“Nigeria is committed to the protection of IDPs Rights” – Speaker Dogara

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt Hon Yakubu Dogara, has assured that the House of Representatives is putting all legislative structures in place to ensure that the rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs) are protected at all times.

A statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Mr Turaki Hassan, said the Speaker gave this assurance while receiving a delegation from the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) in his office on Monday.

Speaking on Nigeria’s domestication and ratification of the UN Kampala treaty on the rights of refugees, the speaker said efforts are on top gear by the relevant committees  to conclude all work on the document and submit in plenary for further legislative action.

Dogara explained that “?The bill for the proposed North East Commission and the Kampala Commission are before the commission and sooner or later, the report will be brought before the House in plenary for consideration and hopefully we’ll pass it and in no distant time, it will be ratified.”

He also informed the delegation that the House, in recognition of the plight of IDPs and the need for their rehabilitation and resettlement, and to find lasting solutions to the problem, set up a committee that is in charge of IDP related issues, as well as passed a bill to set up the North East Development Commission.

Dogara further added that it is not acceptable that the over 2 million displaced persons are asked to return to their communities until the causative factors are sorted out and security provided in the affected areas.

“There is no way we can do that unless we bring the conflict to an end and it makes no sense, absolutely no sense, for anybody to insist that people displaced should go back to their communities, knowing that chances are there that they may be attacked and then the conditions that gave rise to the crisis are not totally eliminated,” he stated.

The speaker also noted that there is no way that democracy can thrive if the lives of  citizens are not secure.

“As it is said, democracy is a promise that deals with life and the pursuit of happiness. All other promises of democracy cannot come through unless there is life ?so that is the most important promise of democracy.”

Earlier, leader of the UNHCR delegation, Assistant High? Commissioner in charge of protection of rights of refugees and IDPs, Mr Volke Turk, urged the speaker to expedite action on the domestication and ratification of the UN convention on the protection of the rights of refugees in the House of Representatives.

He said the ratification of the treaty will be an “extremely valuable contribution” to the protection of the rights of refugees.

 

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Poverty, Politics and Policy – X-Raying Buhari’s Social Protection Programmes By Murtala Adogi Mohammed

One of the Key Performance Indicator KPI, Nigerians would use in assessing the current administration is how many Nigerians Buhari and Osinbajo were able to lift out of poverty.  President Muhammadu Buhari has budgeted 500 Billion approximately 9% of the total budget to lift poor Nigerians out of poverty. While details of the implementation of the scheme are being worked out and would be rolled out once the budget is approved by the National Assembly.

The poverty reduction strategy would center on six key social protection programmes to be coordinated by the Office of the Vice President OVP, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo with an effective inter ministerial involvement. Recently, Vice President Osinbajo emphasized that “The collective wealth will be invested in phased social programmes that will lift majority of Nigerians from poverty”

Social Protection refer to the set of policies and programs aimed at preventing or protecting all people against poverty, vulnerability, and social exclusion throughout their life cycles, with a particular emphasis on vulnerable groups. Social protection can be provided in cash or in kind, through non-contributory schemes, or poverty-targeted benefits such as social assistance or social safety nets, contributory schemes with social insurance being the most common form, and by building human capital, productive assets, and access to productive jobs.

Today, the need for social safety nets as a poverty reduction strategy is a critical concern for governments across the globe and for the billions of men, women, and children striving to improve their livelihoods. As interest in and the use of social safety nets keep growing, countries struggle to make social safety net interventions more effective.

Nigeria cannot afford to be left behind. There is strong body of evidence that in other countries the scheme ensure poor families can invest in the health and education of their children, improve their productivity, and cope with shocks,” said Arup Banerji, the World Bank Group’s Senior Director for Social Protection and Labour.

