Persistent Asuu strike, Fuel scarcity worries ActionAid Nigeria, charges FG to take steps

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* Commends PMB on Electoral Act, FCT Election.
By Nihinlola Ayanda
As an organisation working to end poverty, ActionAid Nigeria believes that the process of achieving its mandate requires the functionality of every instrument and institution of government.
We have reviewed developments in government, politics, the economy, and security during the last quarter, particularly as they affect vulnerable groups: women, children, Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) and youths, and have decided to share our views and recommendations on the way forward:
OBSERVATIONS:
1.     The rejection of the five (5) proposed Gender Bills in the 5th Constitution Alteration Bills by the two Houses of the National Assembly on 1st March 2022 threatens the achievement of adequate women representation in governance and inclusion of women in decision making in Nigeria.
2.     The President’s assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill is commendable and proper implementation will further deepen Nigeria’s democratic experience. However, the leadership crisis rocking the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) ahead of its national convention slated for March 26, 2022, portends a great threat to the democratic trajectory in Nigeria.
The peaceful conduct of the FCT Area Council election is commendable, though, INEC ‘s administration of the election fell short of the expected standard, especially in the light of the fact that the Commission had repeatedly assured citizens of its readiness to conduct the election. In addition, the election was not devoid of vote trading.
3.     Fuel scarcity persists across major cities in the country with cost of transportation and consumables increasing astronomically following the importation of adulterated fuel by some marketers. Acute shortage of aviation fuel (Jet A1) has also negatively impacted the aviation industry and the economy. It is disturbing that the NNPC and other regulators in the downstream sector continue to watch as Nigerians and businesses undergo this harrowing experience without penalizing the culprits behind the importation of the adulterated fuel.
4.     There seems to be a lack of seriousness in addressing the failing educational system in Nigeria. While the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, has always demanded an improvement of the conditions of service, there appears to be a deeper problem which bothers on quality and standards of teaching, infrastructure, and general governance structure of the entire educational system.
5.     Nigeria is faced with an unprecedented wave of different but overlapping security crises. Insecurity in Nigeria has risen sharply over the last few years. In almost every region of the country there are three major security issues: communal clashes/civil unrest, and kidnap-for-ransom (KFR) and ritual killings.
6.     The Nigerian government’s evacuation of its more than 12,000 citizens studying and living in Ukraine is commendable after Russia began a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022. We urge the government to do more in relocating the affected students to other educational institutions in Europe.
7.     As countries across the globe seek creative ways to deal with the Covid19 pandemic; African countries like Tanzania are making moves to produce local vaccines while UAE is offering free PCR testing on arrival to promote tourism, PCR test in Nigeria remains a lucrative business benefiting the rich while cost effective and sustainable strategies to tackle the pandemic is yet to be clearly articulated.
8.     Ritual killings are now on the rise in Nigeria. While the quest and desperation to get rich quick especially among young people has been linked to poverty and greed, some persons apprehended for ritual killings and witch doctors who perform the sacrifices have insinuated that politicians, government officials, and wealthy businessmen are their sponsors.
9.     The decision of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to cease funding commercial banks with hefty forex before the end of the year 2022, urging them to source forex to operate, further increases the disparity between the official rate in the official and parallel markets. Nigeria still being heavily import dependent and with businesses sourcing their forex from the parallel market, this is manifesting in the inflation rate and high cost of living. This is increasing the number of people living in poverty and worsening their survival status.
RECOMMENDATIONS
1.     We call on the Nigerian National Assembly to substantiate it’s commitment to gender equality by re-presenting and re-considering not just three (3) but all the five (5) proposed Gender Bills in the 5th Constitution Alteration Bills. Nigerian women deserve a constitution that guarantees: an irreducible minimum of 111 seats for women in the national assembly; Indigeneship, citizenship, 35% in political party leadership and more appointive positions for women.
2.     As the 2023 general elections draw nearer, INEC should take lessons from the FCT polls and re-evaluate its readiness for subsequent elections. We call on INEC to improve on logistics coordination, retrain staff on the use of the BVAS and review the accessibility of polling units with registered voters who are PWDs.
3.     The importation and sales of adulterated fuel has dire consequences for the Nigeria economy and the productivity and livelihood of its citizens. Such misconduct should attract immediate sanctions of the culprits to serve as deterrence to others. To restore honesty and accountability in the sector, we call on the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the NNPC to prioritize sanction and improve on quality assurance to ensure no future occurrence.
4.     We call on the Federal Government to promptly implement all contents of the FGN/ASUU agreement. Government should declare a state of emergency on education to rebuild it and ensure that the children of the poor get quality education.
5.     To tackle insecurity in the country, there is an urgent need to amend the constitution to allow for states to set up their various police outfits by taking the police off the exclusive legislative list and including same in the concurrent list. ActionAid Nigeria Board of Trustees reiterates that cracking the nation’s current security challenges also requires increasing the manpower and welfare of all security agencies and equipping them with modern combat equipment, skills, and training. The government must renew partnership with neighboring countries to enhance intelligence exchange and information sharing that would help in quelling the insurgency and other sundry crimes. Contemporary hi-tech security management networking as adopted by advanced countries of the world should be embraced.
6.     The number of Nigerians evacuated from Ukraine is a cause for reflection on the need to develop the country and make it attractive to citizens and noncitizens alike. The Federal Government should move from rhetoric to action on the implementation of National Development Plan (NDP) 2021-2025 by prioritising accountability to boost performance of respective Ministries, Agencies and Departments.
7.     To ensure Nigeria meets it 50 per cent eligible population vaccination target by March 2022, the Federal Government through the National Orientation Agency should adopt disruptive campaign strategies by working with young Nigerians at grassroots and urban centres to demystify the myths associated with COVID-19 vaccination. Subsidizing the cost of PCR test should also be considered to improve tourism and reduce the burden on citizen who are already incurring myriad of costs associated with tourism and travels.
8.     The FGN should declare a state of emergency on ritual killings and maintain a strong posture against the dastardly act by ensuring prompt conviction of perpetrators and their sponsors.
9.     The fiscal and monetary mechanism of the country should be coherent and be in tune with the realities of Nigerian Citizens, particularly those living in poverty. Realistic policies that promote export promotion should be improved, and fair pro-poor exchange rate management should be put in place and implemented. The leakages within the exchange rate regime should be monitored and blocked by the regulatory agencies.
Nihinlola.Ayanda@actionaid.org



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