Ensuring Open Government on World Bank’s $500 million Health Credit to the Nigerian Government for SOML PforR

Ensuring Open Government on World Bank’s $500 million Health Credit to the Nigerian Government for SOML PforR

[Follow The Money Team, ONE Campaign Africa Country Director and The World Bank SOML PforR Departmental Personnel]

 

In 2012, the Nigerian Federal Government initiated the Saving One Million Lives Program For Results (SOML PforR). It was a program to rollback child and maternal mortality in the country and save an estimate of 900,000 women and children that die each year through preventable causes. The program was also intended to improve immunization and nutritional outcomes across the country and train birth attendants etc. Subsequently in 2015, the World Bank approved $500 million credit for the program. To ensure transparency and accountability in the fund’s implementation, on 2 February of the same year, the Bretton Woods institution invited Civil Society Organizations for a consultative meeting to get their feedback, suggestions and inputs on the program.

Between 2015 and 2016, there was no other such of civil society engagement by the World Bank on the credit, occasioning speculations about what could be happening to the fund. However, around September 2016, the World Bank provided $55.5 million as part of the credit to the Federal Ministry of Health who then gave $1.5 million to each of the 36 states and the FCT. At the receipt of this development, we started tracking the implementation of the one and half million dollars at Primary Healthcare Centres across rural communities in Akwa Ibom, Enugu, Kano, Kogi, Osun and Yobe States. But this been back-breaking following information crisis, confusion, secrecy and anomalous reporting on the fund. As at December 2016, many of the states were saying that they have not received the fund. In addition, it was only Yobe State that gave us their Work Plan for the fund, while other states did not even acknowledge our Freedom of Information (FOI) requests on that.

Several FOI requests to the Ministry of Health and its SOML PforR Department for details on states that have received the fund were never acknowledged. Consequently, on 8 December, 2016, we wrote the World Bank Country Office asking for audience to share our experience with respect to tracking the fund and getting several key details on the fund release dynamics from them. They did not acknowledge or reply our request too. In January 2017, we overheard President Buhari making a pronouncement that the $1.5 million has been released to all the states.

Following these developments, we wrote again to the World Bank on 27 February seeking an audience on the SOML PforR and we were invited for a meeting on 8 March, 2017. In the meeting with the institution’s SOML Program Lead, Dr Benjamim Loevinsohn was impressed that a CSO is genuinely interested in ensuring open government in the implementation of the fund. He briefed us of several developments around the $55.5 million and the SOML PforR itself. He promised collaborations and information sharing with Follow The Money Team to ensure the fund would be clinically implemented to save thousands of lives across the country.

He also used the occasion to comment on Nigeria’s immunization outcome, which was surprisingly lower than that of Afghanistan. The latter has been into political instability for more than a decade. Similarly, Cameroon and Ghana all have better immunization outcome than Nigeria. “The problem in Nigeria has been vaccines supply issue,” said Dr Benjamin. On the $1.5 million, he also stated, “the fund has been released to each of the states and the FCT. I am certain that as at last 3 weeks, about 30 states have gotten access to the fund. The remaining few states have not accessed the fund because they have not met up with some of the fund access regime elements.”

Dr Benjamin promised to discuss with the Ministry of Health over quarterly engagements with the civil society and the media on the SOML PforR implementation.

POLICY PROCESSES AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IN AFRICA

POLICY PROCESSES AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IN AFRICA

A policy is a guideline that governments employ to address specific public or national issues. Several issues concerning economic growth and development are addressed through governmental employment of policies. Issues such as inequality, inflation, budget-deficit, monetary and fiscal instabilities, economic diversification, unemployment, poverty, human capital deficit, boosting manufacturing, rural development, attracting foreign direct investment and many more. This makes policymaking processes as well as implementation exceedingly imperative. Political leaders have over time, used policies to transform their countries and address societal challenges and complaints. Policies are always a response or reaction to several developments and mostly followed by institutional mechanisms for implementation.

For example, Oportunidades [(English: Opportunities) (now rebranded as Prospera)], a welfare program, was created by the Mexican government in 2002, to eradicate poverty through providing cash payments to families in exchange for regular school attendance, health clinic visits and nutritional support. Through this policy, Mexico has been successful in reducing poverty and improving health and educational levels around the country. The program encompasses Conditional Cash Transfer to families to ensure that children attend school and family members receive preventative healthcare. It also includes rigorous selection of recipients based on a considerable number of geographic and socioeconomic factors. It has been considered as one of the most phenomenal programs on eradicating poverty (through it, millions of lives have been transformed) and this has become a model for similar programs instituted in other countries.

