a strategic decision to upgrade the capacity of the local healthcare centres and General hospitals should be paramount to the extent that each of them should have an isolation centre that serves as temporary bay for any suspected Covid-19 case. This strategic decision should include quality and safety of drugs supply chain, a functional health insurance, and investment in medical research and technologies.
Undertake civil service reform and strengthen public accountability. We urge our governors to adopt a three-year plan that transforms public service to full scale e-service. This would mean retraining civil servants and retaining those that merit it. This reform should be guided by meritocracy, excellence and technology. Those disengaged will, through a loan secured for public service reform, continue to draw salaries for three years while they are retrained for another industry, especially agriculture.
Local security: circumstances during this lockdown have brought to the fore the need to have policing decentralised in Nigeria. We urge our governments to expedite actions on the Amotekun initiative, for a start, and equally consider other proposals to strengthen local security.
Restructuring of Nigeria's governance architecture. ARG believes that Nigeria's fate and future is inextricably linked to the campaign to restructure. We are convinced that efforts to diversify Nigeria's economy will remain unproductive until restructuring becomes a prerequisite. This is because in any ethno-religiously diverse country as Nigeria, such initiatives are never successful when dictated in a top-bottom manner as we are doing. For clarity, the restructuring campaign has four main components listed below:
Redefining federating units: The concept of what a federating unit is and how to define it for a sustainable Nigeria must be bravely put on the front burner. There is no economic, scientific or political analysis that supports the imperative of 36 states. Creation of states has contributed to Nigeria's worsening political instability because the demand has become insatiable. It may lead to the ultimate dismember of Nigeria because the more atomised federating units become, the less capable they are to respond to the socio-economic needs of the people. Our submission is that we consider a regional architecture that embraces states and embodies consensus, collaboration, self-determination and self-sufficiency.
Devolution of power and reducing corruption: The Second Schedule to the 1999 Constitution containing legislative powers needs to be urgently reviewed. It is our submission that Nigeria needs one legislative list that defines only the role that the Federal Government should take up on behalf of the federating units. Every other matter should be residual. The distribution of Federal Government's relief by the ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development has again revealed the need for Federal Government to hands-off certain responsibilities, for the sake of efficacy. How does it sound that an agency based in Abuja is able to identify the vulnerable people in the deep recesses of Zamfara or Osun States? As Senator Ali Ndume has claimed, it is impossible to kick out corruption with such governance structure as Nigeria's.
Reducing governance cost: A number of federal ministries should at best operate as policy and research centres of the Federal Government and leave implementation to the federating units. Nigeria's recurrent expenditure is outrageous, relatively unproductive and eventually unsustainable.
Reviewing resource management: The undergirding concept of Nigeria's resource management which is equality of states should be jettisoned for an equitable philosophy. Covid-19 is a clear example that states are not the same and cannot be treated equally, no matter how hard we try. Nigeria is attempting to achieve nationhood through an awkward means of taking over the resources of its constituents and then feeding them 'equally'. Our submission is that each federating unit, as may be eventually defined, should manage its own resources while paying an agreed percentage as first line charge into federal purse.
There may never be life as it used to be. We should therefore focus on embracing a new way of life. For instance, it may be convenient to postpone NECO and WASSCE examinations but should this pandemic stretch longer, how convenient will it be to postpone elections without a constitutional crisis, say in Edo and Ondo States?
Embracing this new normalcy calls for individual and corporate realignment but more importantly, it calls for a gradual and holistic overhaul of Nigeria's governance structure by embracing sound arguments of restructuring, planning for a future without crude oil and adopting innovations that improve public accountability and efficiency.
Hon. Olawale Oshun
Mr. Ayo Afolabi
This Advertorial was published in The Nation newspaper.
Y2020 is significant to Nigeria’s policy environment and direction for two reasons. First, it is the year the country should be taking stock of the objectives of Vision 2020, which was launched in 2009 and was designed to lead Nigeria to become one of the Top 20 economies by GDP. Like other national plans before it, Vision 2020 has been abandoned and any attempt at assessing its successes and failures is forlorn and futile.
Second, it is also the year set for the attainment of the current administration’s medium term Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).
