From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, New York

The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre’s (CISLAC) launch of Nigeria’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 16 Shadow Report, 2022, Tuesday evening in New York, revealed that despite spending $670 million on security votes each year, the situ continues to deteriorates.

According to the report, 5,067 Nigerians were killed owing to insecurity in 2021, and an average of 14 Nigerians were killed daily, adding that the findings show a 52.3 per cent rise in reported killings when compared to 2020 (Findings from The Cable Index and the Council of Foreign Relations).

The report also captured the looming debt crisis, quoting an official data that showed that Nigeria had a revenue of N1.63 trillion in the first quarter of 2022, noting that the generated amount is not even enough to service (not pay) the debt of the country for that quarter which was at N1.94 trillion.

It also expressed captured prevalence of vote trading in the country’s electoral process.

Executive Director of CISLAC, Auwal Ibrahim Musa Rafsanjani, who released the report on the side lines of the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), said it is the 5th edition of a series of annual shadow reports which seeks to measure Nigeria’s progress on SDG 16 specifically targets 16.4 which deals with anti-money laundering, 16.5 which looks at beneficial ownership and 16.10 which looks at access to information.

He added that although the report captured Nigeria’s slight improvement from their previous reports on the fight against corruption, insecurity is now in every part of the country, while various media houses come under various sanctions from the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.

Rafsanjani added that the report was prepared using a Transparency International global template which helps for cross chapter comparison amongst countries.

He explained that the report produced by CISLAC as TI Nigeria under the project, seeks to improve democratic accountability of public institutions and anti-corruption deficits by Strengthening Accountability Networks among Civil Society (SANCUS) which is supported by the European Union.

The CISLAC boss added that the report is an updated assessment of the previous editions of the SDGs Shadow Report published by CISLAC in 2017, 2019, 2020 and 2021.

“The aim of this report is to monitor and explore the progress within the agenda 2030 with the focus on the SDG 16 targets earlier mentioned (16.4; 16.5 and 16.10) which have been analysed in depth.

“This research encompasses over 14 policy areas and 76 indicators distinctly developed as part of the global Transparency International project of ‘shadow reporting’ the official Voluntary National Reports (VNRs) prepared by the governments as a self-assessment against the SDG goals.”

Rafsanjani said CISLAC in this year’s report, noted an improvement in two indicators as compared to three in 2021 and six in 2019.

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“This improvement which can be seen in the policy areas of money laundering and asset recovery, is attributed to the passage and assent into law of the Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) Bill and Proceeds of Crime Management Bill in May 2022.

“The Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) Act 2022 aims to strengthen the powers of relevant agencies in dealing with challenges posed by money laundering by expanding the scope of money laundering in the prevention, prohibition, detection, prosecution, and punishment of offenders. The Proceeds of Crime Management Act 2022 aims to better manage recovered assets through the establishment of a central database as well as the establishment of directorates to manage recovered assets in various jurisdictions amongst other measures.

“However, the lack of progress on other indicators can be attributed to three major factors. The worsening insecurity across Nigeria has raised concern amongst citizens. In addition to this, there is a high level of corruption amidst an increase in national debt. As seen on to the 2021 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) released globally by Transparency International where Nigeria scored 24 out of 100 points which is its worst since 2012 when the methodology of the CPI was reformed.

“Another area to be concerned about is Nigeria’s revenue generation problem which has led to an enormous increase in borrowing. Official data has shown that Nigeria had a revenue of N1.63 trillion in the first quarter of 2022 which was not even enough to pay the debt of the country for that quarter which was at N1.94 trillion.

“The last factor which fights against tangible progress is the actions of the government against freedom of speech and freedom of the press. The fining of some media houses in August 2022 for the airing of messages on the security situation speaks to this matter.

“On the global Press Freedom Index (PFI) released by Reporters without Borders, Nigeria fell 9 places to 129/180 on the 2022 PFI as against 120/180 on the 2021 PFI.

“To conclude, our position is that achieving the Sustainable Development Goals will become most challenging where there is no solution to the aforementioned challenges. This edition provides insight for the delayed progress and stagnation under the SDG 16 targets and proffers recommendations where needed.

“It is hopeful that these recommendations be followed through by the appropriate authorities to guarantee the protection of the lives and freedom of Nigerians as well as reduce corruption within the government.”

CISLAC recommended that the government should: “Enhance transparency of assets owned by senior officials and politically exposed persons as required by the Code of Conduct Act; Urgently establish a beneficial ownership register accessible by the public. Speedy implementation of the Proceeds of Crime Act Promote transparency and the involvement of Civil Society and citizen participation in the application and use of returned assets; Abolish secretive relics within budgets such as ‘security votes’; and ensure a free press and civil society freedom.

Other recommendations are: “INEC and anti-graft and law enforcement agencies should ensure that they prevent the use of dirty money in elections.

“INEC should ensure political parties submit their audited financial documents as required by the law. Anti-graft and law enforcement agencies like the NFIU, EFCC, ICPC, INTERPOL etc should ensure that they track illicit finance circulation in the country.

“Speedy investigation, prosecution and adjudication of high profile corruption cases.”

Also speaking, TI research manager based in Berlin, Mathew Jenkins, noted that CISLAC is the leading voice in the anti-corruption movement on the central importance of SDG 16.

Jenkins, whose remark was delivered virtually, added that CISLAC is a powerful advocate for meaningful reforms to tackle the devastating impact of corruption across the entire 2030 agenda.

Jenkins added: “Today’s launchis also a testimony to the value of longitudinal research, tracking changes both positive and negative over time from an initial baseline. This benchmark allows anti-corruption practitioners to under- stand what has worked and where obstacles remain to achieving the 2030 targets.

“It also permits an ongoing dialogue with policymakers to identify anti-corruption priorities and to take action. It is fortunate for all of us to have an organisation like CIS- LAC that has the expertise and that capability to conduct research like this, not least as it helps compen- sate for the enduring shortcomings of the official SDG 16 monitoring framework, which capture neither the letter nor the spirit of the an- ti-corruption targets and for which data remains highly patchy.

“CISLAC work under the SANCTUS project, which focuses on the core problem of dirty money in Nigerian politics, can make a powerful contribution to that goal, especially in light of the upcoming general elections.

“Dirty Money in politics invariably shifts politicians’ preferences towards the concerns of the rich and powerful to the detriment of poor and marginalised groups. It’s an anathema to the international pledge as part of the SDG agenda to leave no one behind.”

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