As promised previously, here is the second installment in the series which will be suggesting ways forward for the nation. A bit unusual however, is the fact that this installment will be touching on three separate steps and merging them into a single installment. Without much ado, I will be treating steps 2, 3 and 4 in this installment. I believe that the issues being discussed are straightforward and logical enough to be addressed without necessitating any lengthy dissertation.
Permit me to reiterate the fact that our nation, Nigeria, has in reality been a country of several nations since inception – one without a common vision, and whose internal rules and structures have been left undefined and under-developed for a lifetime thus subjecting it to the vagaries of ethnic and political manipulations. It is therefore imperative at this critical junction that we, the Nigerian people, develop a compass by which we must steer our nation’s policy and polity towards one that will foster unity, with one common future and a proud singular identity. It is no secret that the current state of affairs leaves much to be desired in this regard. Having witnessed the ugliness of the last national elections which was mired with a seemingly intractable penchant for geo-ethnic politicization in the various constituencies, it has now become painfully obvious that the very essence and soul of this nation is at risk. Nigeria has never been more disunited and the threadbare fabric holding the center together is barely holding, becoming more and more strained with each passing day. With this in mind, I have set out to propose and suggest the following measures which a government could adopt so as to boost confidence and assuage the citizen’s fear of disenfranchisement.
Step 2: Adopt Nationalist Policies:
Nigeria is a giant, albeit a giant whose output is only a pathetic fraction of its full potentials. The nation has never had the opportunity to live up to its full potentials and it won’t, …not unless it is forged into a true nation – meaning to have one nation with a singular identity! This fundamental truth is as true for Nigeria, as it is for any other diverse nation. It is a concept that was very well understood and imbibed by such great leaders as Lee Kuan Yew who took the great pains to forge Singapore into one of the most economically advanced nations in the world within the space of 50 years! In my opinion, the adoption of nationalist policies by the FGN is the only way to forge Nigeria into a true nation. Nigerian citizens must become ‘Nigerian’ nationals first and foremost, before any consideration could be given to other regional attributes. As a people, we must share a common platform of nationhood and become co-joined in mutual aspiration for national success and national greatness. It is thus through such ideals of national greatness that our identity as one people becomes forged and sealed together!
As a first step towards encouraging nationalism and patriotism while discouraging ethnocentrism in our national polity, Buhari’s administration must vigorously seek and pursue a constitutional amendment which will first of all eliminate and strike out the use of “State of Origin” as a governmental reference index or as a required statistical data. The administration should seek to have “State of Origin” replaced immediately by “State of Residence” in all governmental indices and statistical database throughout the federation. The successful implementation of this policy will strike out the root cause of multifarious prejudicial discriminations and wholesome disenfranchisement which occur daily all over the nation while also eliminating one of the major barriers to unity. Fittingly, it is also purposed to strike at the very heart of rooted bulwarks which over decades, has prevented the complete integration of citizens who may have chosen to domicile in other parts of the federation.
Secondly, within the same context, the administration should also push for a constitutional amendment bill called Citizen’s Equal Rights Amendment (CERA). CERA Clause shall require each state to provide equal protection under the law to all people within its jurisdiction. Furthermore, it shall prohibit state and local governments from discriminating against any citizen on the basis of gender, religion, ethnicity or tribal identity especially with regards to employment, public services, land use rights and civil rights. The only legally recognized categorization of a citizen of Nigeria under the law thereafter shall be with regards to “State of Residence”. This means that wherever a citizen of Nigeria chooses to reside within the Federation, he or she will have all civil rights explicitly guaranteed under the constitution of the Republic – this includes the right to buy and own landed property (and be free of harassment); the right to seek full employment within the jurisdiction’s government without discrimination; the right to participate in local elections and run for office (once the minimal requirement for residency is satisfied); the right to enjoy the full benefits accruable to any citizen of the jurisdiction; and the right to seek redress in court should this inalienable rights be violated by any government or individual.