One of the main objectives of the ERGP is to “reduce petroleum product imports by 60 per cent by 2018, become a net exporter by 2020″.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, as quoted by media reports, N1.97tn was spent on PMS importation in 2017 when ERGP came into force and N2.95tn was spent in 2018 .
It is a no brainer to state that the objectives of the ERGP are also not attainable as things are. Government continues to wobble and tumble through policy summersaults, totally oblivious of the fact of the prodigious population expansion in the country. Children born in Y2000 are now considered full grown adults. There is no foreseeable or realistic plan for their future.
This commentary is a reflection on the most significant issues in Nigeria’s policy environment in 2019. We call on all Nigerians and lovers of Nigeria to pay attention to these issues, taking corrective actions where and when necessary.
1. Visa on Arrival Policy
The Visa on Arrival policy announced in Egypt by President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR is quite shocking noting the timing and venue of the announcement. Such an important policy should ideally be discussed ‘at home’ first because of the very important need to secure the buy-in of Nigerians and prepare their minds on how to take advantage of such policy and avoid the disadvantages therein.
While announcing the policy to his audience, President Buhari was quoted to have said that, “We in Nigeria have already taken the strategic decision to bring down barriers that have hindered the free movement of our people within the continent by introducing the issuance of visa at the point of entry into Nigeria to all persons holding passports of African countries with effect from January 2020.”
We are wondering who constitutes the ‘we’ in Mr. President’s declaration. We note that it is unacceptable that nothing in government communication prepared Nigerians for this policy, whether through the weekly Federal Executive meeting media briefing or even the annual Independence Day broadcast which was only three months ago. Neither was this policy an election promise or in the manifesto of the governing party. The increasingly imperial Presidential style which confers on the President the freedom to foist on the nation any policy that catches his fancy and that of his kitchen cabinet needs to be tempered by a conscious effort to ensure that major policy shifts are well considered and filtered through the sensitivities of the diverse community that Nigeria is.
Should Nigerians not know whether their leaders reviewed the existing Visa on Arrival policy granted to selected categories of visitors since 2012 before deeming it fit to expand the coverage? Have we understudied the impact of such policy in other countries that have implemented it? Should we not have sought reciprocity from the countries we are now offering Visa on Arrival privileges?
Given the security crisis and the attendant displacement faced by many African countries, should Nigeria not be trying to adequately apply extreme vetting for non-business visitors while those who enjoy Visa on Arrival should only be business visitors (with local sponsors and guarantors)?
A motion moved by Senator Adetunbi on this policy revealed that the Federal Government is not even thinking of the need to provide legal backing to this crucial policy. If securing important legal backing is not on the agenda of the Federal Government, there is every reason to believe that this policy is not well thought out and that little or nothing has been planned for its implementation.
Government is duty-bound to act in ways reflective of the reality of the daily pains of the citizens and should use its executive power to demonstrate, like a democratic government, a deep understanding of the needs of the electorate.
Therefore, we note that this policy is not consistent with the letters and spirit of Nigerian Constitution and it is in bad faith against the indigenous peoples of Nigeria whose consents were not sought on a matter that will dilute the country’s population and alter its demographic composition.
2. Rule of Law and National Interest
There have been a number of assaults on the Rule of Law under this administration, a phenomenon that is now spreading to the sub-national level. State governments now exhibit similar rascality by treating critics’ views as treason. We have also had shocking assaults on judicial officials. Nothing however compares with the drama by the DSS in open court trying to forcefully re-arrest an accused, on bail, with the presiding Judge still on seat. No such egregious contempt for the temple of justice has ever been seen in the annals of Nigeria’s history. When the Government finally decided to respect several court-ordered bails for two of its three well-known detainees, the explanation of Government action could not be more depressing. The Attorney-General was quoted as saying that the release of the duo was on compassionate ground.
The Government is a creation of law and must respect all laws to remain legitimate. Nobody voted for this Government to govern us on the basis of its compassion which it may grant at its own discretion. This is the road to despotism and anarchy. In case the current occupants of political office have forgotten some people paid with their lives in the fight for this democracy.
This administration is weaponising the nebulous national interest to terrorise citizens and incarcerate people, devising a cynical strategy of endless filing of new charges against those they desire to hold against valid court orders. Its doctrine of rule of law being subject to a self-serving definition of national interest is indeed Nigeria’s national security risk because narrowing the space for open debate of issues and denying citizens their fundamental human rights have always been destabilising factors in all societies.