The emerged or newly industrialised East Asian economies were able to transform their countries and develop through aggressive, far reaching policies that were geared towards: boosting domestic production (export led growth); attracting investors (through providing an enabling environment: infrastructure, educated and skilled workforce, laws to protect foreign businesses, reduction of corporate taxes to reduce the cost of production and political stability); privatisation to increase private ownership and efficiency; reforming public institutions; managing trade unions to curtail their extreme practices, increase productivity and efficiency; manufacturing and industrialisation; and family planning. These were clear-cut socio-economic policies and through effective leadership, these policies were implemented to the last. These governments also used incentives and subsidies to encourage domestic production. In addition, most of them effectuated public housing schemes and provided subsidies in education and health sectors to counter poverty and inequality. They also effectuated wealth distribution policies after they had created wealth.

East Asian leaders changed the stories of their countries through deep-seated sincerity and commitment to the implementation of these policies, to lift millions out of poverty. They adhered to the full stages of policymaking – institutionalised policymaking – created conducive environment for the policies to thrive – improved governance – provided adequate funding and staff for the implementation of these polices – used experts in policymaking process – supervised implementation – and monitored and evaluated these policies. For instance, in Singapore, the public housing scheme was an initiative to bring together the races: Chinese, Indians and Malays, so as to counter fractionalisation crisis and this worked so well.

African governments have been experiencing enormous challenges in crafting clear-cut policies and implementing them. First, most of the first generation of African leaders were not entirely prepared for leadership, so could not make sound policies to address fractionalisation crisis and economic underdevelopment. They lacked the exposure to understand the importance of coherent and efficient public policies under the counsel of neo-classical counter revolution and how these influence development. What public policy for economic development or social challenge did the likes of Idi Amin, Mobutu Sese Seko and Kamuzu Banda make? None!

Secondly, the military that defenestrated these leaders from power just focused on consolidating power, imprisoning emerging political opponents and embezzling funds. The soldiers joined their predecessors in practices that are against comprehensible policy processes. Practices such as nepotism, favoritism and corruption, while frustrating important themes of development such as industrialisation, external trade expansion, foreign investment attraction etc. The oil boom era saw the concentration of these leaders on primary exports, while some of them got comfy with receiving foreign aid and never utilising it efficiently especially with respect to using it for capital expenditure. Only few made policies on building infrastructure, expanding agriculture and eradicating poverty. So this resulted from bad leadership to bad governance and then to policy crisis.

Albeit, there have been some improvements since the 90s. African governments are still having deep challenges in making comprehensible policies to address several pressing socioeconomic concerns. Most policies were not well formulated or implemented because of weak public institutions, policy reversals, incoherent policies, lack of appurtenant human and material resources and political will deficit from political leaders. Corruption, lack of expertise in policymaking, inadequate funding, poor governance, roadside declarations, political instabilities, poor monitoring and evaluation templates and poor prioritisation of issues are further challenges facing policymaking and implementation in Africa.

Moving forward, African governments should institutionalise policymaking, improve governance, reform public institutions and extend consultation to all the involved stakeholders in policymaking. There should be policies to address several developmental challenges that would be implemented through proper policy implementation mechanisms and with adequate political will. There should also be comprehensive policies on massive attraction of foreign investors and providing an enabling environment for them, as well as on spurring domestic manufacturing and diversifying exports. Policies such as the Mexican Oportunidades should be replicated to address poverty by African governments. In addition, there should be coherent policies on wealth distribution, rural development, assets redistribution (land reforms), provision of public goods and services, infrastructural expansion and rural healthcare programs. Further policies on family planning to address population explosion, as well as on peace-building to prevent the re-occurrence of conflicts that have devastated the continent are exceptionally important. These policies should be implemented with surplus rigour and efficiency.

 

Chambers Umezulike is a Program Officer at Connected Development and a Development Expert. He spends most of his time writing and choreographing researches on good and economic governance. He tweets via @Prof_Umezulike.