In Nigeria – Office of the Vice President would be coordinating the following six schemes that aimed at lifting Nigerians out of poverty. They are:

  1. The Teach Nigeria Scheme (TNS): Where the federal government plans to directly hire 500,000 graduates as teachers. Under the scheme government will hire, train and deploy the graduates to help raise the quality of teachers in public schools across the nation. 2. The Youth Employment Agency (YEA): Where between 300,000 to 500,000 non-graduate youths would be taken through skill acquisition programme and vocational training for which they would be paid stipends during the training. Government expects that they would then become self-sustaining members of their communities. The selection of the youths for this scheme would also be per states and FCT.
  2. Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT): Where government would pay directly N5000 per month to one million extremely poor Nigerians this year on the condition that they have children enrolled in school and are immunized. 4. Homegrown School Feeding (HSF): Where the federal government would serve one meal a day to students of primary schools. Those familiar with the scheme said it would be implemented in collaboration with state governments.5. Free Education Scheme For Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM): Where tuition payment would be paid for about 100,000 STEM students in tertiary institutions in the country. The government is also proposing, in the 2016 budget, to spend about N5billion on this particular scheme.6. Micro Credit Scheme (MCS): Under the MCS, the Federal Government would give N60bn loan to one million artisans and market women and men.

I refer to the above listed six items, as Buhari’s poverty reduction strategy. I have some pockets of worries, observation, and recommendation that center on the design, implementation and the evaluation mechanism of the Social Protection Programmes SPP.

The politics side of the programme is that we politicize everything in Nigeria, if not handle with caution this might not be exceptional. Most of the Nigerian politicians have no sense of social protection; so they cannot even think of designing, and much less, implementing programmes aimed at attacking poverty frontally…to them this is something new and I suggest must be handle with care. Some of my concerns are Nigerian factors such as the politicization of the beneficiaries’ selection process, weak public-civil servant capacity, weak institutions at the state and local level to coordinate the scheme, all these are something worth noting – more need to be done in the areas of strengthening the institutions and capacity of personnel most especially from the project coordinating unit at central level down to the grassroots communities

Another huge challenge the scheme might likely face is paucity of data. For Nigeria to find its way into the global centralized database, of social protection scheme called ASPIRE we need to locally develop a robust database system.  ASPIRE (Atlas of Social Protection Indicators of Resilience and Equity) data- base, includes key country- and program-level indicators for social protection and labor programs.

 

SPP as a new policy of the Buhari’s administration is a welcome development, but the one million-naira question is, is it possible to separate the policy from politics? Nevertheless, the crux of the matter is that a working guideline of each of the scheme is needed; it would help in understanding the relative merits of a number of factors before making decisions. There is need to also have Nigeria Social Protection Strategy, Social protection national strategies and policies are in place in 77 countries and developing in another 31(according to World Bank Report 2015).

Given the multi-sectoral nature of social protection programme, Nigerian government should institutionalize mechanisms that would enhance and strengthen coordination of social protection strategies across different ministries, agencies, and regional and local bodies. The design and implementation of the policy demand institutional arrangements and joint actions with other public sectors, often including social development, health, education, and employment.

In 2011, was I working with British Department for International Development DFID as Education Adviser, northern Nigeria office, I was involved in the designed, implementation and evaluation of education-based Conditional Cash Transfer CCT project funded by World Bank, DFID with counterpart funds from Kano state government, I came to realized that, from experience, three main mechanisms support the administration and management of social protection programme: the registration of potentially eligible individuals or households for the allocation of social benefits (social registry); the registration of beneficiaries of social protection interventions (beneficiary registry) statistical software is required here for sieving the most realistic vulnerable target population; and monitoring and evaluation systems. These instruments would ease the functioning of social protection systems and increase the levels of management efficiency and effectiveness.

These tools are information systems to track budgets, the number of beneficiaries, and key performance indicators that facilitate process of evaluations to identify implementation issues and propose strategies to address key bottlenecks; and systematic, periodic impact evaluations to assess whether programs are achieving their intended outcomes.

At this stage of SPP design, I think Nigeria need to carefully study the success stories of other nations that succeeded in implementations of social protection programmes. For instance, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger are building social safety net systems comprised of public works and cash transfers, coordinated at the central and local level. The Productive Social protection program in Ethiopia has inspired all. At a different level of development, the Arab Republic of Egypt is building a system of coordinated programs that will cover the poorest households with conditional and unconditional cash transfers and public works, using its own experience of creating a registry of beneficiaries using smart cards, and learning from the lessons of implementing nationwide coordinated approaches in Mexico and Pakistan.

