THE role of education in the development of man and his environment is well known. Education is crucial to societal development but the extent of improvement for man and his society will depend on the quality of education received. This explains why the United Nations makes enhancing quality of education number four of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This is in realization of the fact that the education sector in many countries is in poor shape generally and requires upgrade.
One such country where challenges are manifest in the education sector is Nigeria. The challenges range from decrepit infrastructure, unqualified teaching staff, corruption, poor welfare package and strike actions which disrupt academic calendar. This impacts the education sector negatively leading to the production of what is commonly called "half baked graduates."
Nigeria's huge population worsens the country's problem in the education sector because the increase in population is not matched by a corresponding increase in educational facilities and infrastructure. This disparity ultimately has a negative impact on learning. According to the Global Partnership for Education, "Nigeria is the largest country in Africa in terms of population and has approximately 20% of the total out–of-school children population in the world."
Adding to this challenge is the demographic pressure with about 11,000 newborns every day that overburdens the system capacity to deliver quality education. In the Northern part of Nigeria, almost two-thirds of students are functionally illiterate. According to the data on literacy index recently published by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the states where majority of people can neither read nor write are those in the Northeast, Northwest, and North-central. The data shows that Yobe State has only 7.23 percent literacy level, the lowest in the country. The dismal record of Yobe is followed by Zamfara (9.16 percent); Katsina (10.36 percent); Sokoto (15.01); Bauchi (19.26 percent); Kebbi (20.51 percent); and Niger (22.88 percent) respectively. Only Taraba is an exception with 72 percent literacy rate.
The Northern states of Jigawa, Kaduna, Katsina, Kano, and Sokoto have shown commitment to improving their education systems, but they face severe challenges including high poverty levels, low enrolment, gender disparities, poor quality and relevance, poor infrastructure and learning conditions.
For a country like Nigeria, a lot of work needs to be done in sustaining or improving standard of education but leaving it to government alone could be dangerous as government agencies are hardly associated with excellence. Bureaucracy and corruption in the system makes this worse. To ensure effective oversight functions, many civil society organizations (CSOs) have sprung up in the country with the aim of collaborating with the government to ensure the improvement of education across board.
Olubusola Kolade, a Nigerian-Canadian educationist who runs an after school programme in Nigeria called Ornaments of Grace Virtue (OGAV) believes that better co-operation between the government, and CSOs will yield dividend. "Civil organizations need to work with the government to improve education. The government cannot do everything at least not now that there is so much decadence. All hands need to be on deck. However, the government needs to make it easy for the NGOS too. There has to be tax incentives for people to financially support NGOs since they rely on public funds to carry out their mandate. There must be transparency between the government and the NGOs for them to work as partners and collaborate when necessary."
Providing an insight to the work of OGAV, Kolade said it has a holistic approach to promote the education of the girl-child:
"We empower the girls through our initiative – 'Learning beyond the classroom'. We have two programmes under this initiative – Summer Leadership Camp and a Co-curricular Girls' Club in secondary schools. This is a three-year programme meant to support public secondary school girls (SS1 –SS3) using the 'head and heart' teaching approach. The head refers to academic skills and the heart social and emotional skills. Our areas of focus are: Career guidance, character moulding, academic success, skills development and acquisition, leadership skills and life coaching. The impact on the girls has been encouraging and includes improved academic achievement, and social competence which foster better school relationship. Girls are empowered to be independent self managers and problem solvers."
Dr. David Tola Winjobi, National Coordinator, Civil Society Coalition on Sustainable Development (CSCSD) also said that the CSOs under the coalition have been partnering with government to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education in Nigeria by 2030. He said:
"There are quite a sizeable number of our member-organizations working on education for all among which are; Community Education Advancement of Peace and Development Initiatives (CEAPDI); Women's Right to Education Programme (WREP), Centre for Youth Initiative on Self Education (CEYISED); and Phelyn Skill Acquisition Centre."
He pointed out that some CSOs under the coalition are members of the Bring Back Our Girls Campaign which came up at the behest of the Chibok Girls saga. He recalled that many CSOs took active part during the post-2015 development agenda deliberations especially in Nigeria. He explained that in line with the UN slogan of leaving no one behind, many of these member-organizations are engaging the Nigerian government in ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting life-long learning opportunities for all:
"While some are campaigning on achieving literacy and numeracy, some are involved in school infrastructural rehabilitation. And while some are involved in referral on skills acquisition, some are basically providing vocational skills for youth's employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship in line with target 4 of SDG-4. In addition, some of our member-organizations are involved in monitoring of the school system while some are appointed members of the school based management system."
Winjobi, however, noted that members of the coalition are saddened by radical de-education of girls in the North East through the dangerous activities of the Boko Haram insurgents. He recalled that in 2016, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) had lamented over the 11 million children out-of-school in Nigeria:
Boko Haram extremists are further decimating the poor number of children in schools in the North East by abducting school girls. The unpalatable news started on April 14, 2014 with the abduction of over 276 girls from Government Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State by Boko Haram. The same month in 2014, 58 male students of the College of Agriculture, Buni Yadi, Yobe State were murdered in cold blood while asleep. On February 19, 2018 Boko Haram insurgents attacked Government Girls' Science Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State and made away with 110 girls. The aim of these incessant attacks is to discourage education through radical de-education which tallies with the agenda of Boko Haram, "education is a sin."
