THE TRAGEDY OF ABANDONED PROJECTS by Nasir @elrufai August 31, 2012Posted by seunfakze in CHANGE, POLITICS.
Tags: Elrufai, Nigeria, projects
Eleven thousand, eight hundred and eighty-six (11,886) abandoned projects that will cost an estimated N7.78 trillion to complete! These alarming figures are from the report of the Presidential Projects Assessment Committee (PPAC) set up in March 2011, by President Goodluck Jonathan to look into cases of abandoned federal government projects. If the government does not start any new projects, it will take more than five years budgeting about N1.5 trillion annually to complete them all – and that is assuming no cost-over runs or delays!
Ordinarily, these figures should compel the government to accelerate the completion of all ongoing projects, or at least focus on high priority ones. Unfortunately, this has not been the case: Government would rather continue the weekly charade of awarding new contracts or re-awarding old ones at higher prices during its weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meetings.
As trillions of naira are being wasted in the name of public projects, it is important to understand issues like how projects are initiated, bid for, negotiated and awarded and why they get abandoned. Who and what are really responsible for abandoned projects? Are poor planning, haphazard procurement, and incompetent project management the key causes or is it financial mismanagement? In spite of mobilization fees already paid, why is nobody held accountable when projects are not completed? How far can the Bureau of Public Procurement or other agencies with requisite mandate go to address the root causes of abandoned projects?
There is a need to briefly examine how projects are initiated and contracts awarded. The first step ought to be conception of projects that fit within a scheme of national vision, strategy and development programs. As we have stated in this column, a 27-page “transformation agenda” tucked away in the website of National Planning Commission falls short of this. This “agenda” is largely inconsistent with the Federal Ministry of Finance medium term sector strategies and budgeting priorities for 2011 and 2012. Most projects are therefore conceived out of nowhere and lacking in internal coherence and consistency with other programs.
Next is to plan and design the project in detail. Assume a road is to be constructed between two locations, the rights-of-way must be surveyed, levels taken, alignment finalized, road designed, and detailed drawings, bills of quantities and other bidding documents prepared prior to inviting pre-qualified engineering contractors to submit competitive tenders. The design development process can take anything between some months to more than a year, while it takes a minimum of 5 months from advertising invitations for bids to presentation to the FEC or other approving authority. This suggests that design and procurement processes for any project ought to start at least a year or two before being budgeted for. This only happens in a few foresighted agencies (MDAs).
Typically, nothing happens until the budget is passed and cash backed, then the implementing MDA begins the fire brigade work of compressing this timeline into a few weeks! Most MDAs wait until projects are included in budget or the budget passed before they start project surveys or design or the procurement process. When an MDA spends at least 5 months on procurement, how much time does the contractor have to execute the project and draw down the funds before the financial year runs out? This becomes a big issue as MDAs are required by law to return all unspent funds to the treasury by the year end.
To understand why projects get abandoned, we must also understand the pervasive lack of continuation in policies as occupiers of political offices change. Whether it is long term development plans or contracts for critical infrastructure, the repeated practice in Nigeria is that once new people are in office, policies or programs of the previous administration are abandoned. This unwillingness to ensure policy continuity is the root cause of nepotism, corruption and impunity, as officials often re-award such contracts to cronies and generous campaign donors at inflated prices.
In this regard, the “democracies” have not fared better than the military in policy consistency. From Obasanjo’s NEEDS, to Yar’Adua’s Seven-Point agenda, and now, Jonathan’s Transformation Agenda – there has been continuity of policy inconsistency within the same ruling party – and turning projects that would have ordinarily benefited the populace into drain pipes. Critical examples are the N52m Zobe dam in Katsina, commissioned in 1983 by the Shagari regime; not only has several times the original amount been spent on the project, it has not pumped up a single liter of water. And the Ajaokuta Steel Complex which has gulped about N675bn, but still not produced much steel.
When projects are abandoned, the usual reason given is lack of funds, though often it is the pre-contract mishaps already alluded to, and project management deficits that are the fundamental causes. How can funding constraints be blamed for project failures? Should one not wonder why a project is approved in the absence of adequate funds? In fact, section 4 (2) (b) of the Public Procurement Act 2007, states plainly that all procurement shall be ‘based only on procurement plans supported by prior budgetary appropriations; and no procurement proceedings shall be formalized until the procuring entity has ensured that funds are available to meet the obligations and has obtained a “Certificate of ‘No Objection’ to Contract Award” from the Bureau’. Simply put, the law requires that no contract should be awarded if funds are not available for it from the onset!
It is intuitive that abandoned projects fuel corruption and reduce public confidence in governance. The excuse of inadequate or delayed funding may sometimes be contrived. Such an inference could be drawn as abandoned projects are more often than not re-awarded at unjustifiably over-bloated sums. The increased costs are subsequently justified by blaming inflation, exchange rates, labour and materials cost increases amongst others.
If we intend to check the abnormality of abandoned projects, the relevant laws have to be strictly adhered to. Section 63 (1) of the Public Procurement Act which states thus: ‘In addition to any other regulations as may be prescribed by the Bureau, a mobilization fee of no more than 15% for local suppliers and contractors and 10% for foreign suppliers and contractors may be paid to a supplier or contractor …’ must be firmly applied. According to the PPAC, it is not uncommon for contractors to be paid mobilization fees in excess of 50% of the contract sum, often in apparent violation of the law.
While the Executive arm of government is largely to be blamed for abandoned projects, it is not alone. The National Assembly (NASS) is liable as well by unlawfully and unconstitutionally inserting new, unplanned projects into Appropriation Bills expecting them to be implemented. The NASS has joined the executive branch in ignoring the funding needs of existing projects to completion and commissioning. Take the Zobe dam mentioned; does the representative of that constituency not have the responsibility to pursue and ensure the strict completion of projects in his constituency? If the focus of the government is on development and service to the people, why should officials seek approval for new projects when unfinished ones do not enjoy adequate funding and sound project management?
The Public Procurement Act 2007 established the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) with the National Council on Public Procurement (NCPP), as the regulatory authorities saddled with the oversight functions of monitoring procurement and implementation of federal projects across the country. These statutory functions have been hampered by lots of challenges, including the late passage of the annual Appropriation Acts by NASS and abandonment of the procurement processes by the relevant MDAs if favored bidders turn out to be unsuccessful.
If properly sustained, the Due Process and Certification Mechanism started by the Budget Monitoring and Price Intelligence Unit under Oby Ezekwesili, would have been one of the many benefits of the legislation. This has however not been the case because of policy discontinuities and the cravings of politicians to have unfettered discretion in awarding contracts.
The federal government needs to, as a matter of urgency, comply with the provisions of the Public Procurement Act. The government must curb the temptations or pressures to embark on new projects when so many remain uncompleted or abandoned. Desirable projects must be continued irrespective of whichever administration initiated them. The NCPP, which is yet to be constituted, should be urgently inaugurated to superintend the activities of the BPP, as opposed to the current scenario where the FEC usurps the Council’s statutory functions.
As you read this, the Federal Ministry of Finance recently announced the release of N300 billion for capital projects for the third quarter of 2012, bringing the total release for capital projects so far this year to N704 billion out of nearly N1.5 trillion for the year. Most citizens will not feel the impact of this amount because the planning, procurement and project management processes are still fraught with nepotism, corruption and impunity that many projects may end up on the abandoned projects list – after billions have been paid as fungible mobilization advances. Our nation must do better. We must demand that our leaders do better!
Tags: budget, Elrufai, Nigeria
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A couple of weeks ago, controversy sprung-up between the Executive and Legislative arms of government over the (non) implementation of the 2012 budget. The ruckus between both arms stirred up the consciousness of many people about budget implementation and the numerous jargons associated with the process. The buck passing between the two arms of government only illustrated that budget implementation is a term used to confuse the masses, and fuel the illusion that the budgetary spending translates to visible developmental projects aimed at improving the lives of our people.
When initially summoned by the Senate Committee on Finance, the Minister of Finance – Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala claimed that the 2012 budget had been implemented up to 56%. As the implementation issue became the focal point in public discourse, more facts gradually emerged. The Ministry of Finance retracted its earlier statement. Documents subsequently submitted indicated that mid-way into the 3d quarter of 2012, the budget had been implemented by only 12.6%. More interesting is how the government used the terms ‘cash-backing’ and ‘implementation’ to confuse many people.
The Finance Minister claimed the budget had been implemented by 56% because it is the percentage of the N1.5tn capital budget released so far. This is one definition of implementation. The House of Representatives on the other hand said the implementation level was 34%. They arrived at the figure by calculating the percentage of the capital budget that had been cash-backed (N324bn). The final implementation figure of 12.6% was derived by calculating the percentage of funds appropriated, cash-backed and released for use to the MDAs. This calculation seems to be the most meaningful as it refers to the actual funds available in the coffers of the MDAs to be spent. These various calculations point to the opacity in government expenditure especially as regards developmental projects.
The Federal Government through the Budget Office of the Federation (BOF) has made quarterly budget implementation reports available on its website. In the 2011 report, revenues for all quarters of the year (net oil inflow, non-oil revenue and taxes), fell below projections. Net oil receipts were N1,694.35bn instead of the projected N2,346.66bn, net non-oil revenue was N793.97bn and underperforming by 7.71% (N66.3bn). Value Added Tax (VAT) and Customs duties fell short of the annual projections by 16.21% and 12.59% respectively.
