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

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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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