Step 3: Introduce and Institute Nation-wide Anti-corruption Reform:
This particular step is one which I am extremely passionate about and its importance with regards to the success of the NIgerian project is incontrovertible and beyond measure! Corruption is the single most devastating scourge that has afflicted Nigeria and halted her ascent, thus preventing it from attaining much needed growth and development. It is no secret that a nation denied its seed money could neither invest in basic infrastructural necessities nor develop the strong economic base required for secondary growth to take place. For the nation to grow and develop, a stop must be put to all kinds of unbridled corruption as has been witnessed in recent times. It should be noted however that General Muhammadu Buhari was elected entirely on the premise and strength of his credentials as a man of integrity. As such, the message to the ruling party is loud and clear – the people wish to be rid of corruption and its attendant scourge! Buhari’s government must remain totally committed to the tough decisions needed to eliminate this scourge and deliver wholesome solutions for fast paced national growth and development to take place. This administration must take the time to develop a model which shall reduce corruption to its barest minimum going forward and ensure that public funds get to the grassroots for equitable development. In other to achieve this, I suggest that the government adopt the following policies and measures designed to effectively combat corruption and restore trust in the nation`s public institutions. The administration should implement the following recommendations:
1) Legislate a new type of Bank account called a Public Agency Domiciliary Account (PADA) into law. The unique characteristics and features of this type of bank product are to be as follows;
- PADA can only be opened by a government or a government agency in any commercial bank offering the product.
- PADA is the only type of account recognized by Central bank (CBN) for the payment of subventions and allocations.
- Cash withdrawal and electronic transfer out of the account is simply not possible. Money paid into the account can only be withdrawn by cheques.
- All PADA accounts have two signatories – the Principal officer of the establishment or agency and the Accountant general of the same. Both signatures must be presented on a viable cheque.
- A quarterly statement of all PADA account must be generated by the Bank in triplicate copies – one report goes to the Agency, the second report goes to Central bank records and the third copy must be archived by the bank for a minimum of ten years.
- Commercial banks which are found to have erred in adherence to the law and set rules laid down by the banking law will be sanctioned with an appreciable fine and any funds lost to fraud or corruption because of this act of negligence shall be reimbursed by the bank at 25% p.a interest which shall be payable to the government.
2) Legislate a new federal law which makes it illegal for any government or its agency to carry out any transaction in cash. Henceforth, regardless of the size of a transaction, all government related transactions carried out by a ministry, department, agency or parastatal shall be concluded with a government issued cheque and such cheques shall be issued from the necessary PADA account. Any transaction carried out on behalf of a government or its agency in a manner that contravenes this law shall be deemed unlawful and illegal.
3) Implement a Federal policy whereby all Federal allocations and subventions intended for each of the 774 Local governments, shall henceforth be paid directly into the respective LGA’s PADA account. The allocations and subventions shall be paid through the Central bank on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria. This singular act is designed to cut off undue and undesirable impediments, interjection and manipulations imposed by state government’s which often has the effect of constricting growth, diminishing returns and starving developments at the grassroot level. The policy would serve to redefine and reorient grassroot development and empower local administrations so that the direct impact of Federal funding is allowed to accrue appreciable and significant benefits to the local population.
4) Legislate a Federal law that effectively limits ‘Security vote’ in any governmental branch or agency (particularly state governments) to a value no more than 1% of the total annual budget. Under no circumstance shall a budget which appropriates more than 1% of its total value to ‘Security vote’ be passed! What does security vote mean? By ‘security vote’, I refer to that notorious and uniquely Nigerian administrative euphemism which refers to the extra-budgetary allocations made to executive public offices, the use of which is often a virtual carte blanche. As has been in the past, abuse of this implausible provision has surreptitiously empowered executive public officers to operate like medieval kings thereby squandering and misappropriating billions upon billions of naira with absolutely no accountability or scrutiny. This law is deliberately purposed to put a stop to such unbridled acts of corruption and abuse consequently eliminating mindless profligacy in public office.
5) Adopt and implement a straightforward and simple policy for all Federal government related procurement. According to the rules of such policy, all Federal procurements shall be transacted directly with the original manufacturer of such goods or an authorized agent with no less than three years history trading in such goods. Where such arrangement is impossible, an alternative product which is available with similar function must be considered instead. Customized products must be procured directly from original manufacturer or customizing firm. Pre-owned or used items shall be procured from either current legal owner or a legally registered dealer in such items. This policy is targeted at the prevalent occurrences of cronyism and nepotism in awarding government contracts for the FGN. It is designed to reduce or even outrightly eliminate ubiquitous buddy-contracts which are often carried out with the aid of ‘shell’ companies and such other corrupt acts particularly ones carried out with impunity.
