Auwal Ibrahim Musa, also known as (Rafsanjani), is currently the Executive Director of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC)
He is also the Chair/National Contact of Transparency International (Nigeria) and the Chair, Zero Corruption Coalition (ZCC). A coordinating committee member representing Sub-African region on Civil Society Coalition on the United Nations Convention against Corruption, Auwal is a board member of many reputable organisations including Amnesty International (Nigeria).
In this interview on the sidelines of the Spring Meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank in Washington DC, Auwal, spoke on a wide range of issues on Nigerian economy. Excerpts:
FG’s rating on job creation
Before you talk about job creation, you have to talk about the quality of people that we also produce from the University. Many Nigerians who are qualified to get admission into universities, because their parents don’t have money to pay bribe, don’t get admitted. Secondly, every now and then, the universities are on strike because the government is not able to provide them with good facilities and equipment.
The lecturers don’t give much attention to what they teach. They spend little time in the school and go out to seek other means as source of income to complement their means of livelihood. You are actually producing empty people.
Many Nigerian graduates within the last 20 years were not able to get quality education because of the bastardised sector. Many come out of the universities with idleness. Unfortunately, some public officials have used the nature of propaganda to say they are creating jobs. Millions of Nigerians that we know are idle. There are neither jobs nor job opportunities and when there are job opportunities, they only share it among themselves and their family relatives. The new development now is that they now sell public jobs. Such people who pay for jobs cannot be expected to be productive. Many people even lost their lives in the process of recruiting them. If you encourage impunity, there is no way you can encourage job creation. What is happening is deceit. Government must stop the propaganda about job creation.
First, they need to improve on the quality of education if they want real productivity. That’s the only way issues of job creation and performance can be addressed. We can’t keep employing people who will remain redundant. Such things don’t happen in the private sector.
We need to make job recruitment very competitive and attractive. Workers also need good remuneration. There should also be diversification of economy. When private sector is performing, there will be less concentration on government jobs.
My view on World Bank economic projection for Nigeria
It is very disturbing to see the World Bank analysis of Nigeria’s economy. It is also very clear that because of the absence of sound economic team we are not actually making the necessary progress in terms of consolidating and strengthening our economy in Nigeria.
Therefore, it is not surprising given the fact that Nigeria has not made appreciable progress in terms of diversification of economy and effective economic management, which is as a result of sound policy or legislative framework that would deal with the economy particularly the oil and gas sector.
You would recall that we have been advocating for the Nigerian government to ensure that we have Petroleum Industry Law passed in the country, which has been languishing in the National Assembly. It would have helped to ensure the economy is strengthened, would have eliminated corruption, duplication of responsibilities as well as inefficiency. Nigeria government is yet to do that.
Secondly, the non-oil sector has not been consciously developed in a way that will help drive the economy. You have so many areas that we as a nation have not been utilising very well. That is why we have found ourselves in zero economic stagnation, which the World Bank has rated us. And besides the World Bank, there are other institutions that have warned Nigerian government in terms of ensuring that it should have been more focussed, more productive way of improving the economy because once the economy is not rolling well, definitely, the issue of poverty, employment will be affected.
View on Nigeria spending N5trn on subsidy in 5 years
Nigeria should have done away with the subsidy a long time ago. The present administration promised to stop paying subsidy because they discovered at that time that it was a scam. It is a fraud and nothing is being subsidised. Unfortunately, we have not seen that commitment being fulfilled by the government.
The government is spending a lot of money on subsidy. For me and many Nigerians, the problem is not about subsidy, but about corruption, it is about inefficiency in the management of so called subsidy because once some people imported petroleum to Nigeria, they claimed to have brought certain amount of tonnes of petroleum which is not being verified or authenticated and yet they get their payment. That is what the problem is. Had it been the government had eliminated where this fraud is we would not be talking about it. And if government had taken steps to ensure that the refineries are working, you would not be talking about subsidy. It is funny that Nigeria as an oil producing country has to be spending that much to import petroleum for its citizens consumption. If we are able to fix our refineries and make them efficient, and effective, the question of subsidy would have been eliminated.
How illicit financial flows can be checked
The illicit financial flow is a very serious issue because in the region, Nigeria account for over 70 per cent of the illicit financial flow in West Africa and this is an alarming rate. It has not stopped. It is still happening. Therefore, there is no way a nation can have vibrant and productive financial system when people are deliberately and consciously siphoning public funds abroad. I think government anti-corruption should intensify effort to block these leakages and we must make sure that people that are found guilty or caught in the act are interrogated and prosecuted. And the recovered money can be injected back into the economy so the issues of poverty and employment can be reduced.
