Nigeria’s Second African Peer Review of our governance systems is currently on going. It is conducted by a broad based Steering Committee under the chairmanship of Senator Ken Nnamani. Last week, a stakeholder’s sensitisation workshop for the six states in the North East took place in Gombe on the objectives of the peer review process.
It will be recalled that Nigeria had been peer reviewed in 2008 and we are the first country to do a second peer review. The APRM is the “centre-piece” of NEPAD’s good governance initiative and programmes voluntarily entered into by a number of the member states of the African union. Nigeria was one of the first African countries to accede to the APRM in 2003.
The African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) core principles, derived from the Declaration on Democracy, Political, Economic and Corporate Governance (2003), are (i) ethics and Accountability in Government; (ii) Robust pluralism, notably promotion and protection of human and socio-economic rights, and inclusiveness in public political life; (iii) constitutionalism, including separation of powers, based on the rule of laws; and (iv) decentralisation or devolution of political structures to lower levels of government. The APRM focuses on four thematic areas: (i) Democracy & Good Political Governance; (ii) Economic Governance & Management; (iii) Corporate Governance; and (iv) Socio-Economic Development.
The 2008 Peer Review had praised Nigeria for being able to sustain constitutional democracy beyond the second round election for the first time the country’s history but challenged the country to deepen the democratic process by improving the integrity of elections, tackling rampaging corruption, addressing the problem of the management of diversity, making real democracy functional at the level of local governments and redressing the problem of insecurity.
At the Gombe meeting, stakeholders decried what they called the marginalisation of the North East and agreed with the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics assessment that the zone was the indeed the poorest part of the country. There is virtually no industry in the zone and abundant mineral resources are left untapped. The current situation in the zone today is much worse than at the time of the previous report in 2008. They therefore called for a Marshall Plan to save the zone from endemic poverty and underdevelopment.
The crisis over the generation of electricity was central to the debate. It would be recalled that the 2008 report had chastised Nigeria over its failure to significantly improve electricity supply. The stakeholders in the North East berated successive regimes for the “refusal” to complete the Dadin Kowa dam, which could have solved the problem of electricity supply in the zone.
Some of them claimed that the turbines for the dam had been paid for years ago but no one appears to be monitoring to ensure that they are supplied and installed. Indeed many stakeholders argued that the North East had sufficient water resources to supply the electricity needs of the whole country but there is no political will to develop the resources. Still on energy policy, some stakeholders decried the use of fuel wood for cooking, which is destroying the environment. They pointed out however that if kerosene were available at 55 Naira a litre, it would become cheaper than fuel wood and eliminate the motivation for the on-going rapid deforestation in the zone.
The discussion on insecurity in the North East cantered on the absence of a mechanism of early warning and early response to security breaches. They asked questions why the recommendations in the 2008 report about establishing a national early warning system have still not been implemented. They called for more community engagement is resolving the security challenges facing the zone.
Stakeholders decried Nigeria’s poor engagement in inter-African relations and pointed out that many neighbouring countries had dammed rivers up stream causing problems for Nigeria. The irresponsible release of water from dams in Cameroon causes massive damage in the North East each year and they called on Government to address the problem.
There were extensive discussions on elections and stakeholders called for an improvement of the Electoral Act so that INEC could refuse to accept candidates who were not qualified to contest. They also called for higher educational qualifications for contestants. Many stakeholders also called for the introduction of electronic voting in the country. In concluding the debate on elections, many were of the view that if there is no justice in the 2015 elections, it will be difficult to contain the situation.
The issue of the crisis of education was also raised and in many states in the zone, teacher’s salaries are not paid regularly worsening the crisis of education. Too many young people in the zone are in the streets rather than in schools. There was a passionate debate on the new Islamic (Tsangaya) schools being built by the Federal Government.
Stakeholders were supportive of the initiative but were concerned that the schools were being built long distances away from the cities and were therefore unlikely to attract many students. They called for more consultations with communities so that appropriate locations for the schools could be agreed upon. They also pointed out the need for the establishment of councils of experts to run the schools properly. They also called for the enactment of punitive measures against parents who refuse to send their children to school.
The Steering Committee of the APRM will continue these discussions in other zones of the country and Nigeria’s self assessment report will soon be distributed for comments and input by citizens. It is after that that the Country Review Report will be submitted to the continental secretariat of the APRM for the peer review by African Heads of State.
The report which should provide a rich vein of information, outlining governance achievements and deficits, particularly resource capacity deficits, and recommendations on how to improve and strengthen public policy in the APRM four thematic areas would then feed into a revised National Plan of Action because the objective is not just to assess governance but to improve it.
Dr.Ibrahim, a development consultant and fellow at the Centre for Democracy and Development, CDD, resides and writes from Abuja.