What Next After Remediation of Shikira and the Minister Visitation?

What Next After Remediation of Shikira and the Minister Visitation?

On 22nd of January 2017 our team was informed of the expected visitation of the Minister of Environment to Shikira community to access the work done so far. To us, it was a surprised at first because it was on a Sunday, but also we think this is how the government should work which the Amina Mohammed Administration showed to us that the government could follow the money themselves too rather than doling millions out on a project without clear monitoring and evaluation criteria to assess the situation of the project.

Indeed between our last visit in August 2016 and 22nd of January, we have seen some changes in Shikira Community as the first phase of the remediation is finished and the second phase which was the last stage would be kickstarted in a matter of weeks.

The first phase includes the removing of contaminated top soils and spreading of clean soils to restore the soil to the way it was before the lead poisoning saga. The removed top soil was dumped in a temporary dumping site which will then be buried with clay soil coating in a low water level soil.

Observation on Phase One

  • The lead-contaminated soil is in the dumping site for now and it will soon be buried at a site which will be identified in few weeks time after a deep geological test by the approved personnel.
  • The compounds and soils that were once tested lead positive have been remediated with 400 – 405ppm lead level which the US EPA standard is 400.
  • The children are already undergoing treatment by the MSF (Doctors Without Borders Team) and they have started playing around again; though the treatment is still ongoing.
  • The only medical facility in the community has been renovated and it now has toilets, water, and medical personnel though none was found on the job when we visited.
  • The MSF team and the State Ministry of Environment have started a safer mining training for the artisanal miners in the community.
  • The community engagement is ongoing so as to avoid reoccurrence of such event and how to take precautionary steps towards lead poisoning.

What the challenge of the community is 

They need water as they are presently fetching water in more than 20 miles away from their community and the water is not safer as it might likely be contaminated with lead too. Simba Tirima of the MSF said we cannot say we are remediating this community without providing them water as that was part of what cause the contamination in the first instance. If we are to be done finally with this remediation, we must provide water for them so they won’t have to go back to the water that was contaminated.

Lead Contaminated soil Waiting to be Buried

What is left to be done

  • The community with the state Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Solid Minerals & Mining is to provide a plot (50×100) of land with low water level for the team to bury the contaminated soils.
  • The site would be fenced with a restricted area inscription so that the people in the community won’t dug it up later after the contaminated soils have been buried.
  • The community would be provided with water source/s
  • There will be a geological test to identify a low water levelled soil to bury the contaminated excavated soils.

Our reaction

We are calling on the Minister of Environment, Amina Mohammed to consider handling the project to the hand of trusted officials as she will soon be leaving office so that the monies earmarked for the second phase which is as important as the first phase won’t go missing as there have been some cases of likely misappropriation of the fund by some cabals within the Ministry.

Also, the Follow The Money team is thanking the minister for her due diligence, professionalism and vigilance on the #SaveShikira Campaign, her actions gives us more hope that the government can be transparent and responsible when called on by the people. And we also congratulate her on her new position in the UN.

Nigeria’s Economic Recession, The 2017 Budget As The Magic Wand

Nigeria’s Economic Recession, The 2017 Budget As The Magic Wand

Following our works in ensuring transparency, accountability and citizen engagement in governmental spending, I represented Connected Development (CODE) in the public presentation and breakdown of the 2017 budget. This was held on the 19th of December, 2016 at the Conference Hall of the State House, Abuja. The invitation was from the Honourable Minister of Budget and National Planning, Sen. Udoma Udo Udoma. The event was a postscript of the 2017 budget presentation to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari.

In the event, in which relevant governmental/non-governmental stakeholders were in attendance, Sen. Udoma took about 90 minutes to breakdown/present the lustrated ”Budget of Recovery and Growth.” He stated, “the budget reflects the government’s commitment to restore the economy on the path of sustainable and inclusive growth.” He started with a brief analysis of the performance of the 2016 budget. Highlights from the analysis showed that as at the Q3 of 2016, oil production was at 1.81 mbpd as against the predicted 2.2mbpd on the 2016 budget. The exchange rate was at N305/US$ as against the predicted N197/USD. In addition, GDP growth rate which was predicted at 4.3% was at -2.24%. Inflation which was predicted at 9.81% was at 17.85%. And ultimately, the government has only realized 75% of the 2016 budget revenue. A take home from his analysis is that poor performance of the 2016 budget, hugely contributed to the country’s economic recession and worsening macro-economic indicators.