My driving force in social advocacy
My driving force on the fight for good governance is basically about justice, consolidating democracy, ensuring that our developments eradicate poverty and having no tolerance for impunity. We ensure that there is justice in the country and equal opportunity for all Nigerians. Nigeria and Nigerians will appreciate more if we have a more inclusive, transparent and accountable government where impunity, corruption and incompetence are not tolerated in our country. To do away with the entire ethnic and religious crisis that we have, lack of access to information is driving so many Nigerians to criminal activities. For example, many youths indulge in violence because they lack the opportunity to have tertiary education.
We want many Nigerians to have space so that they can maximise the potential they have got. Because many wicked leaders have embezzled funds from institutions that will allow everyone to benefit therein such as education, health care, among others as these acts lower the productivity of the uneducated people. Lack of education reduces one is self-esteem and can easily make a person to be manipulated. That is why we insist that public institutions must be restored and be seen to be working. Nigerian officials had their education in Nigeria. So why are they depriving this generation of good education. Many officials are also depriving people of their right to good health care. Not everybody has the money to go to private hospital or to go abroad for medical treatment. So it is important that, as a civil society organisation to continue to centre our grievances around improving governance, making it work and creating economic diversity for many Nigerians.
The country will earn from such kind of human expertise and resources. Then, they can share a lot of productive things to make government work better. When you deprive people of their right to quality education you actually programme them to go and remain in poverty. That is why CISLA, Transparency International Organisation in Nigeria, have been calling for transparency and accountability. This is the reason for my drive and the organisation that I represent also insist that until we improve in our governance system and have transparent, accountable and competent system of government at the local, state and national levels, we would not rest on our oars. Indices indicates that nothing is working well is many sectors. We need accountable leadership. Nigerians can be given reasons to do away with corruption and things that can bring about violence and impunity.
Government attitude to criticism by civil society group
As long as the Nigerian people are happy with the position you are taking and as long we are not going to undermine the constitutional provision. We are not so much worried by the position of those paid government spokespersons. Any concerned person in government, when issue of great concern are raised by CISLAC, in the case of corruption, the first step is to look at the report and get where they are doing it wrong because don’t just criticize, we also proffer solutions to issues raised. If some beneficiaries of bad governance see our criticisms, they will oppose anything that will block leakages of bad government.
Instead of them addressing those issues, they turn deaf hear and reject them. We are not worried about that. There are a lot of people in governance who appreciate our efforts and know that civil societies are contributing immensely towards improving governance in Nigeria.
Challenge of bringing good governance to Nigeria since 1960s
The major challenge that we have right after independence is that rather than promoting unity, some people are actively involved in promoting ethnic interest, trouble and regional interest. You will hear them talking about America in the US, but it is otherwise here. People are concerned about their tribe, state and local government. In this kind of space, it may not be easy to develop national cohesion.
Some people undermine national interest in preference of their myopic interest which is not necessary for the people. For instance, some people were born and bred in a particular area in Nigeria and these people have become settlers, they are not given opportunities even though they contribute immensely to the socio-economic development of that place they are living but they are not considered indigene in that place.
Issues of dichotomy, indigenes and settlers, are also some of the problems we are facing here unlike in America where people are treated as same no matter how and where they are born.
Some people who do not understand religion use it mischievously. The application of religion and identification of ethnicity are the reasons we have not been able to have a holistic national development. Another aspect is the monumental corruption. All the ethnicity and religious divides have found a uniting factor which is corruption. The lack of vision in the leaders that we have is another one. From 1960 till date, there has been dearth of people with vision and people with honesty and sincerity at heart.
We have unproductive leaders at various levels that are occupying public offices or position. A look at the civil service shows how it is fast collapsing as many leaders are not trustworthy. Civil service is the engine of a country and when it is being bastardised and abused as well as its recruitment processes, rest assured the quality of governance will diminish. These are the reasons we have not been able to move in a manner that will really make Nigeria great like we all expect.
Also, during the meetings, there was a comment by economic experts that poverty is like a time bomb ready to explode, do you agree with them?
We don’t have to wait until 2030 because poverty has already exploded in Nigeria. When you have a large per cent age of the population that is living in abject poverty and cannot avoid descent living. They cannot afford education and so on they are already in abject poverty and that is why you see a lot of crises going on in Nigeria because people are already in poverty orchestrated by corrupt public officials coupled with lack of government planning to come up with programmes that would deal with poverty.
For me, expansion of economic base that would encourage diversification, more investment from local and international investors that would help create jobs, which would address the issue of unemployment. This is the reason why IMF body is projection abject poverty or extreme poverty by 2030. A lot of Nigerian youths are idle, they cannot feed themselves and you need to go round as see how poverty is walking naked.
