SERAP Calls for Simplification of Government Processes for COVID-19 Management in Nigeria

SERAP Calls for Simplification of Government Processes for COVID-19 Management in Nigeria

Wednesday, November 18, 2020 / 10:29 AM /
Ottoabasi Abasiekong for WebTV /Header Image Credit: Twitter; 
@WebTVng

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The
Simplification of Government processes that removes bottlenecks and bureaucracy
will go a long way in effectively managing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic
on Nigeria. Africa’s most populous nation. This was part of the key takeaways
from the hybrid forum (physical and virtual) of the Socio-Economic Rights and
Accountability Project (SERAP) that discussed a “10-Point Programme of Action
on Promoting Transparency and Accountability In COVID-19 Spending In Nigeria”.

 

The
roundtable brought together stakeholders from civil society groups, public
officials, the media, professionals and concerned citizens.

 

Giving
the opening remarks at the event, Deputy Director of SERAP, Mr. Kolawole
Oluwadare, said the roundtable was an opportunity to assess the impact of the ’10-Point Programme of Action on Promoting Transparency and Accountability in
COVID 19 Spending’ the civil society group created on the 10th of
June, 2020′.

 

According
to Oluwadare, it was time to also evaluate the way the COVID-19 palliatives
have been managed and distributed across the nation.

 

“The
10-point programme of action is a collaboration between SERAP, ICPC(Independent
Corrupt Practices & Other Related Offences Commission), BPP(Bureau of
Public Procurement) and the Office of the Accountant General of the
Federation,” he said.

 

Also
speaking at the event, Executive Director, Mr. Adetokunbo Mumuni informed
stakeholders that SERAP is involved in three levels of engagements in its
activities which include; advocacy, publications and filing cases in courts
that revolve around transparency, good governance, anti-corruption and
accountability from public institutions.

 

Keynote
speaker at the event, Professor Yemi Akinseye George, SAN, lauded SERAP on its
interventions in the public policy space in the country. He highlighted the
fact that it has in partnership with other key civil society groups pressurized
the Nigerian authorities to develop transparency frameworks that cover the
following;

  • Framework on delivering a transparent food ration
    distribution for the National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme
  • Framework for the Management of COVID 19 Funds in
    Nigeria under the Treasury Single Account, TSA by the Office of the
    Accountant General of the Federation.
  • Guidelines for the Conduct of Procurement that
    respond to COVID 19 and
  • The Accountability and Transparency Mechanisms
    for Delivering Cash by the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs.

 

The
legal scholar also described the 10-points identified by SERAP as appropriate
and pragmatic in achieving efficient management of the COVID-19 pandemic, which
include;

  • Condemning Corruption and
    Mismanagement/Investigate and Prosecute All Allegations of Corruption
  • Ensure Access to Information
  • Adopt and Implement Fiscal and Budgetary Policies
    to Improve Socio-Economic Rights of Nigerians
  • Obey the Rule of Law
  • Ensure Openness of Public Procurement
  • Reduce Salaries And Allowances of Public
    Officials
  • Encourage Citizens’ Complaints On Corruption And
    Follow Up on Complaints
  • Respect, Protect and Promote Human Rights for
    Everyone
  • Ensure Civil Society Participation creates
    opportunities for all citizens to make inputs in the fiscal and
    distributive processes in response to COVID-19.
  • Engage Bilateral, Regional and International
    Partners on strengthening accountability and transparency mechanisms in
    government.

 

In
a panel session that discussed “Government Transparency framework in response
to COVID-19: Challenges and future perspective” moderated by Mr. Ayo Makinde of
Channels Television, the discussants Prof. Yemi Akinseye George, SAN, Mr. Yemi
Candide-Johnson, SAN Arbitrator with Strachan Partners, Mr. Lanre Suraj, and
Mrs. Toyosi Akerele-Ogunsiji, Chairperson Victims Support Fund, VSF shared
perspectives on how there can be significant improvements in governance and
strategy.

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Mr.
Yemi Candide-Johnson, SAN believed the COVID 19 pandemic was an opportunity for
Nigeria to reset governance and the framework/principles guiding the nation.

 

He
called for more investment in education that will address the wide gap of
inequality and improve human capital development in the country.

 

Mr.
Lanre Suraj an Anti-Corruption activist called for an increased level of
accountability in governance in the country, especially the ‘Open Treasury
Portal’ of the Federal Government, which he admitted was not transparent at the
moment.

 

Mrs.
Toyosi Akerele -Ogunsiji of the Victims Support Fund, on her part, said the
first level of interventions across 12 states in the country revealed the
deep-seated inequality and poverty in Nigeria.

 

She
made a strong case for addressing the artificial bureaucratic bottlenecks in
the government which- slows the pace of response to the COVID 19 pandemic.
Speaking further, she emphasized the need for simplified levels of
communication with the citizens on COVID 19 prevention, which the VSF created
guides covering languages in the country.

 

According
to Professor George, the violence that accompanied the #EndSARS protests in the
country showed the level of discontent of youths and their frustration with the
narrow band of economic opportunities available to them.

 

He
called on the government and political elites to do everything possible to
address the yearnings of Nigeria’s youth as the high level of domestic
unemployment was an issue of national concern that needs to be systematically
and strategically addressed.

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