According to the Education Data, Research and Evaluation in Nigeria (EDOREN), a five-year initiative funded by the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID), there are more than 600 CSOs involved with the education sector in Nigeria and these are visible in the 36 states of the country. The CSOs are part of the Civil Society Action Coalition on Education for All (CSACEFA). EDOREN gives a background to the formation of the CSO:
"The Civil society Action Coalition on Education for All (CSACEFA) is a coalition of NGOs, community-based organizations (CBOs) and faith-based organizations (FBOs) working on education issues in Nigeria. Forty (40) education NGOs came together in the run-up to the World Education Summit in Dakar in April 2000 to form the coalition. CSACEFA developed a core set of positions and attended the Dakar Summit to join in the call for quality education for all. The coalition has since expanded its membership to over six hundred (600) CSOs covering the 36 States of Nigeria and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and has been engaging, advocating and inputting to education policies and programmes at Local, National and International levels."
The mission of CSACEFA is to ensure free, quality and inclusive education for all through effective participation of civil society while the vision is to help guarantee quality education and dignity for all structures. The organization's activities are coordinated at the state level by an elected state coordinator and at the zonal level by an eight-member Facilitating Committee (FC) drawn from the six geo-political zones, the FCT and a representative of International Development Partners (IDPs) elected for a maximum two terms of two years each.
The Facilitating Committee led by a National Moderator is to meet at least four times in a year depending on availability of funds, while the coalition has an Annual General Forum (AGF). The Annual General Forum is the apex decision-making organ of the coalition. The coalition is managed through the secretariat led by the Policy Advisor/National Coordinator who oversees the national secretariat, coordinates the states and reports to the Facilitating Committee.
Many of the CSOs sustain their work with grants from foreign organizations such as the MacArthur Foundation which has an office in Nigeria. In December, 2017, CSACEFA held a three-day dialogue meeting and capacity building on tracking UBE (Universal Basic Education) funds in Kaduna State with the support of MacArthur Foundation. The Federal Government established UBE in 1999 "to eradicate illiteracy, ignorance and poverty as well as stimulate and accelerate national development, political consciousness and national integration."
According to the UBE Act of 2004, "the financing of basic education is the responsibility of States and Local Governments. However, the Federal Government has decided to intervene in the provision of basic education with 2 percent of its Consolidated Revenue Fund. For states to fully benefit from this Fund, criteria were established with which states are to comply. "
However, there have been reports, over the years of missing UBE funds and it is in this context that the CSACEFA event in Kaduna holds meaning. In March, 2018, CSACEFA, in conjunction with One Campaign and Malala Fund, at an event, called on the Nigerian government to take education in the country seriously. They requested President Muhammadu Buhari and Mallam Adamu Adamu, Minister of Education to come up with concrete measures to urgently address the incessant challenges in the education sector.
"We can no longer continue to relegate the important sector of the economy to the background when we are aspiring to be among the top world economies. It is saddening to note that education has received low priority and attention both at the national and state levels over the years. Little wonder why we are bedevilled with the various crises we experience in the country today," CSACEFA stated.
The coalition listed the challenges confronting the education sector in Nigeria today to include insecurity, poor finance, abysmal teacher development and poor learning environment.
In addition to CSACEFA, a non- governmental organization known as Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED) had in December 2017 launched an innovative data-driven project to track funds earmarked for the provision of Universal Basic Education (UBE) in Kaduna State.
Ibrahim Zikirullahi, Executive Director of CHRICED gave reasons why the organization chose to focus on UBE funds:
"It provides three years of Early Child Development, and nine years of formal schooling. It is the Federal Government's policy for ensuring every child of school age has access to quality basic education. However, while the problem of inadequate funding has been implicated as one of the reasons for the low quality of service delivery in the Universal Basic Education (UBE), corruption and its damaging effects have derailed the potential of the policy to deliver quality basic education to citizens."
In a 2013 paper published in Jorind titled: The Universal Basic Education (UBE) Programme in Nigeria: Problems and Prospects, Uche S. Anaduaka of the Department of Science and Environmental Education, University of Abuja and Chinese Okafor of the Department of Science Education, Anambra State University point out some problems/challenges besetting the UBE programme. They include inadequate funding, inaccurate data for planning, lack of enough competent teachers, poor implementation of the New UBE curriculum, poor public enlightenment, poor monitoring /evaluation and poor motivation of teachers.
In a November 2017 report, Premium Times, an online newspaper, reported that, of the N8.6 trillion 2018 Budget, President Muhammadu Buhari's government allocated only 7.04% (translating to N605.8 billion) to education which breakdown is: N435.1 billion for recurrent expenditure, N61.73 billion for capital expenditure and N109.06 billion for the Universal Basic Education Commission.
Some of these monies are lost to corruption. A report by Felix Khanoba of the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, published in October 2017 warns that:
"Thousands of physically-challenged children across the country are at risk of missing out on education, as many of the government-run special schools supposed to meet their educational needs are on the verge of collapse. The schools, which were specifically built for persons with physical challenges, including down syndrome, have received N10.6 billion grant from the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) within a period of 10 years but have little or nothing on ground to show for it."
Khanoba's report makes reference to a document showing that over N10 billion UBEC funds was disbursed to the 36 states and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) between 2006 and 2016 to support special education, with little to show for it:
"A recent visit to some of the special education schools located in the Federal Capital Territory, Nasarawa, Edo and Anambra states revealed a sordid state of affairs. Apart from the commonly identified problems of students not living in decent condition and lacking access to health services or proper feeding, most of the schools' structures could easily be mistaken for abandoned homes left behind by the nation's former colonial masters. In one of the schools, Special School for Physically Challenged, Umuchu, Anambra State, there were no good structures. The only major proofs of the presence of a school were a dusty signboard and obsolete blackboards hanging on dilapidated open rooms that serve as classrooms."