On the expenditure side, N2,425.07bn was budgeted for recurrent expenditure but the actual amount spent was N2,527.26bn. The government’s total debt by the end of the 2011 financial year was N527.07bn as against N495.10bn projected. Of the N1,146.75bn capital vote, only N918.55bn was utilized. The Budget Implementation Report (BIR) highlights how the recurrent expenditures and debts consistently exceed projections while the capital expenditure falls short.
By December 31st 2011, a total of N864.32bn had been released to MDAs for the implementation of capital projects, of this amount, a total of N812bn (93.95%) had been cash-backed. The budget had to be extended because of the poor implementation by the end of the year. By the end of the extension, in March 2012, about 87% of the cash backed amount had been utilized: 47 of the 53 MDAs utilized, on the average, about 87.9%; 38 MDAs utilized over 95% of their respective cash backed releases while 6 MDAs utilized less than 87.9%.
Interestingly, by the end of the second quarter of the year, 11 MDAs had utilized no portion of their funds. It is therefore shocking that by the end of the fiscal year, the average utilization rate was 87%. If the projects had specific timelines for execution, how is it that all the funds were disbursed within the last two quarters of the year? Could it be that the MDAs just seek for a means to ‘utilize’ the funds close to the termination of the fiscal year? Why cash-back a road project not yet under construction? Sadly, because the officials and government are not held accountable, the left-over, “cash-backed” funds rather than being returned to treasury are squandered.
A number of issues can immediately be discerned from the multifarious statistics on budget implementation. Important to note is that the actual revenues more often than not fall far below estimates. This anomaly is not restricted to the Federal Government but is replicated by the State Governments. Deficit budgets are the norm and those at the helms of affairs do little to balance out the budgets with fiscal policies. Worse still are the measures adopted and the cost of funding the deficits.
The nation’s total domestic and foreign debt is about $40bn (N6.3 trillion) at present. Interest is charged at 10%-16% annually. The entire budget for 2012 (N4.72 trillion) is much lesser than the country’s debt. Most illogically, the accumulated debt is largely fritted away in financing the government instead of developing the country. Apart from the risks of crowding out the private sector and raising cost of funds, government borrowing, especially in a developing economy as ours is in itself not a bad thing as long as it is targeted at increased capacity utilization especially when private sector investment is too low to stimulate a higher level of output.
The long term effects of government indebtedness (local and foreign) would be grave on future generations and whatever measures adopted at regularising same would trigger untold hardship on the people. Inflation, higher taxes and increased interest rates are some consequences of prolonged deficit budgets. If the unguarded borrowing by the government is not halted or the loans invested in the real sector, then the downward spiral of the economy would continue with predictable grave consequences for the entire polity.
In the 2011 BIR, N2,425.07bn was voted for non-debt recurrent expenditure but the actual amount spent was N2,527.26bn. N1,146.75 was appropriated for capital expenditure while a lower amount of N918.55 was released. There is clearly no fortitude on the part of government to even out the disparity between amounts appropriated and actual expenditures.
According to the 2011 BIR, by the end of the fiscal year (Dec, 2011), the highest performing MDA was the Niger-Delta Development Commission (NDDC) at 97.29%; Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Police Formations all implemented at above 90% while the Ministry with the lowest implementation of its budget is Agriculture at 58.45%. The declining agricultural sector of the country is understood more clearly by these figures which suggest the inability of the Ministry of Agriculture to utilize funds at its disposal. Power implemented 72.86%; health – 68.95% and education – 71.80%.
The budget implementation figures are impressively high but when considered against the background of the budget itself, do not mean much. The amounts being implemented here are meagre sums compared to the recurrent expenditures for the same MDAs. Therefore an implementation of 100% in a particular MDA may refer to amounts grossly inadequate to fund huge developmental projects. The developed and more advanced nations do not have budget implementation figures because the budgets are realistic and thoroughly researched prior to their being enacted into law. The Appropriation Act is adhered to and expenditures are made as proposed resulting in 100% annual implementation.
However, given the serial leakages of funds of both monumental and unprecedented proportions that have become the key feature of Ebelenomics, including but not limited to import duty waivers, illegal subsidies and payments to third parties that have render neither services nor been appropriated for, the only logical budgets Nigeria should have merited in the last two years are surplus budgets
Another observation is that in spite of MDAs not fully utilizing funds at their disposal to execute existing projects, majority of the projects assessed in the Budget Implementation Report have been stalled because of payment delays and inadequate budgetary provisions. Bureaucracy in implementation and inadequate release of funds for contracts has been identified as the main factor responsible for abandoned projects. It is therefore imperative for government to create a transparent and efficient budget process alongside realistic objectives if the country must fare better on implementation.
While the Legislative and Executive arms of government engage in fisticuffs on budget implementation, Nigerians should not be carried away by their hullabaloo. From past experience, such buck passing on inadequate budget implementation would soon be a forgotten issue. Do these figures actually mean anything meaningful in our daily lives? Even if the budgets were optimally implemented in previous years, how is it that there are still tons of abandoned and uncompleted projects, and increasing daily? We will respond to these questions next week.
The whole budget preparation and implementation process has not resulted in any meaningful development in Nigeria considering our soaring debt profile, high recurrent versus capital expenditure ratios, meagre non-oil revenues and inability to follow through with longer-term development plans. For now, the Vision 20:2020 and Transformation Agenda are nothing slogans, without clear plans and programmes with the zero-implementation process on ground. If we want to leave behind a country that future generations would be proud of, it must begin now. We have to collectively elect people with clearly articulate plans and visions backed with the ability to act on them.
BREAK THOSE LIMITATIONS by @seunfakze August 18, 2012Posted by seunfakze in CHANGE, MOTIVATION.
Tags: Barriers, Believe, Possibilities, Rediscovery
You’ve been called reckless,
What they qualify you with are endless;
They’ve told you it’s not possible,
That your ideas are horrible.
You’ve been tagged hopeless,
Truly your challenges leave you helpless;
Your problems, seemingly insurmountable,
Your situation, daunting and incredible.
Broken hearted and troubled,
Your self-belief lost in an environ that stifles;
You think “how will I leave this cycle?”
“how do I break out off this circle?”
Despite these, despite the names you’ve been called and the many adjectives you’re constantly qualified with; regardless of your circumstances, have this consolation —>>> HE WHO BEGAN A GOOD WORK IN YOU WILL BE FAITHFUL TO COMPLETE IT.
Above all, It’s left to you to rise above the lid, the cap and the numerous limitations man set on & for you. There are no limitations to our possibilities unless we set them or allow others set them for us. Remember Oscar Pistorius, the limitations were there. We saw it. He saw differently. He went to the London 2012 Olympics. He competed. In his little way, he won. Dis what has never been done before him. We saw limitations, he saw possibilities.
What do you see? Why do you see what you see? Who do you move with? Who advices you? Who are your counsel? Do they motivate you towards your dreams or drawing you away from it? It’s not too late to change. You may have to break off some associations, leave some weight behind if you have to move on and towards your dreams. You Should/Must.
You become what/who you are associated with, what you read and what you believe. What you see, read and hear have a natural way of entering your sub-conscious and ultimately becoming ingrained as principles as ideologies.
Ultimately, influenced by these associations, YOU ARE WHAT YOU THINK YOU ARE. Change that circle if it defies your God-given ability, potential and dreams. YOU CAN BE ALL YOU WANT TO BE for ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE IF YOU BELIEVE.
Tags: budget, Elrufai, Nigeria
Once the budget is signed into law, it is published in the NASS journal as an Act, the Federal Government Official Gazette and published online on the website of the Budget Office of the Federation. The Executive Branch is then bound to comply with the law. Legislative sanctions applicable to violation of the law may include impeachment. Compliance with the appropriation law is what we actually call ‘budget implementation’ in Nigeria. Our research on country comparatives confirmed that there is nowhere in the world where such a phrase is used – presumably, once a budget is passed, implementation ought to be a given. Countries we surveyed use ‘budget utilization’ to refer to situations when the budgeted amount is not spent in full for a variety of unexpected developments, but not “implementation”. Except in Nigeria, it seemed that one is disallowed from doing anything other than comply with the law by implementing it in letter and spirit!
In the Nigerian context though, budget implementation is a vague term often used interchangeably with budget utilization, and refers to how much of the budget has been disbursed to the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government. Note again that disbursement does not mean the funds have been spent or the intended results attained. However, in an ideal situation, disbursement should be a measurement of how the finances are spent and translated to visible projects in the country.
As noted in the last column, our entire budget process in Nigeria is vastly bureaucratic and opaque. It is also not anchored on any collective national vision, clear strategy and well thought-out programmes. It is an annual ritual for politicians and public servants to slice the fiscal pie into various expenditure sub-heads that often fail to improve the welfare of the rest of us. The process therefore involves various stages and terminology that are deliberately designed to confuse, obfuscate and create space for subsequent ‘flexible’ implementation of the budget. In the advanced and rapidly-developing economies, the budget process is highly transparent, devoid of gobbledygook and timely. Drafts, preparations and submissions between the legislature and executive are completed as and when due without any unwarranted overlap from one year to another, while being anchored on a coherent national development vision and strategy.