In the breakdown of the 2017 budget, the Minister commented, ”the budget was designed to expand partnership between public and private sectors, including development capital to leverage and springboard resources for growth.” In sum, the budget intends to focus on infrastructural expansion, establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZ), expansion of agriculture, encouraging the growth of small & medium industries, and providing a social safety net for poor Nigerians. The N7.298 trillion budget has key assumptions such as: oil production at 2.2mbpd, benchmark oil price at US$42.5/b, exchange rate at N305/US$, GDP Growth Rate at 2.5%. The 2017 budget envisages a total revenue of N4.94 trillion, exceeding that of 2016 by 28%. The projected revenue realisation from oil was N1.985 trillion and Non-oil, N1.373 trillion.

The capital expenditure was at N2.24 trillion (30.7%) with ”Ministries” such as Power, Works & Housing, Transportation, Special Intervention Programmes, Defence, Water Resources etc. taking N529 billion, N262 billion, N150 billion, N140 billion, N85 billion respectively.

While there in several initiatives on the 2017 budget, such as the recapitalization of the Banks of Industry and Agriculture by N15 billion, N50 billion for the establishment of SEZs and the benchmark oil price at US$42.5/b (if OPEC keeps on its esplanade of cutting down oil production), there are several key concerns that quickly comes to mind:

1). The problem has always been implementation crisis as well as lack of transparency, accountability and citizen engagement in governmental spending. We call for increased transparency and accountability in the budget’s implementation.

2). Participatory budgetary process in the preparation of the 2017 budget was very poorly implemented especially with respect to involving CSOs and leaders of local communities.

3). The performance of the 2016 budget still remains poor, most of its capital items are still at the contracting stage.

4). No. 3 leads to a key concern about how the government intends to manage the whole kerfuffle of the 2016 spill-over in 2017, with the weak coordination chain we are seeing now.

5). Planning the 2017 Fiscal Year on N305/US$ is quite unrealistic with several FOREX rates out there. The Central Bank should find a way to address the worsening FOREX crisis and harmonize the rates.

6). The 2.2mbpd oil production estimate might not be realized, following the continuing oil pipeline vandalisation in the Niger Delta which the government has not found a sustainable means to address.

7). The N2.2 trillion budgeted capital expenditure is still so nanoscopic to what is needed to stimulate the economy. The government must find a way of reversing the trend of having recurrent expenditure taking over almost 80% of the budget of several sectors.

8). While the government is preaching financial prudence, it’s quite paradoxical that several overhead items of the State House have increments on the average of 250% from their 2016 appropriations.

9). #FollowTheMoney team of CODE urgently await a part release of the performance of the 2016 budget performance, while we continue tracking the implementation of its capital items in rural communities.

COUNTING THE COST: COAL IN NIGERIA’S ENERGY MIX

COUNTING THE COST: COAL IN NIGERIA’S ENERGY MIX

Global Rights organized a town hall meeting, which brought together stakeholders in Nigeria’s energy sector, including government, coal mining companies & their host communities, the media and civil society. The meeting was for a debate on coal in Nigeria’s energy mix considering the challenges the country suffers from energy deficit that is negatively affecting its socio-economic development and practically every other part of its national life. Because energy sources in Nigeria can no longer meet demand, the Federal Government, therefore proposed alongside with other sources to meet 30% of Nigeria’s energy local need demand from coal energy without considering the implication of utilizing coal as a source of energy in Nigeria.

Key Highlights from the Meeting:

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Looking at an overview of global trend on coal energy, coal was accountable for emitting 14.2 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide (C02). That is 44% of all energy associated carbon dioxide emissions and more than one-quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions. In other words, no other energy source other than coal contributes as much greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, digging up coal to generate electricity stirs out emissions that escalate greenhouse effect and because coal is pure carbon, it is one of the enormous sources of climate change. However, coal is burned to manufacture heat and electricity that emits a lot of CO2 along with some quantities of methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N20). (Friends of the Earth International, COAl ATLAS 2015).