It is the same for the issue of procurement and budget for which CSACEFA in September 2017 organized a workshop for CSACEFA state coordinators and CSOs in the northern part of the country on advocacy, communication, monitoring and evaluation and budget. Report on the event which held in Kaduna State, states:
"Participants were also trained on monitoring and evaluation; the training took participants round the definition of monitoring as a systematic and continuous collection, of analysis and use of information for management control and decision-making. The moderator stated that monitoring is done to check the indications of the extent of progress and achievement of objectives and progress in the use of allocated funds. On the other hand, it was explained that evaluation is the assessment of an ongoing or completed project, programme or policy, design, implementation and results. It was also highlighted that monitoring is done on a daily basis while evaluation is done on a periodic basis; the result chain process was explained and guided the participants on how to properly capture data collected in a report.... The participants also learn the four ways to monitor and track a budget."
However, some of the CSOs themselves are not immune from challenges. An "in-depth capacity assessment" of eight CSOs in Kaduna State by Iliya Ambi and Dr. Mustapha Gwadabe published in December 2009 states that:
"Baseline situation of the assessed CSOs shows that there were 13 issues for capacity development/support of the CSOs with more than 50% of these issues being related to internal management and programme issues. These issues range from internal, programme and external relationships. These were; vision, mission and value statements not clearly articulated; ineffective board, weak financial management systems, inadequate personnel policy, communication flow, weak monitoring & evaluation system as well as programming skills. Strategically, others were strengthening the existing skills, knowledge base of CSOs on educational policies, advocacy, gender, inclusive participation, the concept of voice and accountability within a wider state educational framework for effective delivery of education services."
Lack of synergy
A 2009 report by Wale Samuel and Ignatius Agu for the Education Sector Support Programme in Nigeria (ESSPIN) titled: Mapping of Civil Society Organizations in Lagos State shows the lack of linkage between education-focused CSOs and the Lagos State Government.
Findings reveal that the CSOs' partnership with the Lagos State government is not well documented. According to the State Universal Basic Education (SUBEB), Lagos, the only documented evidence of CSO/Government working relationship is the compilation of the list of NGOs intervening in schools and this list was only compiled based on correspondence from the NGOs who report on their intervention to Government:
"Generally, most respondents observed that there was the need for ESSPIN to build the capacity of NGOs on gaps identified in the report especially around areas like work with school-based management committees (SBMC), monitoring & evaluation, budget tracking and education policies. They also called for ESSPIN to support networking activities among NGOs working in the area of education in Lagos State amongst others."
The paper further reveals that:
"Very few NGOs work directly at community level. NGOs who work directly with rural or urban communities account for only 3.1% of those surveyed. The high figure recorded for NGOs with community level outreach is in sharp contrast to the findings on NGOs that are actually located in rural Lagos. This upholds the submission that most Lagos-based NGOs are city dwellers but with only community outreach."
Perhaps, part of the lack of synergy is mistrust and suspicion between government agencies and the CSOs. This was pointed out by Musa Umar of the Nigerian Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) at a recent education workshop organized by the Development Research Project Centre (DRPC). While noting that government cannot handle education alone, and that NGOs are necessary to complement the efforts of government, Umar says their work is hampered by a silent mistrust between both parties.
Using OGAV's experience as an example, Kolade says: "The challenges are more at the Ministry level than the district. The District is directly involved with the schools and so they appreciate the values added to the lives of the students thus making them a lifelong learner."
Knocks for CSOs in Nigeria
Despite the important role CSOs play in monitoring and building capacity in the education sector in Nigeria, some of them have been criticized in recent times for paying more attention to the monetary or personal gains rather than humanitarian concern.
In a 2013 article titled: Eight Challenges for Civil Society, Brian Pratt argues that the expansion of privatization of welfare, health and education globally has led to new entrants from the private sector. He says:
"International aid has seen a similar process, with companies branching out from their comfort zones of finance and construction into civil society, education, health, and rural development – with some even learning how to masquerade as ersatz civil society groups to project a cuddly image. There will be more manoeuvring between NGOs and official aid agencies as we close in on 2015, when for many development goals will be reviewed and revised."
A 2014 report entitled: The Two Main Challenges Facing African Civil Society Organisations, (Centre for International Private Enterprise), Ryan Musser points out that "Civil society organizations often struggle with a dependency on donor funding which hinders sustainability, distracts from their missions, and encourages a short-term strategy of chasing funds. As organizations face a global decline in donor funding, the issues of dependency and unsustainability only grow in importance."
It further notes that "USAID's most recent CSO Sustainability Index for Sub-Saharan Africa found that "difficult economic environments due to the global financial crisis impacted CSO resource availability in almost all of the countries" included in the index. In an effort to ensure financial stability, organizations have a tendency to focus their energy and attention on finding more funding rather than focusing on implementing their mission.
Lars Benson advises that CSOs need to "avoid mission creep and resist seeking pots of gold."
Bulama Abiso, chairman of the Borno State chapter of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), at an event organized by the Kano-based Development Research Project Centre (DRPC) in September 2017 said that the NGOs in Borno State are not coordinated and their activities overlap one another, making it difficult for education authorities to know who to deal with, when and how. On the issue of budgeting, Abiso urged NGOs to be specific about their aims and what cause they want to support. He pointed out that when the NGOs identify what they want to achieve, it will be easier for local authorities to key into their agenda.
As part of his submission at the event, Abdullahi Hudu, Permanent Secretary, Jigawa State Ministry of Education said the major challenges government face while working with NGOs and CSOs is sustainability and timing.
The event drew various education stakeholders and organizations like the Girl-Child Concern, Centre for Girls Education, Isa Wali Empowerment Initiative, The Education Partnership (TEP), Malala Foundation and Ford Foundation.