The ultimate goal of social protection programmes SPP is to help individuals and societies manage risk and volatility by increasing their resilience to shocks such as the current decline in global oil price; making societies more equitable by sharing resources to help the poor and vulnerable avoid destitution; and improving access to opportunities generated by economic growth.SPP interventions contribute to achieving all three goals: resilience, equity, and opportunity if suitably implemented

Murtala Adogi Mohammed, mamurtala@gmail.com

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Environmental Protection: Pathway To Sustainable Development By Alabede Surajdeen

No nation will attain the pinnacle of her social, economic and political dream without taking cognisance of the environment her citizens live in. The environment is the habitat that sustains man and other living organisms from time immemorial, but, it’s quite unfortunate that the environment has suffered a great deterioration over the years owing to man’s activities that have led to the depletion of natural resources  such as air, water and soil.

Perhaps, people have failed to realise that we have a right and responsbility to protect the environment because it’s all we’ve got. Our survival on earth is greatly threatened by the increasing global warming which is caused by man’s attitude to his environment.  Indeed, the late Human rights activist and environmentalist, Ken Saro Wiwa once asserted that, “Environment is human’s first right. Without a safe environment, no one can exist to claim other rights be they social, economic or political.”

What prompted my curiosity of putting a pen to pad is the way Nigerian government turned deaf ears and blind eyes to environmental  istration led by President Muhammadu Buhari for his recent intervention on the Ogoni Bill of Rights of 1990. On Wednesday, August 5, 2015, Buhari ordered the fast-tracking of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) recommendations   in Ogoni Land, this progress many have described as one of the most significant decisions taken so far by the president since his inauguration into office on May 29, 2015. The oil-instigated ecological disaster experienced in this region did not only affect the well-being of the people, but also destroy their farmland, drinking water and aquatic animals.

The spirits of the late Saro Wiwa and the other Ogoni activitists who were killed on 10, November 1995 during the military government of Gen. Sani Abacha would be pleased with President Buhari for his directive on the cleaning up of the Ogoni land, which had long been abandoned by past administrations including that of Goodluck Jonathan, who is from the S/south region of the country. Be that as it may, we will not rest, shiver nor quiver in agitating for the right of the environment because there are still one thousand and one environmental challenges that the government is yet to attend to.

It is pertinent to note that for every tree being pulled down or burnt without replacement, man is directly exposed to ultra-violet rays of the sun and add to the green house effect of the atmosphere due to the release of carbon dioxide (Co2) which causes global warming. Little do we know that for every bush burning action, millions and thousands of species of plant and animal go extinct. There is every tendency that generations unborn will not live to see some animals. As if that is not enough, the exhaust gas such as methane (CH4), chlorofluorocarbons (CFCS), carbon dioxide (Co2) from our industries exacerbate humans’ health. No wonder Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) in its recent research carried out on livelihood ranked Lagos state 4th worst city to live in the world.

More so, for each chemical discharge in water bodies by our industrialists, millions and thousands of aquatic animals are left to face the destiny of an untimely death. But, for how long will this continue? Human beings out of their ignorance have forgotten that the environment is a feedback system, in the sense that every negative interaction with the environment will give birth to negative effect on man’s health and vice versa. For the purpose of education, it is very important to cite that NEMA made it known that the 2012 flooding exercise witnessed in Nigeria cost federal government N2.6trn. Money that supposed to be channelled into other sector if necessary measures and precautions had been put in place  are now used to cater for flood victims in the  affected regions.

We should all know that it is not over until it is over, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. If the Nigeria government can take responsibility of working on environmental legislation, ethics and education as a tool towards achieving maximum environmental protection, then  our environment will be better for it and the coming generations will be pleased with us. As a matter of urgency, we must also take tree planting as important, because it has been identified as one of the easiest and cheapest ways to curb climate change.

The government should revisit all environmental laws as stipulated in the 1999 constitution, the National Environmental Standards and Regulation Enforcement Agency (NESREA) Act (2007), Federal Solid and Hazardous Waste Management Regulations (1991), Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Act. Cap E12, LFN 2004 and many more. Through this laws environmental protection, planning, pollution, prevention and control would be achieved. Also, symposium, seminars and conferences should be organised for community people so as to change their perception, behaviour and attitude towards the environment.