Attempts to criminalise free speech that is not to the liking of those in Government or clamping down on peaceful demonstrations of citizens has the potential of aggravate the frustration of citizens and strengthen forces of purveyors of non-democratic change.
Contemptuous betrayal of electoral promises, especially the one on restructuring, and the disingenuous labelling of advocates of restructuring as secessionists even in the face of the reaffirmation of the ruling party of its belief in restructuring can only erode faith in the political process, heighten hegemonic fears and worsen national cohesion.
3. Y2020 Budget, Accountability, and Anti-corruption
Another worrisome trend under this administration is that ‘budget padding’ has attained notoriety through the penchant of the National Assembly to increase budgetary proposals by inserting spurious capital projects into the budget.
The ICPC in a recent report titled “Constituency Projects Tracking Group” claimed that it “uncovered N3.9 billion included in the 2019 budget for constituency projects but not allocated to any specific project or sector” .
It states further that “the size, number and types of Zonal Intervention Projects (ZIP) domiciled in Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) and Border Communities Development Agency (BCDA), for instance, have turned them into conduits for, and means of abuse of constituency projects and therefore vulnerable to corruption.”
We note that President Buhari’s major complaint about 2019 budget was what he described as an attempt by the lawmakers to take over executive government’s role of initiating projects. Surprisingly, Mr. President praised the National Assembly for Y2020 despite a reoccurrence.
“Like last year, when over 391 projects were smuggled by federal lawmakers into the budgets of the SMEDAN and BCDA, this year too, over 300 projects found their ways into the two agency’s budgets,” a media report stated in its analysis of Y2020 budget .
Amidst all these is the disturbing insensitivity with which the leadership and members of the National Assembly are defending the unconscionable provision of N37 billion in the 2020 Budget for maintenance of the National Assembly’s offices, when in the same budget, only N36bn was budgeted for FERMA to maintain all federal roads across the country.
In 2018 when it slashed the amount budgeted for the ongoing rehabilitation of Lagos-Ibadan expressway, the National Assembly said it was done in cognisance of the country’s available resources. Similarly, would it be out of place for the National Assembly to consider the precarious revenue situation in the country and phase the maintenance of its offices over five years?
On anti-corruption, we note that the fight against corruption must also encompass transparency and accountability, two key components that are yet to be given priority. For instance, since inception till 2014, a total of 495 agencies reportedly defaulted in submitting their annual audited financial statements to the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation but in the first year of this administration, 215 agencies defaulted while 323 defaulted in the second year, bringing the cumulative to a total of 538 agencies. Some agencies do not even have audited accounts as claimed recently by the chairman of the Senate Public Account Committee, Matthew Urhoghide.
The best place to fight corruption at federal level is at the office of the Auditor General of the Federation. This office has been exposing corruption in the past but lacks any constitutional power to nip corruption in the bud.
• We call for immediate suspension of the Visa on Arrival policy to allow for appropriate consultation and preparation.
• We recommend that Nigerians take Y2020 as the year to defend civil rights as provided for in Nigeria’s Constitution, even if it means doing so against the government that we helped into power. If this is not done, we may soon witness similar trend being perpetrated at all levels of government and by cadres of appointed officers.
• We call for a review of the National Planning Commission Act in a way that will enshrine national development plans as legal instrument that must be implemented through its lifespan irrespective of administrative tenure and ruling party. No country develops on short-termism and inconsistent policy environment.
• We call on President Buhari to urgently give his assent to the Financial Audit Service and Federal Audit Service Commission Bills, which will empower the Auditor General to compel all agencies of government to be accountable.
• We call on President Buhari to institute a just and equitable appraisal system that subjects all heads of MDAs to periodic performance evaluation.
We enjoin Nigerians to wake up to their civic responsibility and actively contribute their resources to meaningful nation-building efforts. This country belongs to all of us and as the adage says, as you lay your bed, so you will lie on it.
Hon. Olawale Oshun
Chairman, Afenifere Renewal Group
Mr. Ayo Afolabi
General Secretary, Afenifere Renewal Group