Jaye Gaskia, Chairman of the Network of Civil Society Organizations in Nigeria
Plot to clip CSOs' wings
The National Assembly seeks to clip the wings of civil society organizations in Nigeria through a bill proposed by Umar Buba Jibril, Deputy Majority Leader of the House of Representatives. Part of Jubril's argument for the introduction of the bill is the funding enjoyed by some CSOs from international donors which he says are not well accounted for. He believes that the bill will checkmate the excesses of CSOs and help to promote probity and accountability within the civil society sector.
Speaking on the floor of the house, Jibril, said:
"NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) and CSOs (Civil Society Organizations) are voluntary organizations that are registered to partner government at all levels to fill gaps wherever they exist. They are supposed to be partners in progress with the government; therefore, the need for a commission to serve this purpose arises.
Secondly and naturally for them to carry out their activities, the NGOs and CSOs solicit for funds from all over the world and collect billions of naira on behalf of Nigerians. Thirdly, they recruit expatriates to help them run their activities in the country with lots of abuses.
However, recent developments have shown that some people registered NGOs, solicited for funds and disappeared. That happened recently in the North East...
The NGOs bill therefore is primarily to set up a commission to regulate their activities and provide a platform for robust relationships between them and the government for the interests of Nigerians. In addition it is to ensure transparency and accountability in the ways and manners the NGOs collect moneys and use them for Nigerians."
But the move is not well received by many Nigerians, especially civil society groups who say it is meant to intimidate the leadership of CSOs.
Jaye Gaskia, Chairman of the Network of Civil Society Organizations in Nigeria, described the bill as toxic, saying it is a calculated attempt by the government to stifle freedom of speech and portends a great threat to the hard earned democracy in Nigeria.
Funding of CSOs
The evidence that CSOs receive grants from foreign organizations is available in a recent work, Civil Society Organization Consolidation Fund Grant Manual which is a joint initiative of the Education Sector Support Programme in Nigeria funded by the Department of International Development (DFID). On page 7 is the declaration that "ESSPIN will provide CSO Consolidation Grants for a period of 14 months to a maximum value of NGN 293, 487,425 (equivalent to Sterling Pounds 1,048,000). ESSPIN will disburse the funds to CSOs across the six ESSPIN states on a tranche basis." And while "CSOs will receive grant funds from ESSPIN periodically in tranches based on plans and budgets for the period; disbursements are scheduled for June 2015, September 2015, January 2016 and May 2016."
However, "Expenditure/Retirements during the previous tranche and remaining grant balances held by the CSOs shall be remitted to ESSPIN's coffers as soon as retirements are made with the use of Under-spent Remittance Form." In regards to first tranche, "payments will be made to the CSOs on application of the Grant, signed contract and MoU and upon being approved by ESSPIN's Management," and "Subsequent tranche payments to CSOs will be made subject to proper use and reporting (Financials and Narratives) of the previous quarter disbursement and remittance of any under-spent funds."
The Civil Society Organization Consolidation Fund Grant Manual describes how beneficiaries are selected. It points out that due diligence was "conducted on 58 CSOs within the 6 ESSPIN-supported states of Enugu, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Kwara, and Lagos," and that "in line with DFID's due diligence framework requirements, CSOs were assessed for risk in five key areas: Governance and control, ability to deliver, financial stability, monitoring & evaluation and external relations."
Part of the process was for them to complete a questionnaire and provide supporting documentation. Risks were measured against a standard benchmark for the CSOs and ESSPIN required that CSOs achieve an overall risk rating of low or medium in order to qualify to receive grant.
Fifty seven CSOs in some states met the due diligence requirements and were selected. They include Enugu-based CSOs like Youth Education on Human Right & Civic Responsibilities (YEHRCR), Raise a Child Today Initiative (RACTI), Economic Empowerment & Development Initiative (EEDI), Agents of Communication and Development (ACODE), Society for the Improvement of Rural People (SIRP), Youth Resource Development Education & Leadership (YORDEL), and Poverty in Africa Alternative (POVINAA).
The successful ones in Jigawa are Gadawur Youth Forum (GYF), Rural Education Foundation (REF), Hadejia Development Circle (HDC), Kamala Health and Education Development Initiative (KAHDEV), Gumel Youth Movement (GYM) and Society for Community Health Awareness and Mobilisation (SOCHAM). Others are Federation of Muslim Women Association of Nigeria (FOMWAN), Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Maranda Development Association (MDA).
In Kaduna State, there are twelve beneficiaries. They are: Hope for the Village Child Foundation, Millennium Hope Programme, ABANTU for Development, Grant AID for Widows, Orphans and Needy Foundation (GAWON Foundation), Lifeline Education Development Resources Centre, Gender Awareness Trust (GAT), JEBI Educational Services Ltd, Youth Team in Action Supporting Community Initiated Development (YOTASCID), Fantsuam Foundation, Women of Vision Development Initiative (WVDI), Support Health and Education (SHED).
In Kano State, the successful ones include: Neighbourhood Education Committee (NEC), Basic Education Association (BEA), Citizens Council for Public Education (CCPE), Federation of Muslim Women Association (FOMWAN) Global Youth and Women Support Initiative (GLOYWSI), Support for Women and Teenage Children (SWATCH). Others include Turaki Educational Consultancy Services ltd., InuwarJa'maar Kano (KANO FORUM), Aminu Kano Centre for Democratic Research and Training (Mambayya House), Community Development Initiative (CDI), Magajin Malam Educational Services.