How do you think all the issues raised can be addressed and tackled?
As said earlier, sound economic team being led by committed, knowledgeable personnel that understand global economic framework should be put in place. Secondly, government must eliminate wastage, shun corrupt official. Government must consolidate easy way of doing business in Nigeria so that there would be business and idle hands can find something to do because in the past last of unfavorable environment has hindered many investors from investing in Nigeria. There is no strong legislation that can protect their investments as a result of corruption and uncertainty in the direction. Government must create more economy diversity instead of relying on oil and gas sector.
There is the claim by the government that Nigeria has achieved so much in the area of agriculture and so on, do you agree with this position?
Like you said, it is a claim, which to me is not backed by any statistics. There was a claim that Nigeria has stopped importing rice, but just last week, there has been a report of an alleged tonnes of rice being smuggled into the country. So if we are actually producing that the issue of smuggling wouldn’t have come up. I think government should stop propaganda and actually focus on work that international community would appreciate because there is a limit at which one can blow obvious lies that is not on the ground.
So, I will advice government at local, state and federal levels to focus more on work and stop propaganda that would not take us anywhere and will be raising a false hope. And because one state is producing rice does not mean that the entire 36 states in the federation is producing rice shouldn’t be used as a measure of complete success. Government should encourage local participation in economy. We have a lot of textile industries that have gone into comatose because of lack of energy and other basic infrastructure.
Let government do the talk and walk the walk. For instance, on issue of asset recovery which to me can help revive the economy if properly managed. Now, Nigeria is interested in recovering more funds but lack of legal framework to ensure that the recovered money would be used on Nigerian people is there. Many countries are even skeptical even though it is not their rights to deny Nigeria to have its money back. Here in Washington DC, last week I was I the US State Department. I have been in France few weeks ago.
I was invited by the French parliament to discuss about their plans on how to return assets that they are holding in France to various countries including Nigeria. So, I suggested to them on what to do so that money returned can reflect on the citizenry. So there is hope, but what the governments in of these countries are saying is framework that would guarantee that the money would be used. I am calling on Mr. President to constitute people of integrity that would get engaged with these countries.
Women empowerment, girl-child education and financial inclusion are still issues, what effort is the CSO making to be the voice of the voiceless?
Well, it is an on-going process, which efforts are yielding gradually. During CISLAC side event at the United Nations Commission on the status of women during its 63rd Session held in March in New York, we as a non-for-profit organization played an important role. We used the gathering to serves as an enabling platform for different stakeholders and international community to interact in proffering holistic solutions to the current trend and challenges confronting adequate, accessible and effective multi-stakeholder approach towards promoting social security for African women.
This event is primarily aimed at provoking critical discussions and harnessing potentials for what will ultimately lead to showcasing the plight of the African women to the international community and exploring gender relevant issues to promote social security for women in Africa. It has become continuously imperative to keep the issues of women in general and African women in particular on the front burner of the international discourse. We observed that despite the progressive policy commitments and institutional frameworks on gender equality and women empowerment, implementation remains slow and inconsistent.
To date, some countries in Africa are still battling with domestication of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women, popularly known as CEDAW, a treaty adopted since 1979 by the UN General Assembly. This treaty is described as the bill of rights for women and has been ratified by 189 countries. Most African countries that have domesticated CEDAW are yet to fully implement the provisions, hence the need for other social developmental laws for women including Gender policies which are not even taken seriously.
Equally, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa has not secured universal ratification. It is pertinent to note that no nation can fully attain sustainable development without including women, girls and all vulnerable groups. The cost of non-inclusion is shocking.
According to a World Bank report released in 2018, countries are losing worldwide 160 trillion USD in wealth because of differences in lifetime earnings between women and men. The extent of the problem is disproportionally more serious in Africa. UNDP in its Africa Human Development Report for 2016 says, “Gender inequality is costing sub-Saharan Africa on average $US95 billion a year. Yes the issue came up and what we are saying is that African women should be protected from issues of violence, poverty, lack of opportunity, justice and equity. We must get away with gender discrimination and misguided believes based sometimes on cultural and norms.
Quotes: “It is very disturbing to see the World Bank analysis of Nigeria’s economy. It is also very clear that because of the absence of sound economic team that is why we are not actually making the necessary progress in terms of consolidating and strengthening our economy in Nigeria.”
“Government must consolidate easy way of doing business in Nigeria so that there would be business and idle hands can find something to do because in the past last of unfavorable environment has hindered many investors from investing in Nigeria.”
“We need to make job recruitment very competitive and attractive. Workers also need good remuneration. There should also be diversification of economy. When private sectors are performing, there will be less concentration on government jobs”.