Usually, producing electricity from coal is harmful to the climate, most gas powered plants releases only half as much as carbon dioxide as modern coal-fired power stations. This is why most coal mining companies in advanced countries are shutting down because of the enormous effect it has on the environment and health of the people which in turn will adversely affect sustainable development.

(Okobo Community Traditional Rulers explaining the ordeal they are facing)

Nigeria really need to consider the concept of trade-off, looking at the cost of ownership which covers short term benefit and long term cost. As a coal mining company in Okobo community in Kogi State is already affecting the people and their sources of livelihood.

Nigeria’s proposed utilization of 30% of coal is definitely going to jeopardize our commitment to the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) to The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Paris Agreement. Focusing on coal as energy source will only give us short term benefit and long term cost, as a country we should look at other sources of energy which will benefit us more in the long run.

In addition, the Federal government of Nigeria could consider cleaner alternatives to coal such as windmill energy: which is dependent on available wind, has no impact on landscape and no emission of carbon dioxide, Biomass energy: from wood, crops, landfill gas, alcohol fuels and garbage. By using biomass in power production instead of fossil fuel, C02 emissions are significantly reduced. Hydro power plants have a long economic life with no fuel cost and lastly solar energy which is the fastest growing renewable energy source. All these are cleaner and achievable sources of energy which we could take as a country to meet our energy demand.

SAY NO TO COAL…

Engaging Legislators on #MakeNaijaStronger Campaign

Engaging Legislators on #MakeNaijaStronger Campaign

Connected Development [CODE] in partnership with ONE Campaign and The League of Progressive Ambassadors of Nigeria (LEPAN) organized a one week outreach to engage legislators on the #MakeNaijaStronger campaign which is a national health campaign to draw attention to the urgent need for increased public investments to improve health and nutrition outcomes in Nigeria. The Campaign amplifies the calls of various Nigerian organizations that have called on government to priorities increased health investments to help strengthen health systems and save lives.

The aim of the outreach was to get the legislators to sign the petition which calls on the government needs to ensure full implementation of the National Health Act, including more resources and better spending to ensure all Nigerians, including the poorest are able to access health care.

The National Health Act was signed into law by the president on December 9, 2014 with the aim to establish a framework for the regulation, development and management of a National Health System, to set standards for rendering health services in the Federation and other matters concerned, it also provides that there would be improved funding of health care services at the grass root so that people don’t have to travel far to access medical services.  This Act will also ensure that states participate in improving health centers through a counterpart fund that would enable them benefit from the consolidated funds.

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Getting the legislators to sign the petition was not an easy ride as most of them could not be found at their offices. Those that were around were apprehensive and bluntly refused to append their signature, while some will verbally support the cause and refuse to sign the petition. We also understood that it was a very difficult time for them as previously they just experienced a total blockade of the complex by an aggrieved group and therefore there was little acceptance given to advocacy groups at the moment. Notwithstanding a total of 84 petitions were signed by the legislators.

This shows that 34 distinguished senators and 50 Honourable members are also joining CODE, ONE Campaign, LEPAN and the Nigerian citizens to call on the Government to fully fund the National Health Acts and its provisions, Increase transparency in health programming and spending and also scale up investments in the 2017 budget for areas that can have the greatest health impact for Nigerian citizens in other to #MakeNaijaStronger

The Implementation of Capital Funds Intended for Primary Healthcare Provision in Nigeria

The Implementation of Capital Funds Intended for Primary Healthcare Provision in Nigeria

CODE participated in the Stakeholder Briefing on Primary Healthcare Centres (PHC) which was held on 29 November 2016 at Spice Platter Gallery, 18 Libreville Crescent, Wuse 2, Abuja. It was choreographed by the Public and Private Development Center (PPDC) and was a briefing on the findings from PHCs visited by PPDC and CODE, in 2016.