Kwara State beneficiaries are: Community Development Initiative (CDI), Centre for Appropriate Technology for Rural Women (CAPTEC), Hilltop Foundation, Federation of Muslim Women Association of Nigeria (FOMWAN), Living Care Community Development Foundation (LCCDF), Royal Health Heritage Foundation (RHHF), Womankind Family Enhancement Initiative (WOKFEI), and Integrity Mission.
The funds also extended to Lagos State, and the selected CSOs include: Quality of Life Initiative, Health and Sustainable Development Association of Nigeria (HESDAN), Linking the Youth Together of Nigeria Exchange (LYNX), Organization for Non-Formal Education Foundation (ONEF). Others are Women Protection Organization (WOPO), Talent Plus Resources International (TRI), Defence for Children International (DCI), Development Support Institute (DSI), Centre for Health Development & Communication (CHEDCOM).
The way forward
For Nigeria to attain SDG-4, Mr. Kabir Alihu, National Moderator, CSACEFA believes there is need to improve the partnership between the government and CSOs to ensure proper accountability for education budget. "We should make education budget more transparent, more inclusive of the Civil Society Organizations and NGOs. By so doing, it will make the government accountable on what whatever they are meant to do,'' he said.
FOR a country like Nigeria where the gap between the rich and the poor has continued to widen, and government's promises of addressing poverty and inequalities remain unfulfilled, the interventions of the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have become critical in its quest to achieve goal number 10 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
SDG-10 focuses on reducing inequalities in a variety of contexts: income inequality within a country, as well as inequality by gender, age, disability, race, class, ethnicity, religion, and opportunity. It mandates UN-member countries, including Nigeria, to ensure equal opportunity and reduce inequalities by eliminating discriminatory laws, policies and practices and by promoting appropriate legislations and actions, adopting policies – especially fiscal, wage and social protection policies – to progressively achieve greater equality.
SDG-10 seeks to ensure that by 2030, every country would have achieved sustainable income growth for the bottom 40 percent of the population at a rate higher than the national average; and must have empowered and promoted the social, economic and political inclusion of all.
Development experts reckon that CSOs, known for their traditional role of interface between the citizens and policymakers/implementers in government, would be instrumental in fast-tracking the process of actualizing the vision of addressing extreme poverty, inequality, injustice and discrimination in Nigeria.
Expectedly, many CSOs in the country have been deeply involved in the crusade to compel the Nigerian government to reduce the growing economic inequalities. Indeed, they have been working assiduously on inequalities as enshrined in SDG-10 by advocating that the three tiers of governments in Nigeria should promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all irrespective of age, sex, disability, ethnicity, religious status or background.
However, before appraising the role of CSOs towards reducing inequalities in the country, it is pertinent to present the recent data on the inequalities in Nigeria and efforts by government to address the issue.
Nigeria's rising inequality
When President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office on May 29, 2015, one of the key promises he made to Nigerians was that his administration would take action to reduce poverty and inequality in the land. He was unequivocal in his pledge to address the widening gap between the rich and poor in the country, and to ensure equitable distribution of national wealth:
"We promise not to leave any Nigerian behind in our determination to create, expand and ensure equitable and effective allocation of economic opportunities. No matter the amount of wealth we create, it would be meaningless unless it benefits the majority of our people."
Four months after his inauguration, in his maiden address to the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Buhari told world leaders that in line with the SDGs, Nigeria under his leadership would "tackle inequalities arising from massive unemployment and previous government policies favouring a few people to the detriment of the many."
However, after nearly three years in office, it appears that his administration has not made much progress in terms of reversing the trend of poverty and economic inequality. Indeed, inequality has worsened with the brazen display of wealth and opulence alongside abject poverty and squalor in major cities in Nigeria. Cursory checks on key economic indicators show that the country's socio-economic circumstances have not improved as significantly as some would have anticipated. For instance, Nigeria's unemployment rate increased to 18.80 percent in the third quarter of 2017 from 16.20 percent in the second quarter of 2017. Unemployment rate in Nigeria averaged 10.63 percent from 2006 until 2017, reaching an all time high of 19.70 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009 and a record low of 5.10 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010.
Nigeria's GINI Index also confirmed the widening income inequalities in the country, being measured at 48.83 in 2010, up from 43 in 2004, according to the World Bank. The rise from 43 to nearly 49 in six years shows the growing gulf in the country's income distribution.
Recently, Oxfam International had in a report titled: Nigeria: extreme inequality in numbers revealed that economic inequality in Nigeria has reached extreme levels, despite being the largest economy in Africa. It noted that the country has an expanding economy with abundant human capital and the economic potential to lift millions out of poverty yet majority of Nigerians are living in extreme poverty. The report gave a damning statistics of the rising inequality in Nigeria:
"The combined wealth of Nigeria's five richest men - $29.9 billion - could end extreme poverty at a national level yet five million face hunger. More than 112 million people are living in poverty in Nigeria, yet the country's richest man would have to spend $1 million a day for 42 years to exhaust his fortune. The amount of money that the richest Nigerian man can earn annually from his wealth is sufficient to lift two million people out of poverty for one year. 79% of women represent between 60 and 79 percent of Nigeria's rural labour force but are five times less likely to own their own land than men. Women are also less likely to have had a decent education. Over three-quarters of the poorest women in Nigeria have never been to school and 94% of them are illiterate."
According to the report, between 1960 and 2005, public office holders stole about $20 trillion from the treasury. "This amount is larger than the GDP of the United States in 2012 (about $18 trillion). Poverty and inequality in Nigeria are not due to a lack of resources, but to the ill-use, misallocation and misappropriation of such resources. At the root is a culture of corruption combined with political elite out of touch with the daily struggles of average Nigerians."