The United Nations (UN) recognised the importance of environment protection when it included “Protecting the Planet” as part of the 17 goals of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It wouldn’t be a bad idea for Nigeria’s policy makers to include environmental courses as part of our curriculum at both secondary and tertiary levels of institutions. I strongly believe if all this can be achieved, we will have a hazard-free environment, well informed citizen that will use available resources in meeting their present needs without jeopardising the future of the unborn and less amount of money will be used to mitigate future environmental challenges.

I will love to end this piece with the words of the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki Moon, who charged Nigerian and Africa youth to always advocate for climate justice by playing their part in preserving the climate. “Youth should say this is our world, this is where we live and we should preserve it.  The sooner we engage in sustainable path, the better for our world.”

ALABEDE Surajdeen is a political commentator, environmentalist and a serving corps member in Delta State.

Twitter handle: @BabsSuraj         Gmail: alabedekayode@gmail.com

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Jonathan Seeks Protection, Plans to Protest Buhari’s Move To Probe $2.1bn Deduction From ECA

Former President Goodluck Jonathan, who has been holidaying outside the country has dashed into Abuja to launch a protest against Buhari’s plan to probe the $2.1 billion said o have been deducted from the Excess Crude Account.

Former Minister of Finance, Okonjo-Iweala had admitted last week the former president ordered her to withdraw $2.1bn from the Excess Crude Account (ECA), to “pay” fuel subsidy. This was despite her initial denial of the withdrawal of such fund without the approval of the Federal Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC).

But while President Buhari is said to have concluded plans to probe into the fund, Jonathan, according to a source who pleaded not to be named “because of the sensitivity of the matter” is disturbed by the determination of the president to initiate the probe.

Jonathan is said to be planning a protest to the Gen. Abubakar Abdulsalami National Peace Committee for 2015 General Elections that:

•the Buhari administration is trying to blackmail him and his erstwhile cabinet members;

•he is not pleased with the corruption tar being put on his administration; and that

•he is worried by the likely probe of the whereabouts of the $4billion taxes and dividends paid by the Nigerian Liquified Natural gas Ltd between 2009 and 2014.

Jonathan and some of his ministers are said to be angry that Buhari ought to know that such taxes and dividends are remitted to the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).

Another matter troubling Jonathan and his ministers, according to sources, is how the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) under his watch allegedly blew N3.8trillion in three years.

The Abdulsalami Committee is yet to have audience with Buhari on the allegations made by Jonathan, a source said.

The former President arrived in the country last weekend to “defend his administration”. He could not be reached for comments last night.

It was, however, learnt that he had chosen to table before the Abdulsalami Committee some issues, including the controversial $2.1billion withdrawn from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) without recourse to the National Economic Council(NEC).

A source said: “The former President returned into the country at the weekend but he is unhappy with the bashing of his administration.

“Jonathan believes that Buhari is blackmailing him and his ministers, contrary to the terms of the 2015 poll peace agreement which led to a smooth transition from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC).

“I think Jonathan approached the Abdulsalami Committee so that he will be left alone by Buhari who openly said he inherited an empty treasury from his predecessor.”

A former minister in the Jonathan administration, who spoke in confidence, said: “The ex-President is unhappy that the administration of Buhari has been stigmatising his administration instead of putting him into confidence on issues.

“For God’s sake, let them allow this man to earn his well-deserved retirement. If there is any observation by the new government, there are standard official procedures of addressing such.”

NEC, on June 29, raised a four-man panel on how NNPC spent N3.8 trillion in three years.

The four ‘wise men’ are Governors Adams Oshiomhole (Edo), Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom), Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna) and Ibrahim Dankwambo (Gombe).

While awaiting the submission of the committee’s report, Oshiomhole joined issues with the immediate past Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on how $2.1billion in ECA was disbursed without approval.

He said the $2.1 billion, only $1 billion was paid to oil marketers as fuel subsidy and about $1billion used for election purposes.

Although Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala claimed that the ex-President approved the spending of $1 billion, Oshiomhole said Jonathan had no right to do so.

He said any withdrawal from the account ought to be approved by NEC.

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