Addressing Citizenry Extensive Concerns on the 2017 Budget Proposal

Addressing Citizenry Extensive Concerns on the 2017 Budget Proposal

On 23 February 2017, the Director-General (DG) of the Budget Office of the Federation choreographed a media briefing on several issues surrounding the 2017 Budget Proposal. The DG also used the briefing to make certain clarifications on public outcries over several budget items on the proposal. Most of these outcries were on many frivolous items (especially on electricity and utility bills of MDAs; several humongous expenses on the state house budget on utensils and feeding, electricity bills, travel expenses etc.); repetitions of budget items; budget cycle crisis; the budget preparation expenses; lack of details on some of the items; budget padding etc.

In attendance at the briefing were the media and Civil Society Organizations (CSO). In responding to some of these concerns, the DG took his time to counter some of the claims:

1). He stated that there was no sort of budget padding on the 2017 budget proposal.

2). That there were no frivolous items. That most of the extensive increments such as state house proposed expenditure on utensils and utility bills; electricity bills, security and cleaning services payments in MDAs etc. were either as a result of arrears of such bills/expenses or because funds were not later provided for them on the 2016 budget (meaning they were not implemented.)

3). He stated that there were no repetitions on the proposal, unless the repetitions being referred to were budget items on the 2016 one that re-reflected on the 2017 proposal, which was as a result of the fact that funds were not provided for such items on the former.

4). He reassured the audience of his liaison with the National Assembly to ensure that budget cycle would be from January – December of every year, which was clearly stated on the constitution, as against the culture of having a previous budget being implemented in another fiscal year.

5). He also explained that the details-deficit on some of the budget items were as a result of the perspective to keep the budget simple, for public consumption. That however that his agency would ensure further details on budget items when preparing subsequent budgets.

Representing Connected Development (CODE) at the event, I further engaged the DG and raised concerns over the NGN305/$ calculation on the budget proposal (while $1 is valued at NGN 520 at the contemporaneous market); if there are extensive plans for enhanced transparency and accountability in the 2017 budget implementation; our expectancy to lay hands on the 3rd and 4th quarters’ reports of 2016 budget implementation; his plans to ensure that revenue realization deficit would not frustrate the 2017 budget implementation drawing on the country’s experience with the 2016 one; and getting access to an extensive version of the budget that had further details on some of the line items. For the latter, I mentioned the ‘Talking Sanitation’, as well as ‘Afforestation’ and ‘Tree Planting’ budget items on the proposal, under the Ministry of Environment, which all lacked details such as where and how. Lack of such specific details has frustrated the works of CSOs that are into governmental capital expenditure tracking.

In addressing my concerns, the DG made commitments that were all in line with Nigeria’s commitments on the Open Government Partnership. He stated that the 3rd quarter 2016 budget implementation report would soon be in public domain while the 4th quarter’s would soon be out too. He further stated that there would be increased transparency, accountability and citizen engagement in the 2017 budget implementation. On this, he cited plans to have a digital platform for 24/7 citizen engagement on the budget. He also mentioned that there would be a breakdown on project basis subsequently when funds are released to MDAs. In addition, he promised a quarterly media briefing on the 2017 budget implementation. These were all good news and great outcomes for nonprofits that are into Open Governance advocacy. He mentioned categorically that the revenue realization plan on the proposal is quite realizable and that the FOREX regime crisis would not affect the budget implementation.

This media engagement is a step in the right direction as bringing all stakeholders involved and addressing public concerns on the budget proposal have boosted citizen participation in governance and also provided a platform for clarifications on several portions of the budget, as well as for stakeholders to make suggestions. It is hoped that the Director keeps to all the new commitments he made at the briefing and ensuring extensive open financial governance in the budget implementation. From our part, we are sending an FOI request for an extensive version of the budget, which he promised CODE would be provided with. And before I forget, he commented that he likes our name, ‘Follow The Money.’

 

Chambers Umezulike is a Program Officer at Connected Development and a Development Expert. He spends most of his time writing and choreographing researches on good and economic governance. He tweets via @Prof_Umezulike.

A Reflection on the Legacies of Murtala Muhammed

A Reflection on the Legacies of Murtala Muhammed

General Murtala Muhammed ruled Nigeria from 1975 until his assassination in 1976. In a short time, his policies, pro-activeness and decisiveness won him broad popular support. He swiftly initiated a comprehensive review of the 3rd National Development Plan and created economic strategies to address rising inflation rate. He also immediately announced that his government would encourage the privatisation of government corporations. To fight corruption and over-bloating of the civil service that was legitimised by the Gowon government, he also dismissed more than 10,000 public officials and employees without benefits, on account of age, health, incompetence, or malpractice.