Another consequence of the mismanagement of the nation's resources is the high rate of unemployment, especially among the youths. In 2016, between 12.1% and 21.5% of Nigeria's youth were without a job.
According to Oxfam, for Nigeria to close the inequality gap, the government must work with the international community to get food and aid to hungry people. In addition, Oxfam suggested that government must free millions of Nigerians from poverty by building a new political and economic system that works for everyone, not just a fortunate few.
Corroborating the recent inequality index, Senator Attai Aidoko Ali Usman, Chairman, Senate Committee on SDGs, expressed fear that inequalities that were still constitute a major development barrier in Nigeria and could hamper the achievement of the SDGs if not checked. Senator Usman observed this while addressing a high-level dialogue, which sought to address the imperative of reducing inequality in Nigeria by redirecting the attention of policy makers and implementers of the SDGs-10. He declared:
"From statistics available to our committees, Nigeria seems to be one of the most unequal societies in the world in terms of income, access to basic social services, life expectancy among others. Across geo-political zones, states, population and age groups, we see clear manifestations of social, economic and political inequalities. These should concern all Nigerians and must be addressed."
Similarly, Tijani Abdulkadir Jobe, Chairman of the House of the Representatives Committee on SDGs and Chairman of the African Network of Parliamentarians on the SDGs, also expressed regrets that the country is still bedevilled by various socio-economic and political challenges. He said these are traceable to inequalities in spite of the provisions of Section 42 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution which prohibits any form of discrimination. He expressed optimism that given the array of experts and practitioners at the interactive forum, more efforts should be on international best practices towards addressing inequalities in all its ramifications in Nigeria.
Mr. Shetimma Buka Abba of the Federal Character Commission (FCC) decried the huge gap between the rich few who sit on 80 percent of the country's wealth and the majority poor in Nigeria. He expressed fear that the consequences of such crass inequalities may spell doom for the country if not checked now. He said inequalities in the educational sector manifest in the form of male-female enrolment and urban-rural distribution of teachers, where more teachers are concentrated at the urban areas while most schools in the rural areas have little or no teachers.
Dr. Oladimeji Olayinka of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) averred that inequality cuts across all the sectors in Nigeria and the health sector was not an exception. According to him, Nigeria's development quagmire was traceable to the fact that the wealth of the nation is skewed in favour of the few rich who continue to enrich themselves and impoverish the poor.
There is equally socio-economic inequality between the country's political leaders and the governed; inequality is perverse in terms of women's political participation and representation in government against the Beijing Platform for Action. A large percentage of Nigerian citizens still live below the poverty line of less than a dollar, ninety-cents per day while the political class continues to amass wealth and live in incredible opulence. While a Nigerian Senator reportedly earns a whooping sum of $29 million on quarterly basis, the average Nigerian civil servant earns merely N18, 000 as minimum wage monthly. Worst still, many states are currently owning their workers salary arrears; an indication that some states are not viable as they have to go cap-in-hand to the Federal Government to collect the monthly allocation.
CSOs to the rescue
The people-centred mandate of the 2030 Agenda, points to the critical role of the civil society organizations in ensuring that people are the focus of the SDGs and that the society does not leave behind its most vulnerable.
Currently, CSOs are actively involved in waging relentless campaigns to bridge the inequality gap. Dr. David Tola Winjobi, the National Coordinator of the Civil Society Coalition on Sustainable Development (CSCSD) said that the CSOs in the country have been playing an active role in narrowing the yawning gap between the rich and the poor in Nigeria, which is the thrust of SDG-10.
According to him, a good number of CSOs have dedicated their energies and resources to organizing empowerment programmes in order to increase the status of women while some are meaningfully engaging governments in their respective states to ensure that favourable economic policies are enacted. "Some NGOs like CAFSO-WRAG for Development, Farmers Development Union (FADU) and Justice Development and Peace Commission (JDPC) are directly implementing micro-credit schemes in both rural and urban communities essentially for indigent women," he said.
In February 2018, Oxfam, an international non-governmental organization renowned for its enduring commitment to creating a world without poverty where people are capable of building a livelihood, in collaboration with BudgIt Information Technology Network Lagos, held a two-day workshop in Lagos in bid to devise strategic measures for tackling inequalities in Nigeria. The theme of the workshop is: Even it up: Tackling inequality in Nigeria through analysis and advocacy, with Right to Food (R2F) and Financing for Development (F4D).
Mr. Celestine Okwudili Odo, Oxfam's Coordinator for Private and Public sector Transparency and Accountability, expressed worries over the widening gap between the rich and the poor. He stressed that poverty and inequality in Nigeria could be linked to the pressure on limited resources.
According to him, misallocation and misappropriation of limited resources has made the problem bigger, hence the need for such strategic campaigns like Right to Food and Financing for Development, which aims at bridging the inequality gap. He highlighted the critical role of the Right to Food campaign and access to land in addressing inequality in Nigeria. Odo therefore called for concerted efforts to tackle the clashes between farmers and herders and review of the Land Use Act to allow for easier access to land in order to guarantee food security, since majority of Nigerians are farmers.
Odo said that in its efforts to address inequality in Nigeria, Oxfam sponsored the Right To Food (R2F) Bill which has passed Second Reading in the House of Representatives and now on the table of Constitutional Review Committee of the House. It has also mobilized over 40,000 Nigerian youths and small-scale farmers to campaign for increased funding and investment in the agricultural sector.
He further disclosed that Oxfam is equally facilitating the mobilization of small-scale farmers to access loans and has intensified its advocacy for the implementation of new National Tax Policy and the Voluntary Income and Asset Declaration Scheme (VAIDS), geared towards stopping illicit financial flows and revenue leakages for the government.
