Presentation on theme: "ActionAid International Nigeria www.actionaid.org/nigeria Nigerian CSOs and parliaments Working together for accountable government: Workshop at the CIVICUS."— Presentation transcript:
ActionAid International Nigeria www.actionaid.org/nigeria Nigerian CSOs and parliaments Working together for accountable government: Workshop at the CIVICUS World Assembly, 2006, Glasgow Ojobo Atuluku
ActionAid International Nigeria www.actionaid.org/nigeria Major Engagement with Parliaments National Political Reform Conference 2005 Annual Global Week of Action and other education Issues Freedom of Information Bill Parliamentary Liaison HIV/AIDS Anti- Poverty Issues (national Conference on Poverty Eradication) 2006 etc
ActionAid International Nigeria www.actionaid.org/nigeria Political context A bicameral legislature (Senate and House of Representatives jointly known as the National Assembly) at the national level and a unicameral one (State House of Assembly) at the State level: –Democratic government has been in place in Nigeria for the past five years. –For more than two decades Nigeria has been having political, religious and ethnic conflicts, thus, the persistent insecurity of lives and property. –Challenge of free and fair election; Godfatherism in politics –Lack of opposition party, too many parties (over 30), ruling party is tantamount to the government –The Nigerian poor and marginalized do not have the ability to demand accountability from the elected leaders, (nor the notion that it is their right take an active part in running their own affairs). –Corruption is rampant, (has become endemic) and has persisted at Federal, State and Local Government levels. –Lack of participation in Constitution making and Constitutionalism and other processes –The present government has improved consultation with civil society (but the process is still highly selective and shrouded in secrecy). –The process of policy formulation remains top-down – limiting people participation. –The practice of the (observance of ) rule of law is weak and selective. –The absence of Freedom of Public Information Act, a Fiscal Responsibility or Budgetary legislation –The presence of an Official secrets Law Impact on the scope for CSOs and the National Assembly to work together means that CSOs have to strategically woo the legislators and convince them to give them a hearing An accountable Government is a new process in which even the Parliaments have to fight for space within which to hold the executive to account. However, not even Parliament has an open and transparent process. In short, there is no accountability to the public.
ActionAid International Nigeria www.actionaid.org/nigeria Actors The State of civil society varies across the country with some states have a proliferation of rights conscious organisations and yet others none at all. Generally CSO are nascent, weak, lack finances and institutional capacity. Parliament has been involved in a struggle for relevance with the executive. While it passes laws, the norm is for laws to be flaunted even when they have been specific judgements of courts of superior records in the land. This gave rise to a recent strike action by the well respected Nigerian Bar Association. Parliament has oversight functions over Executive ministries, departments and agencies and periodically do summon public officials to make explanations. Parliament also has approval over ministerial appointments. Parliament has been very supportive in the Freedom of Information bill processes and other processes to enhance accountability. Its latest success and redeeming act in the eyes of many Nigerians is the Parliamentary stance on the Constitutional amendment for presidential tenure elongation which it threw out. On the flip side though is the fact that other very cogent recommendations of the committee were also thrown out.
ActionAid International Nigeria www.actionaid.org/nigeria Incentives and disincentives - As CSO engagement with the National and State Assemblies deepen into issues based relationships, incentives are beginning to override disincentives: - Incentives: -Ability to better meet the needs of the citizenry -Recognition that one good legislation can achieve a decade of CSO advocacy for change - Disincentives: -Godfatherism in Nigerian politics means that a politician may have sold his or her independence to a financer or party power-broker in order to win an election. -Intra-Party mechanisms
ActionAid International Nigeria www.actionaid.org/nigeria Opportunities and barriers Opportunities: –Public Finance issues including budgetary and fiscal issues –More qualified people in the Parliaments –Same targets (MDGs, Anti-Poverty agenda, a better life for constituents) Barriers: –Ignorance and lack of enlightenment e.g. a bill for an Institute for Reproductive Health thrown out as wanting to legalise abortion even though there was nothing in it on abortion –Inadequate funding on CSO part and untimely release of funds on Parliament side. –Parliamentarians Time (they are extremely busy with different pulls on their time especially at certain times of their calendar)
ActionAid International Nigeria www.actionaid.org/nigeria Mechanisms for more accountable working The National Assembly has established processes through which both sectors can engage: –The committee working style of the Assembles mean that there can be specialised and focused interactions. –CSOs can bring in expertise to help the Assemblies to make better analysis and take better decisions. –The establishment of a Parliamentary Liaison by ActionAid has meant that CSOs can gain insider information and be more proactive about engagement opportunities –CSO activities like the publication of a NASS Watch by ActionAid and the TV programme by New Age media on the National Assembly are a couple of examples. –The Public Hearing format sometimes planned jointly by the Assembly Committees and CSOs are also key. –Involving Parliamentarians in CSO activities broadens their horizons
ActionAid International Nigeria www.actionaid.org/nigeria Issues Public Finance Fiscal responsibility Constitutional Reform Education HIV/AIDS Internally displaced persons Etc. CSOs engage in almost all issues
ActionAid International Nigeria www.actionaid.org/nigeria Outcomes of Joint working for accountability Positive results –Mutual respect resulting in space for civil society and interest in their perspectives –Self-consciousness amongst parliamentarians that their constituents are watching and have become aware of their right of recall over them –Sensitivity to public accountability Negative results –There is a real danger of cooption for CSOs
ActionAid International Nigeria www.actionaid.org/nigeria Lessons A major constraint for collaborative and supportive work for CSOs and Parliaments is the lack of understanding and the mutual distrust that both perceive and approach each other with. An understanding of the strengths of each and the opportunities open for working and achieving together are limitless especially in terms of accountability issues In terms of money, it is very cheap to engage parliamentarians and the results are far reaching It is long term, patient work and any inconclusive piece of work cannot translate across a newly elected parliament.