To some, this later became the single biggest policy error in the development of Nigeria by damaging the public service both in capacity and through encouraging corruption. This was because, the dismissals brought public servants to the reality that security of tenure was something that could be swept away with a stroke of the pen. Consequently, since one does not know how long a public service might last, it was considered better to feather the nest while one had the opportunity. In addition, the mass sack had an adverse effect on socio-economic development because Nigeria lost skilled and trained manpower that would have strengthened its institutions.

While his critics leverage on this and his role in the civil war in criticizing him; his admirers focus on his personality, decisiveness and the sort of populist actions in took while in few months in office, as part of his legacies. In the midst of such mixed reactions over his legacies, the Murtala Muhammed Foundation (MMF), on 13 February 2017, organized the 2017 Murtala Muhammed Memorial Lecture, with the theme, ‘Humanitarian Crisis and Response in a Plural Society: What Role for Leadership,’ at Shehu Yarádua Centre, Abuja.

In attendance were the acting president, Prof Yemi Osinbajo; former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo; Cardinal John Onaiyekan; Board Members of MMF; Mrs Ajoke Muhammed, widow of Murtala; and HE Kashim Shettima, governor of Borno State; as well as other dignitaries and participants. The acting and former presidents all gave their remarks, highlighting the ideals of Murtala Muhammed. The governor was the keynote speaker, in a lecture titled, ‘Managing the Boko Haram Crisis in Borno State; Experiences and Lessons for a multi-party, multi-ethnic and multi-religious Nigeria.” In the lecture, Mr Shettima took his time to narrate the emergence of Boko Haram which he married with the incompetence of his predecessor, Ali Modu Sheriff, to settle some disagreements that arose between the police and members of the then budding sect in 2009.

However, what was paradoxical was that Mr Shettima was also in the government of his predecessor as a commissioner in 5 different Ministries, and has a great share in any blame with that government, over the latter’s inability to crack this sect while it was budding or harmonise the political instability the disagreements led to. In the lecture, he also went ahead to narrate of how several unnecessary conspiracy theories have been created out of the Boko Haram crisis especially during the immediate past regime, which were not necessary for the unity and development of the country. He commented that such theories prevented the past government from finding immediate measures in rescuing the missing Chibok girls. The lecture also highlighted his disagreements with several NGOs and INGOs involved in managing the humanitarian crisis in the north-eastern part of the country, and a briefing on his efforts on education and agriculture in Borno State. He ended by saying that his government is liaising with other stakeholders to make sure that the IDP camps in the north-east would be closed in May this year.

This was another shocking paradox considering that hundreds of thousands of IDPs are all over the sub-region. As at now, the war on Boko Haram just went into a transition of what could be near permanent crackdown on the sect. There is no sort of reconstruction efforts in these communities and the governor wants the IDPs to return to Borno. There are no hospitals, schools; farmlands are devastated; no alternative sources of livelihood. There are no sorts of reconstruction, reintegration and rehabilitation plans on-going. Such mass return by such a deadline that ain’t feasible is not realistic. There should be efforts to make sure IDPs are living fairly well in their camps while the government concentrates on re-building their communities and creating a conducive environment for them, before they return home.

 

Chambers Umezulike is a Program Officer at Connected Development and a Development Expert. He spends most of his time writing and choreographing researches on good and economic governance. He tweets via @Prof_Umezulike.

The Denouement of Primary Export Dependence – Nigeria’s Economic Recession

The Denouement of Primary Export Dependence – Nigeria’s Economic Recession

Photo Credit: post-nigeria.com

According to Nigeria National Bureau of Statistics, the country’s Gross Domestic Product contracted by 0.36% in the Quarter(Q) 1 of 2016, the first negative growth in many years. Successive contractions in Q2 and Q3 of the same year by 2.1% and 2.24%, respectively, officially chaperoned Nigeria into an economic recession. Even before the country’s general elections in March 2015, the country had already started encountering a considerable number of pre-recession prodromes such as wages crisis, Foreign Exchange (FOREX) scarcity, compressing governmental revenues and domestic savings, rising inflation, job losses, a depreciating national currency, depleting foreign reserves, escalating poverty, while the country’s capital market started losing billions of Naira.