A typical example is the 2012 United States federal budget which was presented to Congress in February 2011 and enacted in November 2011, just a month into their fiscal year. The budget was signed into law almost immediately without need for any ‘discussions’. On the other hand, our 2012 federal budget was submitted to the National Assembly (NASS) in December 2011, barely a month before the commencement of the fiscal year in January. The 2012 Appropriation Bill was finally passed by NASS in March and it took a complete month for the President to sign it into law barely escaping a constitutional violation. By that time, we were neck deep into the second quarter of the year, but the bureaucrats and politicians are happy. This is because, the recurrent budget which these days is nearly three-quarters of the entire budget was being drawn down and spent by them even before the bill was signed into law!
The budgetary system in Nigeria is therefore pervaded by lots of distortions and perverse incentives which begin from the conception to completion; corruption is involved in all stages before passing it into law. After the budget is signed into law, Expenditure Warrants are issued to all MDAs. Expenditure Warrants are instruments issued by the Minister of Finance authorizing the Accountant-General of the Federation to issue necessary mandate for the purpose of cash-backing monies to MDAs. The warrants are issued on a quarterly basis to MDAs purposely to execute the projects contained in the annual budget. This system allows for flexibility within the MDAs to determine their project priorities. The warrant system also removes the restrictions that prohibit MDAs from initiating procurement process without funding in place. The two downsides are that the fiscal flexibility of the warrant system allows for reckless spending in many cases, and delays the commencement of procurement processes which can take months before contracts are awarded. Meanwhile, the funds when available to MDAs remain in non-interest yielding bank accounts.
Where do AIEs come in? MDAs are mandated to spend within the allocation in the Appropriation Act. However, in cases where there are unforeseen expenditures which were not reflected in the budget preparation e.g. price escalations due to exchange rate fluctuations, MDAs apply to Budget Office of the Federation (BOF) through the Minister of Finance for utilization of funds for these projects. An Authority to Incur Expenditure (AIE) is then issued to the MDAs for advance release of appropriated funds or for additional funds as required. AIEs are also issued for projects that are not cash-backed but which need to be implemented. AIEs constitute not just an authority to spend, but a public notice to outside parties like contractors and suppliers that the expenditure has the full backing of government.
There is the term ‘cash-backed’ or ‘cash-backing’ which sounds confusing. This refers to real monies that have been disbursed by the Ministry of Finance to the relevant MDAs. It means that the funds are available to the organizations to expend on capital projects appropriated in the budget. Another contentious terminology is ‘virement’. This is the agreed movement of money from one budget heading, to which it has been allocated, to another budget heading. It is used for transferring funds from where they were originally allocated but not stridently required to where they could be spent more meaningfully, immediately. Usually, the President makes his virement spending request known to the NASS and if approved, funds are accordingly redirected. While the current administration has consistently ignored this requirement and flouted the process, lack of thorough research before budgeting preparation and the ‘envelope’ system (explained below) have been identified from experience as the main causes of frequent virements.
The envelope system was introduced by the economic team of 2003 and worked by providing each MDA with a maximum amount for its capital and recurrent needs for the coming fiscal year. Our hope was that the system will force MDAs to make hard choices and trade-offs between investment and consumption, and lay down the basis for massive cuts in personnel and overhead budgets. It worked better then because we started with very low envelopes to MDAs, and gave greater priority to MDAs engaged in physical infrastructure and human development programs. That has changed for the worse unfortunately.
The envelope system is now anti-developmental because rather than have the sub-heads receiving funds on the basis of their needs or targets, the reverse is often the case. Our budget analyses for 2011 and 2012 contained many examples of that. What is happening since 2010 is that certain indefensible amounts are assigned to favored MDAs and then the budget templates are filled to cover all the funds assigned. It is therefore hardly surprising that certain MDA projects are cash-backed but not implemented. They simply have no projects to execute – no project designs, no bidding documents, procurement processes commenced too late and so on! Meanwhile, other less favored MDAs with ongoing projects have no funds to settle certified payments.
Sometimes, supplementary budgets are needed in the course of the fiscal year. This is an expenditure statement introduced to provide funds to the government to meet new, unexpected or additional expenses in a current fiscal year. In countries like the US, supplementary budgets are drawn to fund emergencies or major challenges in the economy because their budgets are usually carefully researched and considered before they become law. In Nigeria, because of our dependency on the fluctuations in oil prices, sometimes an unexpected rise in oil price presents an opportunity to pass a supplementary budget and introduce imaginary new projects or expand the scope of existing projects, for spending of whatever surplus funds earned. The introduction of the Excess Crude Account (ECA) in 2004 helped reduce that particular type of appetite, but the ECA has become so often raided these days by the government that it is almost irrelevant as a ‘rainy day” fund.
From the foregoing, some of the failures in budget implementation stem principally from the absence of a coherent national development vision and economic strategy to guide budget formulation and programs design. Furthermore, the Ministry of Finance’s multiple controls of the Treasury and, the Budget Office, while at the same time acting the de facto planning and monitoring agency of the government, has made a weakened National Planning Commission simply a spectator. It is pertinent that the vision and strategy be clearly articulated and debated by Nigerians, while MDA roles should be properly delineated so as to provide checks and balances in the system.
THE BUDGET CONUNDRUM (1) – BUDGETING PROCESS by Nasir @elrufai August 10, 2012Posted by seunfakze in CHANGE, POLITICS.
Tags: budget, Elrufai, Nigeria
The nation’s attention has once again been captured by controversy over budget implementation. Indeed, the House of Representatives has passed a motion sponsored by my brother Femi Gbajabiamila threatening the commencement of impeachment proceedings against President Jonathan unless the administration rapidly improves on budget implementation. The Jonathan administration reacted in the hapless ways we have all become accustomed to. Honourable Gbajabiamila was accused of a non-existent offence, convicted by the PDP and called upon to resign, while high percentages of budget implementation were claimed by the executive branch. Both turned out to be indefensible at best and usual Jonathanian falsehoods at worst.
So what is the truth? Should policy directions anchor national and sub-national budgets? How are budget priorities determined and who does? How are budgets prepared, reviewed and implemented? What do all the jargons like expenditure warrants, Authority to Incur Expenditure (AIEs) and Cash-Backing mean? And what does sound budgeting mean for our political economy and progress as a nation? What can we learn from the past when things worked slightly better? And what country experiences are available for Nigeria as lessons for the future? We intend to spend the next couple of columns explaining budgeting and addressing some of these questions. Our hope is that our citizens will be better enlightened about the subject and demand accountability from those in power.
In the past several weeks, we have analyzed federal and states’ budgets; their context, content, effectiveness and relevance to critical development challenges. We came across wasteful spending, wrongful priorities and the absence of clear cut developmental visions and plans for the states and the federation as a whole. While the Federal Government has a statement of intentions for 2011-2015 encapsulated in a pathetic-27 page “Transformation Agenda” and a dodgy Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF), most of the states did not even attempt that, and certainly had no articulated visions, plans and medium-term programmes to anchor their annual budgets.
Development theory and experience support the proposition that budgets need to be predicated on long-term visions, economic strategies and plans to be effective instruments of societal progress. Unfortunately, this is not the case for most of post-Independence Nigeria. Either the national or states’ government budgets are not anchored on coherent visions and plans or where there are development plans, the budgets are at variance with the visions. We will summarize our national experience in development planning and budgeting to throw some light on this disconnects between vision and budgeting which has become exacerbated since 2007.
Worse still, besides policy incoherence and perhaps in consequence of implementation discontinuities, Nigeria has been plagued by the phenomenon of abandoned projects. Recently, a Federal Government committee found that N2.7 trillion has been expended on about 11,800 abandoned projects which currently require another N7.28 trillion for completion. According to the House of Representatives, the Niger-Delta Development Commission (NDDC) only completed about 1,550 out of 5,100 contracts, a 30% performance without even analyzing the quality of the projects and spending.
Similarly, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is alleged to have wasted over N300 billion on uncompleted projects in the four barely-functioning petroleum refineries. These and other examples point to a fundamental malaise – our failure to articulate a national vision, coherent economic strategy, national development plans and annual budgets to translate these into concrete outcomes and progress.
The importance of focusing on the national visioning and development planning process and their link to the budget cannot be over-emphasized. Unfortunately, this is not always the case in Nigeria. As a consequence, at all levels of government – federal, states and local government, budgets are at variance with government’s visions and plans. While the federal government has had various national development plans, at the state levels, governments do not have any articulated development visions and plans.
In the last fifty years, a handful of countries have transformed their countries from low to middle and high-income through careful visioning, sound development planning and focused implementation under competent leaderships. China has not only grown at more than 10% per annum on average for 30 years, but lifted more than 400 million people out of poverty since the leadership began implementing economic reforms from 1978. The five step process to replicate this feat is (1) articulation of national vision of progress and prosperity (2) consensus on a national economic strategy to attain the vision (3) preparation of medium-term development plans pursuant to the agreed strategy (4) preparing and legislating annual budgets to translate the development plans into real outcomes, and (5) the disciplined and focused implementation of the budgets and feedback to the next development plans.