6) All three of Nigeria’s anti-corruption agencies known respectively as Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC); Economic & Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC); and Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) should be reconstituted, redefined and re-pointed away from the Executive branch to be placed under the Judiciary branch. Specifically, the agencies should be placed under the Chief Justice of the Federation who will in turn nominate an Attorney General and Chief Prosecutor to head each of the agencies (subject to the approval of the legislative branch). Such an arrangement will not only strengthen Nigeria’s democratic credentials and institutions but will also remove possibilities for imbalance and abuse of powers. To avoid the current confusion and duplication of duties and roles, ICPC should be mandated to target corruption in the public sector with special regards to embezzlement, graft, bribery and misappropriations. Correspondingly, EFCC should be refocused to deal with financial crimes which are committed in the private sector against any private legal entities – this oversight should include sectors such as banks, insurance, securities and stock exchange. CCB, on the other hand, should be focused on curbing ubiquitous acts of malfeasance in government – these are crimes which are non-financial in nature such as abuse of powers, abuse of office and unacceptable conducts in public office. In essence, each of these agencies will be empowered and equipped to act as internal affairs and investigative units within the government and on behalf of the justice department, they shall be mandated to prosecute any and all offending entities.
7) Adopt and implement a new Federal policy whereby all service contracts issued by the federal government (mainly for construction, repairs and renovations) shall be issued and awarded using a new financial tool and mechanism called Contract Assurance Escrow (CAE). The CAE mechanism itself is a contract between a financial/insurance institution and the government. The government or its agency defines and develops detailed parameters and specific scopes for its contract and issues a notice for all financial/insurance companies who are offering Contract Assurance Escrow (CAE) services to bid to ‘assure’ the contract. All CAE services to the government shall be billable by the percentage (e.g 6.5% of value of contract). Once a CAE service provider has been awarded the contract for a service, they are expected to either engage the services of a project management consultancy firm or act in the same role themselves. Concurrently, the government also issues a public notice for contractors to bid to perform the actual job. Once contract is awarded to contractor, the government agency’s role reverts to that of a client and supervisory regulator until the completion of the project. All payments shall be paid to the CAE service provider who will in turn disburse it according to the schedule stipulated in the contract. Performance and quality assurance is thus ensured through a two-fold process – The CAE provider is responsible for the escrow draw and the management of payment through several phases of the project. The CAE provider also has a responsibility to ensure that the contractor’s performance meets specification, scope and quality specified in the contract agreement before payment. The government agency’s technical department has the responsibility to supervise, cross check and confirm that all requirements specified in the contract charter is fully satisfied before jointly approving the payment for each phase of the contract. Phase draw or payment is issued only after there has been a joint approval which is accompanied by the signature of qualified officers in both organizations (CAE and client agency).
Step 4: Seek to eliminate ‘Immunity clause’ from Constitution:
A successful war against corruption in Nigeria is crucial for national development. Corruption has without question been the most damaging scourge that has impeded Nigeria’s development and advancement. Without any equivocation, the immunity clause in the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, is noted as the banner and hallmark of institutional corruption and an impediment and great obstacle in the war against corruption in our nation. It is therefore imperative that Nigeria’s leadership on behalf of the people takes urgent and necessary steps to eliminate this ‘immunity clause’ from our constitution. It is no secret that the provision has been allowed to become a weapon and a shield used with impunity by public officials against the interest of Nigerians. Buhari’s administration must vigorously seek to expunge, remove and repeal the ‘Immunity clause’ from the Nigerian constitution permanently to ensure that the benefits of transparent and accountable governance becomes a reality for all Nigerians.
So far, in the last two installments of this series, I have made proposals and proffered solutions that have taken us from step 1 through to Step 4. In the next installment, I will be getting into the juicy portions of the series such as the upcoming Local Government Reform proposal. However, in the interim, I do look forward to a healthy debate on the pros and cons – the merits or demerits (as the case may be) of my proposals. All opinions are welcome. Thank you for your time.