PPDC on its part has been mobilizing procurement monitors to track and verify the performance of contracts awarded for projects such as PHCs across the country. This is with the aim of ensuring that public resources are been judiciously utilized in providing public services. CODE also through its Follow the Money initiative has been tracking government implementation of capital funds that are intended for local communities in health, education and environment.

The stakeholders meeting then provided a platform for the two organizations to interact with relevant stakeholders drawn from the National Assembly, State Ministries of Health and several media agencies. The event featured a presentation by PPDC on their procurement and budget tracking works in local communities. In the event, the organization also presented its Budeshi online platform. The online platform is a dedicated site that links budget and procurement data to various public services. It is accessible to the public to interact with and make their own comparisons. This is in a bid to make information around public contracts and procurement process more coherent. Budeshi is also an attempt to demonstrate the Open Contracting Data Standards across the public procurement value chain.

CODE on its part made a presentation on its monitoring of the implementation of capital funds for the rehabilitation of PHCs in Akwa Ibom, Enugu, Kano, Kogi, Osun, and Yobe states. Part of the funds include the $1.5 million health grant from the World Bank to each of the 36 Nigerian states & the FCT and N10.5 earmarked by NPHCDA for the rehabilitation of a PHC in Afia Nsit Urua Nko, Akwa Ibom State. The presentation also accentuated the fact that no sort of implementation is going on with respect to the funds and that governmental agencies are so lackadaisical in replying FOI Requests on further perspicacity on these funds.

The concerned stakeholders such as the personnel from Oyo and Osun States’ Ministries of Health commented that most states have not accessed the World Bank Health Grant. This is contradictory to information that CODE has at this time which is that some states have gotten access. Moreover, our interest is on getting the costed work plan for the grant’s employment, as well as safeguarding citizen engagement on the usage of the fund – which all do not have anything to do with the technicalities of funds provision, assessment, receipt . . . The representative from Osun State Ministry of Health promised to provide the costed work plan of the $1.5 million usage in Osun State to CODE. We hope he does this, and that the State Ministries of Health put information on all the expenditure and intended projects in the public domain.

Proposed Online Budget Portal for Nigerian Citizens

Nigeria still has deep challenges in ensuring transparency and accountability in governmental activities and expenditure. Citizen engagement in governance has remained pretty poor. Participatory budgetary practices have remained poor and governmental data are still limitedly open to the public. Currently, the country has signed the Open Government Partnership with several commitments from Abuja to ensure and promote transparency and accountability in governance. Following this, on 15 November 2016, the Partnership to Engage, Reform and Learn (PERL) programme funded by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) organized a roundtable discussion with Civil Society Organizations (CSO) and the Media on the proposed online budget portal for citizens. This was in partnership with the country’s Budget Office or Ministry of Budget and National Planning (MBNP). In attendance were CSOs with core in ensuring transparency, accountability and citizen engagement in governance.

PERL is currently supporting the MBNP in developing an online portal for citizens to access budget information. The roundtable was then for relevant civil society groups to make inputs and suggestions on what information government should put on the online citizens’ portal. This was to ensure that that the online portal is reflective of citizens needs on the budget.

The portal encompasses features such as: Citizen Guide to the ‘2017’ Budget, Sectoral budget information, Geopolitical allocation of funds, Planning and key policy documents to be included on the portal, ‘2017’ Budget facts, Budget monitoring reports, FAQs, Budget Calendar and A feedback platform.

CODE made some inputs and suggestions on other features of the portal such as. 1). A mechanism for citizens to be able to sort/filter the budget sectorally, by states, LGAs, communities, quoted amounts etc. 2). A mechanism for one to be able to click on a budget item and have further details. 3). A mobile application component. 4). A Live chat. 5). And ultimately, for the portal to have information on budget implementation such as implementation stage, procurement processes, contractors etc. Other CSOs also made suggestions such as for the online portal to be in different languages, for the use of infographics and information of policies guiding the budget.

We are expecting that further collaboration between DFID PERL and the Budget Office while carrying other stakeholders along would see to the successful implementation of this platform. This we also expect would go a long way to ensure transparency, accountability and civic engagement in Nigeria’s governance.