We will first describe the federal government budgeting process today, which is also similar to what obtains in the states to enable us benchmark it against what has resulted in real progress in other countries. The first step in budget preparation begins around August of the preceding budget year. The President issues directives to the Minister of Finance and Budget Office to propose a budget in line with the federal government’s vision for Nigeria.
This is followed by producing a medium-term fiscal framework (MTFF), mandated in the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) of 2007. The MTFF shows projected expenditure and revenue plans for a few years in advance. It is important to note that the FRA explicitly states that aggregate expenditure should not exceed aggregate revenues by more than 3% of national GDP.
Next in the budget preparation process are stakeholders’ consultations. This entails consulting with the international financial institutions, donors and national assembly (NASS) leadership on the broad budget direction, size and proportions. Then Ministry, Department and Agencies’ (MDAs) expenditure ceilings are set; that is each MDA is given an envelope – a maximum amount available for its recurrent and capital expenditure needs for the following year. The medium term sector strategies (MTSS) for MDAs are then prepared by the Budget Office, which translate into Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) for presentation and approval by the Federal Executive Council. It is expected by then that the NASS has approved the MTFF which will be the foundation for the annual budget.
After all the above is done, the Minister of Finance then issues a budget call circular which is like a framework for the MDAs to prepare their budget proposals, but within their ‘envelopes’. When the MDA budgets have been verified to comply with the requirements, the draft is forwarded to the President for his approval after which if satisfied, is presented to a plenary session of the Federal Executive Council for approval. The President then forwards it to the two houses of NASS.
The budget is a ‘money bill’ which is required by our constitution to be passed by the two houses, but clearly, the House with its 360 members and more representative of the Nigerian population, has the upper hand in event of disagreements with the Senate. Our constitution gives the Senate a greater say in presidential appointments, but confers inherent superiority to the House with respect to appropriation of public funds. Like every bill, the Budget – referred to as Appropriation Bill or Supplementary Appropriation Bill – goes through a First (or Introductory) Reading and debate in plenary sessions. It is then referred to the Appropriation and other sector committees for more detailed review and scrutiny to move the Bill to the Second Reading.
At this point, the various MDAs are invited to justify and defend their draft budgets in a way similar to “public hearings”. For instance, the Minister of Information and his staff defend the budget of his ministry and its parastatals before the NASS committees on Information or Media and so on. And it is at this point, MDAs ‘lobby’ NASS committee to increase their allocations, re-introduce projects that may have been screened out or rejected by the Executive Branch and promises of financial “quid pro quo” for budget distortions negotiated and agreed. The respective projects and numbers which constitute the revised budget are now referred back to the two houses for debate and passage in plenary sessions.
It is unlikely that the two houses will come up with the same list of projects and numbers which make up the budget for presentation to the president for assent. Some degree of harmonization is often necessary and the two houses usually appoint a Conference Committee to undertake this with equal membership from each. In the unlikely event that the Conference Committee fails to agree, the two houses go into a joint house to vote on the budget – a process that ensures that the House version of the Money Bill is passed for assent.
As soon as the budget has been harmonized, the finalized Appropriation Bill is sent to the President for his assent within 30 days. In the event the President fails to assent, the Bill lapses unless passed by two-thirds majority of the NASS thereby no longer requiring presidential assent. Once enacted the budget becomes a national law which cannot be changed or modified in any way without recourse to the legislature. The States and FCT go through a similar process of budgeting. What then happens after this point?
Tags: Ayittey, Nigeria
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Constitutional Convention/Sovereign National Conference — Taking Back Nigeria
Nigeria should have avoided the dreaded African disease – failed state. It was configured on the basis of federalism at independence in 1960. But federalism ran into problems, which originated from two key pieces of legislation. The first was the 1951 Macpherson Constitution. This replaced the 1947 Richards Constitution which created three houses of assembly for the three different regions: the North, the East and the West. The new Macpherson Constitution set up a House of Representatives and a Council of Ministers at the center. The ostensible reason was to secure a more unified government. But it came at a crushing political cost, concentrating enormous powers in the hands of the Federal government. The military, dominated by the northern Hausa, captured and monopolized the state for 29 years of Nigeria’s independence.
The second was a 1970 law that in effect gave all mineral rights in Nigeria to the federal government. Revenues were then, in theory, distributed throughout the country. The states could not raise their own revenues, relying upon hand-outs from the central pot, according to the population in the states. Because of this set-up, there have always been disputes over population censuses. Fierce competition inevitably developed among politicians, organizations, state governments and the various ethnic groups to capture the central pot or at least gain access to it. Said Beko Ransome-Kuti, the civil rights leader: “Politics is seen as a way of gaining access to fantastic wealth.” Much time is wasted over how to share the spoils of office. This stirred ethnic chauvinism. The group that dominated the administration handed out the best jobs and contracts to its friends and kinsmen. The ethnic minnows left out clamored for their own states and even threaten secession (the Biafran War of 1967). New states were created for some: seven more in 1976, two more in 1987 and nine in 1993. The Ogoni in the Niger Delta are the latest clamoring for their own state. Their grievances are real. They sit on top of billions of dollars of oil reserves. But “we get no benefit from it, absolutely none,” complained Chief Edward Kobani, a senior elder of the Ogoni. Now, the total number of states is 36. But the creation of more states is not the solution since progression along this route may well end up with the creation of 250 states.
A Comprehensive Approach
There are so many problems to fix at once. But there is a danger in attempting constitutional and institutional reform enumerated above on a piecemeal, ad hoc basis. When such efforts are not coordinated, reform may prove futile. It is like fixing up the engine of a vehicle with new spark plugs, carburetor, etc. But one won’t get anywhere if the battery is dead or the tyres are flat. Similarly, one may clean up the police service but if the judiciary is still corrupt, little progress would be made. One may also attempt to reform the system by forming a new political party but it won’t get anywhere as powerful godfathers control the electoral machinery and decide who wins and who loses. Or one may try to set a good example by being a good governor. A few governors are doing so; for example, Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State, Obong Godswill Akpabio opf Akwa Ibom State, and Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State.
While such reform efforts by individual governors are admirable and commendable, they are piece-meal and are most likely to be fiercely resisted by the political mafiosi, placing the governors’ own lives in danger. Indeed, such was the case of Governor Oshiomhole of Edo State. He tried to govern well, spending some of the state’s oil revenue on schools, roads and other infrastructure during his four years in office. But that angered the political godfathers because he was not supposed to do that. So, they made several attempts to kill him. Mercifully, they failed and he won re-election on July 17, 2012. Read more here http://bit.ly/OGqRw3.
At the national level, President Goodluck Jonathan, after winning the election in 2011, brought Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former director of the World Bank. She was given a 3-year task of overhauling Nigeria’s economy, riven with corruption and rent-seeking. She insisted on control of all economic ministries, not just finance. “At public events she asked to be introduced as the “coordinating minister for the economy and the minister of finance” (The Economist, March 3, 2012; p.62). Though she did a stellar job in securing a cancellation of $12 billion of Nigeria’s debt when she was finance minister from 2003 to 2006, she is unlikely to achieve much reform this time around. Again, it is piecemeal reform by individual governors or ministers and they would face resistance at every turn and targeted by the political thugs, who benefit from the rotten status-quo. Already Ms Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has received numerous death threats, although she puts on a brave face about them: “If vested interests, benefiting from corruption, are attacking left, right and center, then you are doing something right. The degree of attack is a barometer,” she says (The Economist, March 3, 2012; p.62). In fact, President Jonathan would also face similar resistance if he attempted such reform. It is not necessary to take such risks.
The reform effort has to be collective and comprehensive and there is a vehicle for doing so – called the sovereign national conference or a constitutional convention, which looks at all the problems in relation to one another. It must have delegates, not only from political parties and civil society groups but also from ethnic and religious minority groups to hammer out a new political dispensation, as well as a new constitutional configuration that decentralizes power and establishes regional autonomy. Such a set-up takes the issue out of the hands of politicians and allows the people to “own” it and take back their country. A good constitution begins by assuming that the state is a “predatory monster” and the head of state is a bandit or crook – not a “Messiah” to be worshipped. Thus, the constitution serves to protect the people against the state.
The constitution convention must also wrestle with the issue of democracy: Whether the Western form (multi-party majority vote), the indigenous form (based on consensus) or a hybrid would be more suitable for Nigeria. The Western form has some demerits. First, majority rule can result in tyranny by the majority when minorities are excluded from the spoils of power and decision-making process. Nearly all the civil wars in post colonial Africa were started by politically marginalized groups. Second, the Western-style multi-party democracy entails campaigning, advertising, influence-peddling, political rallies, etc. This can be extraordinarily expensive and uniquely favors the corrupt incumbent regime with access – both legal and illicit – to state resources. Third, the Western form absorbs resources that a poor country can devote to development. Fourth, the Western form of multi-party elections always result in allegations of fraud, violent protests, arrests, needless deaths and chaos. Consider these few examples;
• Ethiopia, May 2005: Over 500 deaths and over 40,000 arrests and detentions.
• Kenya, Dec 2007: Over 1,200 killed after the disputed elections.
• Zimbabwe, March 2008, scores killed
• Ivory Coast, Nov 2010, over 100 killed following a stalemate, which produced two presidents, reigniting the threat of civil war.
