The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) has been registered in the US as a 501(c)3, and has officially launched its global office on the 22nd of September, 2017. This coincided with the UN World Peace Day and the launch of its Shadow Report on SDG 16. The launch was attended by His Excellency, The Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the UN, Prof. Tijani Muhammed-Bande, and His Deputy, HE Mr. Sunday Itebode, House Committee Chair on Poverty Alleviation and member of the SDGs Committee, Hon. Muhammed Ali Wudil, Mr. Hilary Ogbonna the Africa and Middle East Coordinator of the UN SDGs, Ms. Hauwa Umar- United Nations Environment Programme, New York, CISLAC Global Trustee Members- Dr. Afia Zakiya and, Mr. John Francis, Mr. Seing Falu Njie- UN Coordinator National think Tank, as well as other development partners, civil society organizations and media within and outside the United States.
During his opening remarks, the Executive Director of CISLAC, Mallam Auwal Ibrahim Musa, welcomed all participants and noted the significance that the launch of CISLAC global office coincides with the UN General Assembly 72 and the International Day for Peace. He recognized that Nigeria is plunged into a critical period where the country is threatened by ethnic and socio-cultural turbulence, he observed that the civil society has the mandate to advocate for peace, fairness and social justice as this will bring the much-needed development. He further intimated that sharing the Shadow Report is to key to inform the current anti-corruption efforts of the present government and entrench sustainable development. He further urged on the civil society and all other stakeholders to lend their voices to the clarion call on peace and stability and eschew corruption.
In his welcome address, the Permanent Representative to Nigeria in the UN, Prof. Tijani Muhammed-Bande, commended CISLAC on her giant strides and efforts at strengthening the work she does. He observed that corruption is the bane of underdevelopment and social unrest in the country. He said that corruption is the worst epidemic among religious, ethnic and socio-cultural factors affecting the country’s development. He remarked that Nigeria has been plunged into conflict for the past three years and said that there cannot be peace if there is injustice. He further observed that Nigeria has had a string of leaders without transparency, and that paradoxically, where there has been strong leadership, everything revolves around the leader but not around creating strong institutions. Yet, he opined that strong institutions should be everybody’s business. He urged Nigerians to launder their image abroad by highlighting the great achievements made by Nigerians while not losing sight of the challenges.
Hon. Muhammed Ali Wudil in his remarks, commended CISLAC’s effort in setting up a global office. He observed that any form of government without a legislature is not a government. He spoke about the government program on social investment which targets the poorest of the poor and urged CISLAC as a foremost civil society group working on legislative advocacy to support the program and further lend its voice to the Poverty Alleviation Bill at the National Assembly. He further urged civil society groups to play their role of being a voice of the people.
Mr. Hilary Ogbonna, during his presentation, expressed satisfaction on the fact that Nigeria is strongly interested in engaging with the SDGs. He stated that the SDG 16 is a development enabler that will propel Nigeria, if implemented, to become the leader in Africa and not just a middle-income country. He feared that this task may be eroded since implementing SDGs is costly. He observed the need for Nigeria to attract technical expertise and also buttressed the point on the pivotal role of the civil society in bridging the gap between the executives and the legislature.
Dr. Afia Zakiya, CISLAC board member, shared in her overview of CISLAC, and the critical rationale for setting up the CISLAC global office. She said that the global office will consolidate CISLAC’s huge experience, knowledge and expertise in implementing regional and global outreach programmes and partnerships, strengthen global networking among Africans in the Diaspora, provide a platform to address governance challenges internationally, and increase its regional Africa and global advocacy and partnerships with the UN Missions/Institutions, Development Partners, Diplomatic Community and Relevant Committees in the US Congress. She further stated that the CISLAC has the pre-requisite competence to mobilize the African diaspora and other entities and individuals to leverage their expertise and spheres of influence to the benefit of the African continent.
Furthermore, Mr. John Francis in his paper presentation on role of the legislators in revitalizing SDG 16 gave rationale for parliamentary engagements which included their legal mandate as representatives of the electorate and voice of the citizens, their leadership roles in policy formulation, fiduciary powers in appropriation and the legitimacy of the legislative oversight role for the purpose of transparency and accountability and strengthening institutions for good governance at all levels. He further stressed the need for a holistic approach to the SDGs which will enable effective and efficient implementation and sustained development.