These prodromes gradually worsened in succeeding months after the Muhammadu Buhari led administration came into office in May 2015. Between Q4 of 2015 and Q3 of last year, inflation rose from 9.5 to 18.3%. Similarly, unemployment grew from 10.4 to 13.9%; Naira depreciated at the contemporaneous market by around 100%, from around 225 to 450 while it remained officially pegged at 305 per US$1. For the latter, last year, the country’s Central Bank adopted a partial flexible exchange rate regime and consequently, the feeble national currency has been valued at the aforementioned rate upward. Through this, South Africa overtook and undertook Nigeria as Africa’s biggest economy in dollar terms. In addition, foreign reserves depleted from US$29 billion to 25 billion.

As a primary export dependent country, Nigeria has been an unblushing subject of international oil prices’ oscillations. Its current economic crisis is an echolalia of the early 1980s scenario which subsequently led to the country’s adoption of the Structural Adjustment Program to circumvent the economic crisis. The 1980s economic crisis frustrated economic growth in the country even till the 1990s. Between 1981 and 1985 in the country’s 2nd Republic, crude oil prices fell by 25% to US$30 per barrel from US$40. As a result, the economy went into a recession as FOREX earnings remained at US$52.78 million, away from the estimated $79.449. External debt rose to Naira 17.3 billion from an estimate of 3.7 billion. By 1985, Nigeria’s external reserves had run close to a level that could hardly finance more than one and half month import bills.

Similarly, after the sudden crash in global oil prices from $112 per barrel in the Q4 of 2014 to $43 per barrel in the Q2 quarter of 2016, the country experienced reduced FOREX earnings and governmental revenues. This then affected most sectors of the economy. Oil revenues constitute 90% of the country’s FOREX earnings (2013 estimate) and around 80% of sources of government’s revenues. Previous efforts to diversify sources of these earnings such as the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th National Development Plans and other economic regimes of successive leadership since the country’s 4th Republic have achieved contracted results.

In addition, through several apocalyptic economic tactics, the country’s topical administration also contributed to the recession, albeit they are in the process of commissioning an economic blueprint to contain it. First, from Q3 of 2015, its indecisiveness on devaluing the Naira to reduce the pressure on it skyrocketed the black market premium and incentivised arbitrage. Secondly, over the inability of the administration to keep paying oil marketers in foreign currencies so as to import refined crude into the country because of FOREX scarcity, the administration was forced to remove petroleum subsidy in early last year. This had an immediate and terrible impact on inflation. Thirdly, over previous efforts to protect the Naira, the Central Bank placed a ban on the importation of 41 items. This alone worsened the situation by creating scarcity of the products, precipitating job losses and closure of businesses.

However, a good attempt by the administration to implement an expansionary budget in the 2016 fiscal year and increase its capital expenditure component by 30% was partly hampered by ceaseless oil pipeline vandalisation by the Niger Delta militants. This deeply affected the administration’s ability to fully implement the budget as a result of drop in oil output from 1818 barrels per day in the Q4 of 2015 to 1270 in the Q2 of 2016. Also, President Buhari’s delay in appointing ministers and the resultant padding of the budget saga affected a timely implementation of the budget.

Till today, while the government has promised to release a report of the 2016 budget performance analysis by the end of January 2017, they have not. Furthermore, efforts by the administration to diversify the economy by expanding agriculture and amplifying solid minerals exploration have recorded nanoscopic results over the lack of coherent strategies to achieve such. Finally, limited results from the administration’s efforts to improve the ease of doing business and boost investors’ confidence have further imperiled the attraction of foreign capital into the country.

The economic recession is largely Nigeria’s choice and not just oil price shock because it was predictable and largely avoidable. It remains imperative that Abuja make sure that it’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan is a comprehensible economic blueprint that could address the recession with strategies, projections, targets, programs to cushion its effects etc. They should swiftly devise ways to keep pumping money into the economy, without the commensurate inflationary tendencies it can bring. Following this, the series of jocose frivolous items on the 2017 budget have to be clinically jettisoned while the fund rather goes into capital expenditure. They should also lift the ban on the importation of the aforementioned items. Import led industrialisation strategy has always failed outstandingly when it’s not backed up with coherent or backed up with anomalous tactics. Ultimately, there should be further sound strategies to aggressively attract foreign capital, position the country for industrialisation, diversify exports; and reduce poverty and unemployment.

 

Chambers Umezulike is a Program Officer at Connected Development and a Development Expert. He spends most of his time writing and choreographing researches on good and economic governance. He tweets via @Prof_Umezulike.