Even then, the Western form seldom results in change of regime. Dictators do not lose elections. In fact, for all of 2010, multi-party elections in a host of countries (Belarus, Burkina Faso, Burma, Egypt, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, and Venezuela) did not bring regime change. It resulted in stalemates in Guinea, Iraq, and Ivory Coast (with two presidents). In Iraq, the March 2009 elections produced no clear winner and for nine months, the country was without a government. Nor is the Western form fail-proof. Afghanistan’s president, Hamid Karzai, stole the November 2009 presidential election right under the noses of occupying NATO forces and UN election monitors.
Is a fraud-prone system that produces so much violence, chaos, and deaths, which by the way does not remove an incumbent dictator, really worth it? The Western form of multi-party can result in a stalemate, where no candidate wins 50 percent of the vote, necessitating an expensive run-off. It may also happen that, in the parliamentary system, a party may not win enough seats to form a government, necessitating a coalition government. The Italian political experience is one of coalition governments that barely hold together for two years in office. Nigeria’s own experience with multi-party elections should provide sobering answers
Can an alternative system be tried? Obviously, if the 153-member World Trade Organization (WTO) can take its decisions by consensus, so too should Nigeria or any other developing country. Remember that consensus is already part of the decision-making process in traditional societies. Why force a system which is alien on them to satisfy Western donors?
Consider this alternative: Allow members of a group to choose their leaders for a national assembly. Then select the president or head of state from these group leaders – a two-stage election process that cuts down on waste of resources and fraud. Such was the case for Afghanistan.
Afghanistan’s traditional vehicle for decision-making in the loya jirga, of which there are two types: One called by the people themselves at the time of national crisis to deliberate and decide upon matters of war and peace, election of Amir or King, and restoration of national sovereignty and national independence. Secondly, when the circumstances and rules of the game compel the ruler or leader to consult people with regard to urgent and important matters, like enactment of fundamental law, ratification and endorsement of treaties reached with outside powers and defense of territorial integrity and national sovereignty. According to afhaniland.com, the loya jirga has been part and parcel of Afghanistan’s political heritage with following held:
• 1707: Mirwais Khan Hotak held three Jirgas to help the people of Afghanistan to liberate western part of Afghanistan from the ruthless Saffavid ruler, Gurgin.
• 1747: Held at Sher-i-Surkh near Kandahar City, chose Ahmad Khan, later Ahmed Shah Abdali, as king. Influential elders and leaders of Abdali and Ghilzai tribes, as well as representatives of other ethnic groups, especially Uzbeks, participated.
• 1915: Called by Amir Habibullah Khan to seek the approval of the jirga for maintaining neutrality in First World War.
February 1923, July 1924, and August 1928: Called by King Amanullah Khan to fight British imperialism and demand complete independence.
• September 1930: Called by Nadir Khan to approve the rules of business for millie shura (national council).
• July 1941: Convened by Zahir Shah to deliberate n the Afghan position vis-a-vis Second World War.
• November 1955: Called during the Prime Ministership of Sardar Daoud Khan, which raised the issue of Pakhtunistan under the conditions that Pakistan had come into being as inheritor of all British rights and obligations in the area.
• February 1977: Convened by Daoud Khan to legitimize his rule, pass new constitution, elect new president, get approval for launching of his national revolutionary party and ratify some laws and agreements reached with other countries.
That was the system that ensured peace and stability in Afghanistan. After April Communist Revolution in 1978 and the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union in December 1979, jirgas were held with limited results. However, in late 2001, a loya jirga was convened under the aegis of the United Nations in the German city of Bonn to map out Afghanistan’s future. The chairman was Ismail Qasim Yar and the representation of the council was as follows:
• 2,000 delegates
• 1,051 elected members
• Guaranteed seats for 160 women
• 53 seats for current government
• 100 seats for Afghan refugees and six for internally displaced Afghans
• 25 seats for nomads
On June 13, 2002, Hamid Karzai was elected as president of incoming interim government of 18 months. Of the 1,555 votes cast, he received 1,295 (83 percent). The other contestants, Dr. Masooda Jalal and Mahfoz Nadia, received 171 (11 percent) and 89 (6 percent) respectively. The United Nations said 1575 votes were cast and that 20 were declared invalid. A fourth candidate Glam Fareq Majidi was disqualified before the vote because he garnered only 101 signatures of support.[ The full composition of the Loya Jirga Commission can be found at http://www.afghanland.com/history/loyajirga.html%5D
It is worthy of note that, at that Bonn loya jirga, there the voters had a choice – list of candidates to choose from. But there was:
• No expensive campaigning or advertising
• No vote buying
• No allegations of fraud
• No violence
• No intimidation
• No deaths
There was nothing wrong with this system. The traditional loya jirga could have been refined and improved to serve as the basis of a modern government. The delegates were either elected by the people, appointed or chosen tribal leaders. The total number of votes cast was small – only 1,555, making it impossible to commit fraud or steal votes. But the power-brokers at the Bonn loya jirga were not particularly interested in tribal concepts. According to afghaniland.com, “Many delegates believe the United States and other powerbrokers have cut deals circumventing the loya jirga process” (http://www.afghanland.com/history/loyajirga.html).
Cutting deals had the potential of introducing an element of corruption into the process. It was therefore no surprise that Hamid Karzai turned out to be scrofulous corrupt scoundrel who stole the November 2009 election with little credibility and legitimacy. The US Attorney’s office began a criminal probe of his eldest son, Mahmood, for alleged corruption in land deals (The Wall Street Journal, Oct 22, 2010).
The Village Meeting/National Conference
The Afghanistan model was a hybrid of the traditional and the modern systems of governance. In fact, such a combination had earlier been tried in Africa. When a crisis erupted in an African village, the chief and the elders would summon a village meeting. There the issue was debated by the people until a consensus was reached. During the debate, the chief usually made no effort to manipulate the outcome or sway public opinion. Nor were there bazooka-wielding rogues, intimidating or instructing people on what they should say. People expressed their ideas openly and freely without fear of arrest. Those who cared participated in the decision-making process. No one was locked out. Once a decision had been reached by consensus, it was binding on all, including the chief.
In the early 1990s, this indigenous African tradition was revived by pro-democracy forces in the form of “sovereign national conferences” to chart a new political future in Benin, Cape Verde Islands, Congo, Malawi, Mali, South Africa, and Zambia. Benin’s nine-day “national conference” began on Feb 19, 1990, with 488 delegates, representing various political, religious, trade union, and other groups encompassing the broad spectrum of Beninois society. The conference, whose chairman was Father Isidore de Souza, held “sovereign power” and its decisions were binding on all, including the government. It stripped President Matthieu Kerekou of power, scheduled multiparty elections that ended 17 years of autocratic Marxist rule.
Congo’s national conference had more delegates (1,500) and lasted longer three months. But when it was over in June 1991, the 12-year old government of General Denis Sassou-Nguesso had been dismantled. The constitution was rewritten and the nation’s first free elections were scheduled for June 1992. Before the conference, Congo was among Africa’s most avowedly Marxist-Leninist states. A Western business executive said, “The remarkable thing is that the revolution occurred without a single shot being fired . . . (and) if it can happen here, it can happen anywhere” (The New York Times, 25 June 1991, A8). Unfortunately, General Sassou-Nguesso did not accept his defeat graciously and overthrew, with the help of France and Angola, the civilian government of Pascal Lissouba in October 1997.
A similar national conference in Niger in 1991 denounced the military dictatorship of Colonel Ali Seibou and stripped him of his power, leaving him with one main task: To organize the transition to civilian rule. “For the first time since the independence of the country in 1960, free and fair elections were held and in March 1993, Mahamane Ousmane became the newcomer in the political arena” (West Africa, Dec 6-12, 1999). [Ousmane subsequently turned out to be a corrupt, incompetent buffoon, who brought the country to a standstill because a rift between him and his prime minister. He was ousted by General Ibrahim Mainassara in a coup in January 1996 and the general himself was assassinated three years later by the head of his own presidential guard, Colonel Dauoda Wanke in 1999.]
In South Africa, the vehicle used to make that difficult but peaceful transition to a multiracial democratic society was the Convention for a Democratic South Africa . It began deliberations in July 1991, with 228 delegates drawn from about 25 political parties and various anti-apartheid groups. The de Klerk government made no effort to “control” the composition of CODESA. Political parties were not excluded; not even ultra right-wing political groups, although they chose to boycott its deliberations. CODESA strove to reach a “working consensus” on an interim constitution and set a date for the March 1994 elections. It established the composition of an interim or transitional government that would rule until the elections were held. More important, CODESA was “sovereign.” Its decisions were binding on the de Klerk government. De Klerk could not abrogate any decision made by CODESA — just as the African chief could not disregard any decision arrived at the village meeting.
That model could have been used as a basis of government with the 228 delegates forming a National Assembly, taking its decisions by consensus, with the president of the country chosen among the delegates or the governors of the regions either by rotation, acclamation or by vote. Thus, the country would save the resources wasted on multi-party elections and universal suffrage. In fact, the de Klerk government had exactly the same idea in mind.
During the negotiations, de Klerk’s government pushed for a two-phase transition with an appointed transitional government with a rotating presidency. The African National Congress (ANC) pushed instead for a transition in a single stage to majority rule. Other sticking points included minority rights, decisions on a unitary or federal state, property rights, and indemnity from prosecution for politically motivated crimes. But besides establishing an interim government and a date for the elections, CODESA could not reach an agreement on the other sticky issues, including the structure of the state (unitary versus federal). There are several reasons for this failure.
