Abuja, 15 September 2016. The Civil Society (CSO) Advisory Committee for the European Union (EU) funded Project, “Support to Anti-Corruption in Nigeria”, has restated its strong support for the Federal Government’s war against corruption, saying most of the criticisms of the efforts are instigated by powerful interests as part of a wider strategy to avoid being held accountable for their corrupt practices.
In a statement issued in Abuja at the end of their seventh meeting, the group of civil society organizations constituting the Advisory Committee to the project, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to remain steadfast in his commitment to rid the country of its unflattering reputation as a haven for corruption and corrupt people. The Committee advised the President to be wary of elements within and outside his government who are determined to scuttle the anti-corruption crusade to serve their personal interests.
The Committee welcomed Nigeria’s membership of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) and commended the Buhari Administration for completing the formal processes to make Nigeria the 70th member.
It stressed that Nigeria’s membership of the OGP should not be an end in itself but should be seen as an important process of implementing a range of governance reforms which will help to make government more transparent, accountable, participatory and responsive to the needs of citizens, and ultimately curtailing the unacceptably high levels of corruption in the country.
Accordingly, the Committee called on the Federal Government to expedite the setting up of a National Steering Committee for the OGP and begin immediate development of its National Action Plan through a consultative and participatory process that will ensure the active involvement of citizens and civil society organizations and which will process a set of key governance reforms that Nigeria proposes to undertake to improve governance as well as to reduce corruption.
The Committee also called on the Federal Government to take urgent steps to implement the United Nations Resolution committing States to protect civil society space. It expressed concern that since the Buhari Administration came to power, Nigeria has consistently voted against UN resolutions on the protection of human rights defenders as well as on the protection of civil society space.
It stressed that these developments and ongoing efforts by the National Assembly to pass laws to regulate and restrict civic space were contrary to the spirit of the OGP and inconsistent with international norms and standards, arguing that the government could not hope to succeed in its reform agenda without robust citizen and civil society support and engagement.
The Committee welcomed various initiatives being implement by the UNDP and its partners under the project, particularly those aimed at improving the capacity of CSOs to develop and implement anti-corruption activities as well as strengthening the partnership between civil society and government in the area of anti-corruption. It commended the UNDP and its partners for the initiatives.
It highlighted some of the initiatives as the training of CSO representatives and the launch of a plan to support CSOs to monitor public procurement processes in Federal public institutions and subsequently at state and local government levels, being implemented in partnership with the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP); the award of grants to 10 CSOs across the country to undertake anti-corruption actions after a rigorous selection process; and a plan to train representatives of CSOs on Corruption Risk Assessment in the coming weeks, being organized in partnership with the Anti-Corruption Academy of Nigeria (ACAN), the training arm of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission (ICPC).
Stakeholders present at the meeting, which was held in Abuja on September 7, 2016, included Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC), Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Centre for Social Justice (CENSOJ), Publish What You Pay (PWYP), the Integrity Organization, the Muslim League for Accountability (MULAC); and the Zero Corruption Coalition (ZCC).
Institutional members represented included the United Nations Office for Drug and Crimes (UNODC) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).