According to him, Oxfam's strategy includes research, lobby and advocacy, citizens' mobilization and enlightenment, networking and alliance building, capacity building for the civil society and the government.The organization's local partners such as ActionAid Abuja, Niger Delta Budget Monitoring Group (NDBUMOG), BudgIT Information Technology Network Lagos, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), KEBETKACHE Women Development and Resources Centre, HEDA Lagos, Farm and Infrastructure Foundation (FIF) took part in the brainstorming workshop.
Mrs. Emem Okon of the KEBETKACHE Women Development and Resources Centre said that her organization is working towards addressing the challenges that usually hamper budget implementation on the developmental needs of people at the grassroots. According to her, it has been noticed that community needs most often do not get included in the state and federal government budgets. "Therefore, we are training members of communities on how to conduct needs assessment. We also train government agencies, parastatals and ministries on community needs assessment to ensure that the extant or future budgets include the needs of the people," Okon said.
Studies have consistently shown that the Nigerian economy is structured in such a way as to ensure that the rich get richer while the poor gets poorer. This has had adverse consequences on the social well being of the populace as a whole.
Victor Emejuiwe, Programme Officer (Good Governance) at the Centre for Social Justice in Abuja, said that the huge gap between the rich and the poor in Nigeria could be traced to unequal in income distribution among workers:
"Income inequality gives birth to corruption, insecurity, lack of efficiency and capacity in the workplace. It retards growth and development of both the individual and the nation. With the exception of a few corporations, income inequality exists amongst large percentage of the workforce in the private and public sectors in Nigeria. The approved minimum wage of N18, 000 is not feasible in the present economy. Workers indulge in bribes and fraud just to meet up with the demands for survival. The low income wage ensnares workers to corruption, hence making a majority of Nigerians guilty of corruption."
Emejuiwe noted that President Buhari's fight against corruption is a welcome development, but added that corruption must be fought on all fronts by addressing the wage disparity that exists between highly placed public officials and the ordinary workers. He noted that the current situation where less than one percent of Nigerians consume much of the country's budget as recurrent expenditure would further increase inequality:
"The National Assembly, 469 senators and House of Representatives members, earn salaries and allowances that can pay the minimum wage of 1000 workers. Nigerian lawmakers, according to one report, are known to be the highest paid in the world, with an annual salary of $189,500 (N101030.6 million) each, which excludes allowances. The Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Commission (RAMFAC) reports that the constituency allowances of senators are 250 percent of their annual basic salaries, while the members of the House of Representatives receive 100 percent of their annual basic salaries. There are 1,500 political office holders which include ministers, special advisers and special assistants. The Certain Political, Public and Judicial Office Holders (Salaries and Allowances, etc.) (Amendment Act) of 2008 enumerates the allowances of these public officers as follows; (using the annual basic salary of N2,026,400 as the basis) accommodation 200 percent; utilities 30 percent; domestic staff 75 percent; entertainment 45 percent; medical facilities and security are provided by the state and will cover treatment in foreign hospitals; furniture 300 percent; personal assistants 25 percent; motor vehicle loan 400 percent; motor maintenance and fuel allowance, 75 percent; severance gratuity, 300 percent; leave allowance, 10 percent; newspaper allowance, 15 percent; duty tour allowance, N35,000; estacode $900; monitoring allowance 20 percent."
Emejuiwe said that to address inequality successfully, the salaries of all public office holders should be reviewed, with the aim of cutting down some of the unreasonable entitlements.
He added that to address income inequality, the focus should be granting workers access to reasonable purchasing power that meets the competing demands of society:
"In doing this, there must be a real cost computation. Consideration must be given to the market cost for certain living conditions such as cost of education, housing, transport, communications, feeding, health and utilities. This consideration should be reasonable and allotted to all workers despite their level or grade."
Campaign against legislators' Jumbo salary
Worried by the bumper package which senators and members of the House of Representatives receive as remuneration/emoluments, some CSOs have been pushing for a new legislation that would address the jumbo salary for political leaders.
The Citizens for Justice, Employment and Transparency (C-JET), is one of the frontline campaigners for a drastic cut in the wage and expenditure bills of the National Assembly. The organization highlighted the secret manipulations of the national budget by the lawmakers that jerked up its share of appropriations since 2011 on its website — www.jet-cng.org.
C-JET observed in its report that before the lawmakers kick-started their budget tinkering in 2010, its budget was largely recurrent, as NASS' capital projects were rightly being implemented by the Federal Capital Territory Authority (FCTA). NASS' total personnel cost was also limited to N10, 358, 640,069. Management consultants and cost control experts suggest that institutions like the National Assembly, the National Planning Commission (NPC), the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the Ministry of Justice, and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Related Offences Commission (ICPC), among others, perform similar functions in the same public service, and should have the same cost structure in their service delivery. The C-JET report further states:
"The wide range in recurrent expenditure (notably Overhead Cost) between these other agencies on the one hand and NASS on the other raises very serious questions, and leaves one with the impression that because the legislators have absolute powers over their budget, they have used such powers optimally to inflate their recurrent budgets to the stupefying proportions witnessed all-round the budgets. It was probably in a bid to cover-up this budget bloat that the Constitution was hurriedly amended on the eve of April 2011 general elections, and NASS budget aggregated with effect from 2011."
The organization makes the following startling observations:
From 2011, the NASS' appropriation has been increased to N150billion and aggregated, without the public being able to know the expenditure heads again, in spite of numerous law court orders for NASS to disaggregate its budgets.