First, Frederick de Klerk probably found himself in the untenable situation as Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991. The apartheid government had created nominally independent Bantustans of Transkei, Ciskei, Bophuthatswana and Venda but they were regarded as artificial geographical creations where blacks, cleansed from the white areas, were dumped. The idea of according them sovereignty did not sit well with the black majority. Second, while de Klerk’s idea of a two-phase 5-year transition with an appointed transitional government with a rotating presidency was brilliant, there was widespread suspicion it was a trick to entice the black majority into another form of white domination. Third, like Gorbachev in 1991, de Klerk also failed to anticipate and manage opposition from his side to his ideas. Negotiations were nearly scuttled by the following incidents:
• The Boipatong massacre of June 1992 took place, with 46 residents of Boipatong killed by mainly-Zulu hostel dwellers. Mandela accused De Klerk’s government of complicity in the attack and withdrew the ANC from the negotiations.
• In Sept 1992, the ANC program of “rolling mass action” met with tragedy in the Bisho massacre when the army of the nominally independent “homeland” of Ciskei opened fire on protest marchers, killing 28.
• On April 10, 1993, Chris Hani, leader of the South African Communist Party and a senior ANC leader were assassinated by white right-wingers
• In June 1993, the right-wing Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging stormed the World Trade Centre in Kempton Park, breaking through the glass front of the building with an armoured car and briefly taking over the CODESA negotiations chamber.
Fourth, the ANC was in no mood for rule by consensus; it preferred majority rule. And fifth, CODESA attempted to tackle too many sticky issues at once in too short a time.
The failure of CODESA to restructure the state led to the retention of the unitary state system and, inevitably, the emergence of its perennial problems: drift toward a de facto one-party statism, political domination by the ANC, the arrogance of power, vapid corruption, insidious attempts to take over and gag the media, among others. These problems led some former members of the ANC to break away and form a new party, the Congress of the People (COPE), in 2008. A recent case was that of Raila Odinga, who broke from the ruling KANU in Kenya to form the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) in 2005.
A constitutional convention or sovereign national conference should restrict itself to:
a. The political configuration of the state (unitary, federal or confederal);
b. The nature of government, making state institutions work by cleaning them up. Sack the IGP or the Chief Justice if they are not doing their jobs;
c. Set up a permanent Directorate on corruption to prosecute the corrupt and retrieve the loot.
“Sovereign” means decisions arrived at by consensus are binding on all and cannot be overturned by anyone. The Constitutional Conference organized by the late dictator, General Sani Abacha in July 1994 was a sham. First, the selection of the delegates was suspiciously controlled and, second, it was not sovereign.
Who to Start the Process
Clearly, the vehicle exists — in Nigeria or Africa itself — for peaceful transition to democratic rule or resolution of political crisis. But no one individual, organization or political party can fix Nigeria. It would take a COLLECTIVE effort and decisions must be reached by CONSENSUS in the true African tradition. A hybrid of the traditional and modern is the sovereign national conference. But who should initiate the process?
It should be abundantly clear that the leadership and the corrupt politicians cannot be trusted to initiate the reform process. In fact, they are not even interested since – like maggots – they thrive on the rot. Even if they attempt to, they will seek to control the outcome of such national conferences or constitutional conventions as Abacha did. They may bend if considerable external pressure is brought to bear upon them, as was the case in Guinea-Bissau. In January 1999, President Joao Bernado Vieira of Guinea-Bissau and rebel chief, Ansumane Mane, agreed to a transitional government to organize elections for the country in March 1999. “Under the terms of a peace deal signed in November 1998 in Abuja, Nigeria, the warring factions agreed to share power through a transitional government until the elections” (Daily Graphic, 12 January 1999, 5). In the case of Nigeria, external pressure is out of the question. Immense domestic pressure must be brought to bear on convening a sovereign national conference. If the politicians won’t convene such a conference, perhaps pointers may be drawn from traditional Africa.
In the Igbo traditional system, the Ama-ala is convened in the marketplace or a ward square to deliberate on pressing issues.
“At the assembly, the elders laid the issues before the people. Every man had a right to speak, the people applauding popular proposals and shouting down unpopular ones. Decisions had to be unanimous…If the Amaala acted arbitrarily and refused to call the assembly, people could demand it by completely ignoring them and bringing town life to a halt (a village strike!). By ignoring and refusing to speak to an unpopular elder, social pressure often compelled the elder to bend to the popular will. The village assembly was considered the Igbo man’s birthright, the guarantee of his rights, his shield against oppression, the expression of his individualism, and the means whereby the young progressive impressed their views upon the old and the conservative (Boahen and Webster, 1970:170).
This view is supported by Harris (1987):
“The village assembly characterized Igbo democracy. It was there that the elders presented issues to the people, everyone had a right to speak (freedom of expression), and decisions had to be unanimous. The village assembly therefore was a body in which the young and old, the rich and poor could be heard. Every citizen’s participation was possible and important. Decisionmaking could often be timeconsuming, but the slow procedure guaranteed greater individual participation (p.121).
Similarly, in the Yoruba traditional system, if the council of chiefs failed to act to remove an incompetent oba from office as a result of arbitrary or tyrannical action, the people may initiate a procedure known as kirikiri. “A mob would parade through the town or countryside loudly abusing him and ending at his residence, which was pelted with dirt and stones. If he did not leave the country or commit suicide within three months, then a select band of men seized and killed him” (Carlston, 1968:182).
Of course, it is not being suggested here that President Goodluck Jonathan be killed but Nigerians are capable of a revolution; it is in their DNA. To bring pressure to bear on the corrupt politicians, they may stage a village (national) strike or OCCUPY the National Assembly.
Rad the other parts from I to VIII
Boahen, A.A. and J.B. Webster (1970). History of West Africa. New York: Praeger.
Carlston, Kenneth S. (1968). Social Theory and African Tribal Organization. Urbana: University of Chicago
Harris, Joseph E. (1987). AfricansaAnd Their History. New York: Penguin.
Tags: Ayittey, Giant, Nigeria
Nigeria – A Broken and Failed State: The Solution
A clear distinction must be made between the people and the state in Nigeria. The people are not the problem; it is the state that is broken. Metaphorically speaking, the state-mobile is kaput: Brakes don’t work; the engine leaks oil; the tyres are flat; the battery is dead and the headlights are broken. In other words, the brake system, electrical system as well as other systems in the vehicle do not do what they are supposed to do. Add to this scenario, a bad driver and one can well imagine the double-trouble.
Similarly, a failed state is where the institutions of the state do not work or fail to do what they are supposed to do. They do not provide reliable supply of electricity, clean water, sanitation, health care or other basic social services and infrastructure. Neither do the police and military officers provide security or peace. Judges are often on the take and members of the National Assembly are more interested in giving themselves hefty salary increases and emoluments than serving the people. Lawlessness is the order of the day because the police either can’t enforce the law or are themselves law-breakers.
Even under the so-called democratic dispensation following the election of President Obasanjo, police and security forces carried out attacks on the media to avenge perceived criticism or to uphold directives given to them by state authorities — despite the fact that freedom of expression and of the media is guaranteed by the CONSTITUTION. In 2004, a wave of intimidation and brutal attacks on the press spread across the country. None of the perpetrators were brought to justice. A few examples taken from the 2004 World Press Freedom Review:
• A correspondent for the African Independent Television (AIT) station, Joseph Nafoh, was assaulted on 27 March by a group of men allegedly acting on orders from Boniface Kobani, a councillorship candidate for the People´s Democratic Party (PDP) in southern Nigeria. While trying to capture incidents of multiple voting and electoral fraud on film, Nafoh was attacked and his camera was taken before police officers at the polling centre. The police did not attempt to arrest the attackers. Nafoh´s camera was returned to the AIT office on 29 March by State Commissioner for Information Magnus Abbey, but his tape had been removed.
• On 25 June, a group of policemen in Osun State, southwestern Nigeria, beat Gbenga Faturoti of the Daily Independent newspaper almost to the point of unconsciousness. O. C. Agboromoti, an assistant superintendent of police at the Osun State parliament ordered officers to attack the journalist. Faturoti was beaten because he had not turned off his mobile phone while reporting at the House of Assembly. After being slapped in the face, manhandled and dragged from the building he was arrested and detained for several hours.
• Kola Oyelere, a correspondent for the privately owned Nigerian Tribune in Kano State, northwestern Nigeria was arrested by police on 4 July and charged with publishing false information after the publication of a story entitled “Panic in Kano? As Fresh Crisis Looms.” Before he was arrested, he was declared, “wanted” by the police and charged under six sections of the penal code. Oyelere said that while in police custody he was repeatedly beaten and tortured and was refused access to his medication for typhoid fever. On 8 July, he was released by Kano police and the charges against him dropped.
• On 9 July, two journalists, Lawson Heyford of The Source and Okafor Ofiebor of The News were arrested and detained for their alleged association with Pastor Joe Alatoru, who had accused two senior police officers of taking bribes from him. Police officers from the Rivers State Security Agency’s Special Operations Squad (SOS) arrested the three individuals and told them they would face trial for trying to frame two police officers. The journalists were detained for over 18 hours before the charges against them were dropped. While little explanation was offered as to why the journalists had been detained in the first place, the Media Foundation for West Africa condemned the arrest as an example of the abuse of power that police authorities use whenever a news report threatens them in any way.
