The Stop Impunity in Nigeria (S.I.N) campaign has called on Nigerians to put an end to impunity by paying more attention to their patriotic, civic and ethical obligation. This was contained in a communiqué issued at the end of the two-day workshop organized by the S.I.N Campaign.
The workshop which took place at Bolton White Hotel and Apartments in Abuja, from September 25 to 26, 2013, focused on “Patriotism, Civic and Ethical Responsibility” of citizens as a means of curbing impunity. It was supported by the Ford Foundation.
The workshop was hosted by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), an implementing partner of the campaign. Other implementing partners are: Human Development Initiative (HDI), Community Life Project (CLP) and Media Rights Agenda (MRA). The campaign is being conducted in partnership with the Federal Government public enlightenment institution, the National Orientation Agency (NOA) as well as the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA).
Participants at the meeting were drawn from relevant Federal Government ministries, departments and agencies, civil society organizations, the media and religious bodies.
In his opening remarks, the Executive Director of CSJ, Mr. Eze Onyekpere, said: “to have a sense of civic responsibility is to be an active citizen, to be knowledgeable about public affairs, to vote in elections and to be involved in your community. Civic responsibility is comprised of actions and attitudes associated with democratic governance and social participation”.
Delivering a keynote address at the workshop, the Director General of the National Orientation Agency, Mr. Mike Omeri, noted that: “lack of patriotism and not performing one’s duty as a citizen expose the country to ethnicity, terrorism, tribalism, religious crises and other forms of hatred, including corruption in high and low places.”
In his paper titled, ‘The Mandate and Work of National Orientation Agency – Patriotism, Civic, Ethic Responsibility and Challenges of Impunity’, Mr. Omeri said: “it is unpatriotic to engage in violence and killing of innocent lives. It is unpatriotic to rig election.”
Mr. Onwuso Chibuike Odimma, a lawyer who spoke on ‘Taxation, Patriotism, Civic and Ethical Responsibility and the Challenge of Impunity’, argued that one of the most basic duties of a citizen is to follow the laws of the country. He said citizens must pay taxes because it is their civic responsibility as required by law, adding that “These taxes help keep government running and ensure that the system in place works for all citizens”.
He emphasized that without citizens who respect the laws of a country, the governance system of a country ceases to function effectively, stressing further that penalties exist in society in order to enforce the law and that it is in each citizen’s best interest, duty and responsibility to uphold the law.
Another presenter at the workshop, Mr. Osita Chidoka, the Corps Marshal and Chief Executive of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), said the critical mandate of the FRSC is accident prevention and making roads safer.
He complained that there is gross disobedience to road signs put in place by FRSC by road users, especially those that ply highways, arguing that although FRSC’s activities aim to prevent and minimize traffic accidents as well as educating members of the public on the proper use of the highways, it is the citizen’s duty to obey traffic laws which reduce traffic calamities.
The Director General of the Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON), Dr. J.I Odumodu, in a paper titled ‘SON Mandate In Relation To Civic and Ethical Responsibility’ noted that the illegal manufacture, distribution and sales of counterfeit and sub-standard products has negative social, economic and security impact on the nation.
Dr. Odumodu said in an effort to curb impunity, the SON has launched zero tolerance campaign for sub-standard products through sensitization programmes like rallies in major markets and on-going road shows, establishment of market desks and stakeholders’ forums.
He encouraged Nigerians to shun fake and sub-standard products and insist on the SON mark of quality whenever they are buying any product.
“It is our civic responsibility to provide information for standards enforcement,” he added.
In a communiqué adopted at the end of the workshop, the participants noted that citizens’ claim of rights and entitlements as provided in the Constitution and other enabling laws are founded on inalienable duties because rights and duties are two sides of the same coin.
The communiqué was jointly signed on behalf of the participants by Mr. Eze Onyekpere of the Centre for Social Justice; Mrs. Jacenta Torhee of the National Orientation Agency; Mr. Babatunde Adegbesan of the Publish What You Pay campaign; and Mr. Idris Miliki of the Centre for Conflict Resolution.
They observed that a majority of Nigerians have been making demands on the state without fulfilling their basic civic and ethical obligations.
The participants also noted that at present, citizens’ patriotism and commitment to the Nigerian nation was at its lowest ebb, adding that “there is the pervasive feeling among citizens that the nation has under-achieved in all development indicators compared to its potentials and peers.”
They regretted that “Nigeria lacks a critical mass of advocates exercising the fundamental duty to demand accountability, speak truth to power and question authority over the powers delegated to the leadership through the democratic process,” arguing that “This task has been abandoned to non-governmental and civil society organisations, a few critical voices and certain sections of the media.”
The participants stressed that the level of development and accountability in any society and the performance of its government is directly proportional to the level of demands by citizens for accountability and citizenship, as well as meticulous and scrupulous participation in the governance process.
They observed that there was an absence of a culture of organized charity and giving for noble cause in the country and, as such, those who dedicate their lives to working for public causes are compelled to look outside Nigeria for support to implement their projects and programmes.
The participants called on Nigerian citizens to reaffirm their commitment to the Nigerian nation as “this generation of Nigerians and indeed future generations have no other country but Nigeria”.
They recounted the basic duties of a citizen as enshrined in Section 24 of the Constitution as guide for all Nigerians; including the duties of each citizen to abide by the Constitution, respect its ideals and its institutions, the National Flag, the National Anthem, the National Pledge, and legitimate authorities; help to enhance the power, prestige and good name of Nigeria, defend Nigeria and render such national service as may be required.
Other duties of the citizen are to respect the dignity of other citizens and the rights and legitimate interests of others and live in unity and harmony and in the spirit of common brotherhood; make positive and useful contribution to the advancement, progress and well-being of the community where he resides; render assistance to appropriate and lawful agencies in the maintenance of law and order; and declare his income honestly to appropriate and lawful agencies and pay his tax promptly.
The participants reaffirmed the overriding need for every citizen to ensure prompt payment of income tax as a foundation for any demand for accountability and for Governments at all levels to also ensure an expansive tax regime that is bound by the principles of equity, certainty, convenience, economy, simplicity, neutrality and efficiency.
They called for the introduction of citizenship education in the basic curriculum of schools for young Nigerians to be able to understand the country’s history, learn from it and inculcate the virtues of responsible citizenship.
They called on the Nigerian civil society, including organized labour, academia, the media and NGOs, to rise up to the challenge of nation building and development, adding that the time had come to move away from leaving the field of activism to only a few advocates who can easily be isolated and their demands ignored.
They also called on regulatory agencies to, as a matter of urgency, improve on their oversight and regulation of private sector entities that deliver services to the Nigerian people, adding that the Standards Organisation of Nigeria, the National Agency for Food, Drugs Administration and Control, the Nigerian Communications Commission, among others should improve the quality of their services.
The urged religious institutions to be at the forefront of the campaign for civic responsibility and greater accountability in governance and implored Environmental Protection Boards and Authorities to improve service delivery, reach out to the people through community development associations and mainstream the culture of environmental stewardship.