Rather than decrease, public outcry against NASS budget soared, with the general impression that the incidence of budget-padding and other irregularities have worsened, considering the sort of expenditure items and amounts appropriated in the last seen 2010 NASS' budget. The general resentment against bloated recurrent budget has negatively affected the public image of the legislators.
Neither the 1999 Constitution (even after the first amendment) nor the RMAFC recommendations provided for Legislative Aides as a separate expenditure head, other than provisions for Personal Assistants and general staff of NASS Service Commission. This unconstitutional importation has become a conduit for perfecting the deliberate act of misappropriation through bloated personnel/overhead budget of NASS.
Concerned groups and activists insist that if the capital budget of NASS is rightly left in the FCTA budget, then in the current state of the economy, NASS' Total Recurrent Budget can be judiciously met with a sum not exceeding N25 billion (to cover total personnel cost of members, aides, and staff of NASS Service Commission) and reasonable overhead cost.
There is also growing demand for Senators and members of the House of Representatives to perform their legislative duties on a monthly total emolument (excluding allowance for constituency) of N500,000 and N400,000 respectively – considering the emoluments of Directors in other federal establishments who live in Abuja and even pay for accommodation. According to C-JET, at the current N150 billion constant budget, the 469 Legislators and NASS as a body are receiving in the excess the sum of N125 billion annually, to the detriment of many poor and unemployed Nigerians. "This amount is much higher than the N96 billion ($600 million) loan which the out gone Finance Minister went to beg from China in 2013 to continue the people-oriented Abuja Light Rail project, for instance".
C-JET insists that in the current 8th Parliament, the legislators are required to effect the cut of this excess N125 billion, and have the moral ground to cut similar excesses in the recurrent budgets of other MDAs, and thus cure the perennial budget plague of unsustainable recurrent expenditure. If this is done, the sum of N800 billion could be saved from the 2015 recurrent federal budget.
The argument from the CSO is that half of the N800 billion saving (N400 billion) can be deployed to comfortably empower about two million NDE graduates who could not get NDE's post-training N200,000 loan for lack of collateral.
Expectedly, the group has demanded that the RMAFC and NISWC review down the pay package and overhead costs of political office holders, especially that of the national legislators. According to the group, "the desirability and constitutional feasibility of factoring in the varying revenue and cost of living indices of different states should also be considered in the current review exercise."
CSOs and the bailout funds saga
The CSOs have been in the forefront of public outcry which trailed the lack of accountability and transparency in the management of the bailout funds dished out by the Federal Government to the states in the wake of the recent economic recession.
It would be recalled that the Buhari administration came to the rescue of the states with N338 billion, when about 26 states were practically bankrupt. This was followed by another N575 billion; $2.1 billion from the Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas (NLNG); N7.85 billion to assist with revenue shortfalls; N3.6 billion from solid minerals savings; N117.3 billion taken from the excess revenue generated from Petroleum Profit Tax, before the latest tranche of the Paris Fund Refunds.
The research by BudgIT released in April 2017 showed that the Buhari administration had given N1.75 trillion extra-statutory allocations to states. These were in spite of the infrastructure fund from which some states got more than N10 billion and the reimbursement for federal projects executed by states.
However, instead of using the funds for the primary purpose of settling workers' salary arrears and reducing inequality, most state governors diverted the funds for personal aggrandizement.
Many civil rights activists are angry that the mismanagement of the bailout funds has further widened the inequality gap and have initiated campaigns against it. For instance, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has taken up the gauntlet, demanding that state governors provide details of expenditures pertaining to the Paris Club refund. SERAP also demanded for the return of over N40 billion allegedly collected by ex-governors, now serving as senators and ministers as pensions from their states.
The bid got a massive boost on June 27, 2017 from a Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos. It granted SERAP permission to "apply for judicial relief and to seek an order of mandamus directing and/or compelling the government to publish details of spending of N10388.304 billion London Paris Club refunds allegedly diverted and mismanaged by 35 states", among other requests granted by the court.
SERAP has also taken its battle for public scrutiny of financial imprudence to members of the National Assembly because some of the ex-governors who are now senators have almost turned it into leisure rendezvous. "After milking their states dry, they now seat in the NASS to selfishly stop their prosecution if ever there is any", SERAP said.
On July 15, 2017, SERAP again put the Accountant-General (AG) on notice to institute a legal action for the recovery of over N1040 billion dubiously earned in double payment by those who had served as governors and are now serving as senators or ministers of the federation. About 17 senators and four ministers were reportedly involved in this double pay issue. SERAP urged the AG to use his "good offices as a defender of public interest" to institute legal action to challenge the legality of state laws permitting governors to enjoy emoluments, even while they serve as senators or ministers.
Adetokunbo Mumuni, Executive Director of SERAP argues that "public interest is not well-served when government officials such as former governors and deputies supplement their emolument in their current positions with life pensions and emoluments drawn from their states' meagre resources, thereby prioritizing their private or personal interest over and above the greatest happiness of the greatest majority of the people."
SERAP's legal battle eventually forced Dr. Bukola Saraki, Senate President, to stop collecting pension in Kwara State, where he had served as governor between 2003 and 2011. Saraki disclosed that he wrote a letter to the Kwara State government to stop the payment of the pension after SERAP declared it as illegal.
Mumuni, the Executive Director of SERAP believes that efforts of successive administrations in Nigeria have not been able to address the root causes of widening inequality and poverty in the country because of poor planning and implementation. According to him, government's best efforts have not been enough in reducing economic inequality and poverty among majority of Nigerians because of the slipshod manner of their execution.
He cautioned that if the Nigerian government continues in that manner, it is doubtful whether it will be possible to significantly reduce inequality in Nigeria by 2030.