These incidents can be multiplied a hundred-fold. But the police and SSS were not alone. Politicians, controlled by powerful and corrupt god-fathers also took the law into their own hands and used their own private militias or hired thugs to manhandled or kill political opponents. On Nov 10, 2004, two public radio stations in the southeastern state of Anambra were vandalized and torched. The conflict began when supporters of State Governor Chris Ngige interrupted a meeting of supporters of a rival local politician Chris Uba. Fighting ensued between the two groups and later that night over 100 pro-Uba supporters stormed public radio stations in two separate communities and attacked staff members. They tied up and beat the staff before setting fire to the studios. There have been hundreds of such incidents of violence which plagued the country as people were incited by politicians to aggressively challenge opposing political leaders.
According to a 2007 Human Rights Watch Report, the real sources of power in Nigeria have been the wealthy political godfathers who finance an epidemic of election-related violence that killed at least 300 people in the flawed election in 2007. Electoral rules were openly flouted and ballots were no match for the bullets of the gangs hired by politicians to rig the vote.
“The conduct of many public officials and government institutions is so pervasively marked by violence and corruption as to more resemble criminal activity than democratic governance,” the report said. It spelt out in stark detail the contracts made between politicians seeking office and the rich kingmakers who back them in exchange for kickbacks from government coffers. It also described the brutal means used by criminal gangs to sway elections, including intimidation and assassination, in the 2003 and 2007 elections, both of which were marked by violence, fraud and administrative incompetence. For example,
“One state covered in the report, Anambra in the southeast, offered a particularly explicit example of the intersection of godfather politics and gang violence. In Anambra, Chris Uba, a powerful chieftain in the People’s Democratic Party, once boasted of personally placing virtually every elected official in office.
The report includes a copy of a contract signed by Mr. Uba and his protégé Chris Ngige, who won the governor’s race in 2003 with Mr. Uba’s financial backing. Mr. Ngige promised in the contract to “exercise and manifest absolute loyalty to the person of Chief Chris Uba as my mentor, benefactor and sponsor” and gave Mr. Uba control over many appointments and the awarding of all government contracts.
The document refers to Mr. Ngige as the “Administrator” and to Mr. Uba as “Leader/Financier.” It empowered Mr. Uba to “avenge himself in the way and manner adjudged by him as fitting and adequate” if Mr. Ngige failed to live up to the bargain.
Mr. Uba fell out with Mr. Ngige soon after the election and tried several times to remove him. Mr. Ngige signed a letter of resignation with a gun to his head in July 2003, the report says. Neither Mr. Uba nor Mr. Ngige could immediately be reached for comment.
A court later threw out Mr. Ngige’s resignation, but in 2006 the Federal Court of Appeal ruled that he had been elected fraudulently, and his opponent from 2003, Peter Obi, was installed as governor.
In the 2007 election, Mr. Uba arranged for his brother, Andy, a close adviser to Obasanjo, the former president, to win the party’s primary as nominee for governor, using a feared street gang known as the Buccaneers to clear voters from polling stations while gang members marked the ballots. “In the primaries we carried axes and machetes and chased away any voters that came near while we were voting,” one member of the Buccaneers told Human Rights Watch.
“The authors of Anambra’s worst abuses — including murder, illegal possession of weapons and the wholesale rigging of the 2007 electoral process in the state — continue to enjoy complete impunity for their crimes,” the report contends. Similar political arrangements involving godfathers, politicians and gangs were detailed in the report in three other states, including regions in the largely Muslim north, the oil-rich Niger Delta and the restive southwest, home to the Yoruba people.
Little has changed since then: An Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, chieftain and four others were on July 21, 2012 caught with stuffed ballot boxes in Remo North Local Government, Ogun State, Southwest Nigeria. They were allegedly intercepted at ward 01, Ishara by the Nigerian police.
The Crux of Nigeria’s Problems
The crux of Nigeria’s myriad of problems stems from complete break-down or absence of the rule of CONSTITUTIONAL law and total government dysfunction. It seems no one follows the Constitution. Politicians don’t; neither do the police or even President Goodluck Jonathan, who doesn’t “give a damn” about the Constitution. Any aggrieved person or group can take the law into their own hands and wreak vengeance or havoc and settle scores. It is like driving on the road without any TRAFFIC LAW. The ensuing result is the chaos, wanton carnage and deaths we are all witnessing.
The obvious solution is to enforce the law. ALL must obey the same traffic law; that is, ALL, regardless of tribe, religion, creed or gender must obey the same CONSTITUTIONAL LAW. State institutions – the Executive, Legislature, Judiciary and everybody else must respect and obey the Constitution. It is a socio-political contract between the state and the people. It defines the functions of the state and the rights of the people. But, above all, underlying the Constitution is a set of beliefs and principles such as freedom, equality and justice that unite a people. For example, what unites Americans is the concept of liberty.
I began these series by pointing out the necessity of having laws in society – just as traffic laws are needed on the road. Six laws may be distinguished: Natural, contractual, statutory, customary, religious, and constitutional laws. Customary law is the cord that keeps a tribal society together. Similarly, the Constitution is the yarn that weaves the fabric of a modern nation together.
Let me ask you this: What keeps Nigeria together? The color green? The flag? Religion? Tribe? What? The obvious answer should be the Constitution that enunciates a set of beliefs and principles ALL Nigerians believe in. But if nobody follows the Constitution then there is nothing that holds Nigeria together. In this case the country could disintegrate into a failed state because, in the absence of constitutional law, other types of laws – tribal, religious (the sharia) and even gangster law – emerge to fill the vacuum. Nigeria’s problems are not due to tribalism, religion, nepotism, or even corruption. They are merely symptoms of a disease. The root cause of that disease is lack of CONSTITUTIONALISM. The Constitution comes before tribe, religion, gender and anything else. The Constitution should be the supreme law of the land; it is above all and trumps all laws.
The destruction of Nigeria began under 29 years of arrant misrule by MILITARY vagabonds and bandits, who suspended the Constitution and ruled by decree. No Nigerian should ever ever forget that. Worse, the transition to democracy managed by military coconuts was a sham and what obtains today is fake constitutional rule.
How to Fix Nigeria
Fixing Nigeria would require major structural and institutional reform. Like a broken down vehicle, the brake system, electrical system and other systems must be repaired. Similarly, Nigeria’s state institutions must be cleaned up – the executive, the legislature, the judiciary, law enforcement, etc. The blueprint for doing so is the Constitution. The 1999 Constitution is flawed; for example, Section 308 that grants immunity from prosecution to state governors and the president needs to be repealed. A new constitution will obviously be needed and will have to clip the powers of the presidency, the executive and establish some checks and balances between the legislature and the judiciary. In addition, it will have to restructure the state – from the unitary state to a federal or confederal in which there is much greater decentralization of power and devolution of authority. It must also establish a permanent Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime, where all cases of corruption – petty or grand – shall be reported. This Directorate must be independent of the Executive; that is, the director cannot be appointed by the president. It must have its own budget and must be relatively autonomous in order to do its work. It shall report to Parliament. The Directorate should also seek to recover loot worth over $1 trillion that corrupt politicians have stashed abroad. Botswana has established such a Directorate successfully: http://bit.ly/JrexdM
Though Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution is flawed, the institutions it established can be made to perform better. In fact, all human rights violations, vapid cases of corruption and poor governance emanate from the absence or non-performance of the following 7 key institutions:
1. An autonomous National Assembly, that provides oversight over the Executive and thus checks and balances,
2. A free and independent media to ensure free flow of information. Smart strategy would privatize the state-owned media – especially the radio. It is the medium of the masses and has such power.
3. An independent judiciary is essential for the rule of law. Supreme Court judges in Nigeria, for example, may be rotated within a region.
4. An independent Electoral Commission that is made up of representatives of all political parties, not just packed with government appointees.
5. An independent central bank: to assure monetary and economic stability, as well as stanch capital flight.
6. The establishment of a neutral and professional armed and security forces to protect the people and not fire on them or protect the bandits in office.
7. An efficient and professional civil service, which will implement policies and deliver essential social services to the people professionally and not on the basis of ethnicity, religion or political affiliation.
The first six are the requirements for a functioning democracy. The two great anti-dotes against corruption are an independent media and an independent judiciary. And all seven are critical in ensuring “good governance.” The United Nations defines it as the process of decision-making and the process by which decision are implemented (or not implemented). “It has 8 major characteristics: It is participatory, consensus oriented, accountable, transparent, responsive, effective and efficient, equitable and inclusive and follows the rule of law. It assures that corruption is minimized, the views of minorities are taken into account and that the voices of the most vulnerable in society are heard in decision-making. It is also responsive to the present and future needs of society” (http://www.unescap.org/pdd/prs/ProjectActivities/Ongoing/gg/governance.asp),
Since “god governance” is extremely difficult to define, perhaps an analogy would help in grasping te concept. One may not like the shape, style or color of a car but ALL cars must have an electrical system, brake system, cooling system, suspension system, transmission system, etc. Each system is INDEPENDENT of the others and has a SPECIFIC function to play. You cannot mismatch them by asking, for example, the brake system to serve as steering. When all systems are operating normally, the car is said to be in GOOD WORKING CONDITION.