In her presentation on the second major purpose of the side event, the launch of the CISLAC SDG 16 Shadow Report, Ms. Chioma Kanu stated that the objective of the SDG 16 Shadow Report was to provide a broad independent assessment of the government led national progress toward the SDGs. She intimated that the SDG 16 Shadow Report focuses on the anti-corruption agenda, specifically focusing on targets 16.4 which is on illicit financial and arms flows, target 16.5 on reducing bribery and other forms of corruption and target 16.10 on access to information. She stated that the report has 19 policy areas and 175 targets. She further observed that although not much has been achieved by the government on SDGs, there is political will to push the process forward in terms of legislative frameworks. She therefore urged the government to strengthen the legal framework by passing into law some enabling pieces of legislation such as the whistle blower protection bill, freedom of information bill and the lobbying policy, and also called for the review of the Companies and Allied Matters Act, CAMA to include beneficial ownership disclosure.
- Absence of clear short, medium or long term national development plan that will harmonize the SDGs at national and sub-national levels;
- No clear institutionalized bilateral efforts to curb Illicit financial and arms flows or to recover stolen funds of Africa, specifically Nigeria, domiciled in foreign countries;
iii. The presence of an obnoxious CSO bill sponsored by a member of the National Assembly to scuttle the voice of the people and close the space for civil society to participate in the developmental agenda;
iiii. Absence of clear data capturing scuttles monitoring and planning for the SDGs;
- Absence of a revolving door policy with cooling off periods for public official securing appointment in private sector.
Recommendations for the UN, Nigerian government and CSOs:
- Continue to open its door to mainstream Civil Society Organizations in its global development agenda
- Nigerian government to borrow a leaf from the UN to create space for Civil Society to continue its engagement for sustainable development
- Establish a clear plan for short, medium, and long term national development that includes harmonization with the SDGs, Agenda 2063 and other relevant African development plans;
- African countries, specifically Nigeria to strengthen bilateral relationships and access to information that will ensure all stolen illicit finances in foreign countries are repatriated for sustained development within the African region;
iii. Expedite action on asset recovery by setting up a special integrity trust fund to be monitored by the Civil Society to ensure repatriated funds are duly channeled to sustainable development efforts;
iiii. Strengthen existing policies and laws regulating the revolving door policy to include cooling off periods for public servants’ transition to private sector.
- Continue to build national, regional and global presence and tap into the Nigerian and broader African Diaspora technical expertise for contributions to Nigeria’s stride for governance/legislative excellence and sustainable development that ends poverty, injustice and inequality;
- Discontinuation of Civil Society bill at the National Assembly that poses no good intent for the development of citizens and further robs the country of inclusivity in governance;
iii. Ensure advocacy efforts are built on strong data integrity principles, are grounded in the voices of the poor, and clarifies linkages between local, national, regional, and global factors that shape socio-economic, political and other aspects of sustainable;
iiii. Strengthen CISLAC’s institutional development through a sound strategic plan and funding that includes a strong African based philanthropic focus.
In conclusion, Participants applauded the giant strides of CISLAC and encouraged CISLAC to stand tall as a leading non-governmental organization locally and internationally, in its efforts to improve Nigeria’s legislative processes and relations within the civil society space. They further encouraged CISLAC not to relent in its efforts to represent the local NGOs to mobilize local philanthropic and other appropriate international resources to deeply engage in shadow reporting that will keep citizens informed of national development and SDG progress, and engage the grassroots in wider consultations so as to project the voice of the voiceless. Adding that the Nigerian and other African Diaspora expertise will be a powerful role CISLAC can now play to advance sustainable development and resilient communities at home and abroad.
Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani)
Mr. Francis John
CISLAC Global Board of Trustees
Dr. Afia Zakiya
CISLAC Global Board of Trustees
Communique issued at the launch of CISLAC Global Office in US and launch of the SDG 16 Shadow Report at the UN General Assembly 72 Session Side Event, organized by the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, on 22nd September, 2017, in Helmsley Building, New York, USA.
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