Similarly, a Constitution may not be perfect but ALL Constitutions specify or have institutions such as parliament, the judiciary, the executive, civil service, etc. Each institution has a specific function to serve and institutions are to society what systems are to a car. When ALL the institutions of society are working well and doing what they are supposed to do professionally and efficiently, then GOOD GOVERNANCE is said to prevail.
To work well, each institution has its own internal control mechanism – or “code” — to police and cleanse itself. For example, the civil service has the civil service code and then there are the military code, the police code, bar code and even academic code. The codes enjoin members of that particular institution to uphold certain professional and ethical standards. Some of these codes can be found in the Constitution. For example, the civil service and police codes debar civil servants and police officers from taking bribes. Thus, to deal with such cases of petty corruption, the codes need to be enforced. It is pointless to punish bribe takers without enforcing the codes. Similarly and more generally, institutional reform can be achieved by simply enforcing the respective codes of the various institutions.
When an institution is dysfunctional, you do NOT ask the president to fix it because that violates the separation of powers. A “conflict of interest” is involved since you cannot ask the president to reform an institution that is supposed to check his arbitrary use of power. Besides, each institution is supposed to cleanse itself. For example, if a judge is corrupt, you do NOT ask the president to sack him. The judiciary is supposed to be independent of the executive. Go to the Judiciary Commission, ask it to enforce its own code and sack the corrupt judge.
NOTE: Separation of powers and checks and balances require INDEPENDENT institutions. All three go together. If your institutions are subject to control by the Executive or political interference, then they are weak and not independent. If your institutions are not independent, then you do NOT have separation of powers and checks and balances in your political system.
Recall the statement by President Barak Obama in Accra in July 2009: “Africa doesn’t need strong men; it needs strong institutions.” Strong men do NOT build strong institutions. The strength of an institution is determined by how professional and efficient that institution is, which depends upon how it enforces its own CODE. For the Government of Tanzania to set up a Ministry of Good Governance reflects total and complete lack of understanding of the concept.
The purpose of having checks and balances is to ensure that one center of power does not careen recklessly out of control. If the Executive acts recklessly, Parliament can impeach the president or remove him with a “no confidence” vote. Or if Parliament acts irresponsibly, the president can dissolve it and call for fresh elections. And if Parliament passes a law that is outrageous, the Supreme Court can throw out that law as “unconstitutional.” This is what is meant by checks and balances.
Most countries in Africa flunk the three key tests for democracy – a freely-negotiated constitution, separation of powers and checks and balances. Even some of the 14 democratic countries in Africa in 2012 do NOT pass these tests. They are: Benin, Botswana, Cape Verde Islands, Ghana, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Nigeria, Kenya, Sao Tome & Principe, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zambia.
The Economist Intelligence Unit’s annual democracy index ranks only one African country, Mauritius, as “full” democracy, though it uses tough criteria that count countries ike much praised Botswana as “flawed” democracies” (The Economist, March 31 – April 6, 2012; p.57). In Ghana, for example, the president appoints the Speaker of Parliament, all the Supreme Court Judges, the Governor of the Central Bank, the Electoral Commissioner, the Inspector General of Police, among others. This absurdity not only violates the principle of separation of powers but also obliterates any checks and balances in the system. Cameroon, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda and host of other countries do not meet these tests.
It is absolutely important to stress that these concepts – a freely negotiated constitution, separation of powers and checks and balances – are not new or alien to Africa. They are all embedded in our traditional political system.
The three units of government at the village level are: The Chief, the Council of Elders and the Village Assembly. These three centers of power are all independent and separate from each other. There are checks and balances in that system. The Chief cannot remove a Councilor but he can be removed from office by the Council of Elders and Councilors themselves can be removed by the people. In the larger polities, confederation was the common form of political organization. Confederation entails decentralization power and devolution of authority, which means multiple centers of power that are separate and independent. There are checks and balances in that system too. The most elaborate can be found in the Oyo Empire, which was in existence even before the US gained its independence in 1776. For more on the Oyo Empire, see this link: http://bit.ly/IDkJBh
It should be obvious by now that bad vehicles produce bad drivers. Similarly, bad constitutions produce bad leaders and bad governance. Any constitution that concentrates enormous unchecked power in the hands of one person will produce a tyrant. And a constitution that does that has no checks and balances because it subordinates the other institutions – for example, the legislature and the judiciary – under the executive.
Each institution is supposed to be on “auto-pilot,” cleansing itself to ensure that it is working well. If not, the public can get involved to make sure that the institutions do what they are supposed to do. For example, in this day and age, mobile phones with cameras are everywhere. Snap pictures of police officers taking bribes and present them to the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to punish the bribe takers for violating the Police Code. If the IGP repeatedly fails to do so, agitate continuously for his sacking. This approach is “focused”; it provides evidence and targets the IGP to solve a problem within his jurisdiction. The same approach – focused pressure — can be applied by civil society with respect to cleaning up the National Assembly, the judiciary, etc.
Just as each institution is required to police itself, the government as an entity too is required to do so through this process. The government has a Comptroller-Accountant-General, Auditor-General and Attorney-General. These are the 3 key officials to target in the war against corruption. Each year, the Comptroller-Accountant-General is required by law or the constitution to submit an accounting report of all government expenditures, both at home and abroad in the embassies. This report must be submitted to the Auditor-General within a specified period of time. The Auditor-General goes through the expense account with a fine comb, noting suspicious payments, financial irregularities and malfeasance. For example, suppose he noticed that $40 million has been spent by the Ministry of Education to build three classroom blocks. He may query this in the Auditor-General’s Report. The Auditor-General’s Report must, within 90 days, be submitted to three key entities: the President, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the National Assembly (Parliament) and the Attorney-General. Upon receipt, the PAC may haul in the Minister of Education to explain how his ministry spent $40 million on three classroom blocks. If the Minister is unable to answer satisfactorily and PAC suspects embezzlement, it may refer the case to the Attorney-General for prosecution and recovery of the loot. Then the Attorney-General hands the case over to the State Prosecutor to seek conviction in court. In a federal system like Nigeria, exactly the same mechanism is replicated at the State level. There are the State Comptroller-Accountant-General, State Auditor-General, State Attorney-General and Public Accounts Committee in the State Legislature.
Fortunately, the normal cleansing system is beginning to work in Ghana and Tanzania. In Ghana, the 2010 Auditor-General’s Report was duly produced and submitted. A sharp-eyed MP, Hon Ken Agyapong, noticed that a huge sum of GH¢58 million or $37 million had been paid to one individual, Alfred Woyome, a self-acclaimed financier of the ruling party, as judgment debt when he had no contract with the government. The MP began asking questions that ultimately led to the eruption of the “Woyome corruption scandal.” To make matters worse, the Auditor-General attempted to correct what he claimed were errors in his report: That only GH¢17 million, and not GH¢58 million was paid to Mr. Woyome in 2010. But Mr. Woyome himself said GH¢58 million was paid to him. So who was telling the truth? Could the Attorney-General, Betty Mould-Iddrisu help? It turned out that it was she who put pressure on the Finance Ministry to pay the judgment debt. At first, the President, John Atta-Mills, claimed he knew nothing about the payment to Mr. Woyome. Then, later, he said he tried to stop the payment on two occasions. Suddenly, cabinet was reshuffled and the embattled Attorney-General became the Minster of Education and Martin Amidu became the Attorney-General. But the heat was getting too hot. The new Attorney-General, in a news conference claimed some senior members of the ruling party were beneficiaries of the Woyome largesse. He was immediately fired; later, Betty Mould-Idrisu, the former Attorney-General, resigned. There are calls for the Auditor-General too to resign. Presently, Woyome is on bail as his case winds through the courts. Hopefully, the loot will be recovered.
Tanzania is another country that is beginning to do things right. The Auditor-General Report was released on time and the media had a field day: http://bit.ly/HMEiWW The cost of bloated government bureaucracy and financial malfeasance were scandalous. Irate MPs on the Public Accounts Committee demanded action: http://bit.ly/IdDOu8. The public outcry forced the president, Jakaya Kikwete, to act by sacking six ministers on May 4, 2012::
• Mustapha Mkulo, minister of finance
• William Ngeleja, minister of energy and minerals
• Ezekiel Maige, minister of tourism
• Omari Nundu, minister of transport
• Haji Mponda, minister of health
• Cyril Chami, minister of industry and trade
The “ministry of energy, which oversees the lucrative mining sector, and ministry of tourism – two of the major revenue generators for the government, were criticized most in the Controller and Auditor General’s annual report” (BBC News Africa, May 4, 2012). The sacked ministers should be prosecuted and the loot recovered.
Parliament too must obey the Constitution. In Ghana, it acted wrongly in July 2008 when it ratified a Sale and Purchase Agreement (SPA) on the sale of Ghana Telecom to Vodafone without the President’s signature. http://bit.ly/M7QVBh. Finally, Nigeria’s Supreme Court is awakening to enforce the CONSTITUTION. What took it so long? http://bit.ly/Mmb5Uz
In short, there would be good governance if everyone follows the Constitution and each institution does what it is supposed to do under the Constitution.