ActionAid Nigeria (AAN) having followed with keen interest the political development in the country, has raised concerns over the policy documents of the major political parties with the presidential candidates.
With the 2019 general elections fast approaching, and political parties and their candidates releasing their blueprints, ActionAid Nigeria deems it fit to review and comment on the manifestos, particularly as it affects vulnerable groups: women, children, Persons with Disabilities (PwDs), and the youths. While Nigerians await the written manifestos of all presidential candidates, AAN has reviewed the Manifestos that was launched; the policy documents of the ruling party All Progressives Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
As a national non-governmental organisation working to combat poverty and promote social justice in the 36 states and the FCT over 19 years, ActionAid Nigeria believes that poverty can be eradicated if rights, redistribution of resources and resilience is prioritised; AAN ascertains that human capital development is vital for economic growth and should be top on the agenda of all candidates, for Nigeria to accomplish its long desired developmental goals.
ActionAid Nigeria acknowledges the parties efforts in developing a clear strategy and road map for national development, and in ensuring that Nigerians enjoy full dividends of democracy in the next dispensation. We particularly recognise that both parties clearly articulated actions on important and strategic issues that affects the citizens especially the vulnerable groups. These strategic actions include but is not limited to: leveraging on technology to break digital divide; job creation for youths; revamping the education sector, mechanizing agriculture and promoting gender equality.
Having analysed these manifestos, ActionAid Nigeria, wants to draw the attention of the political parties to some pertinent issues that may have negative implications on the lives of the citizens and may likely result in the non-realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). AANs key findings and recommendations are as follows:
- Both APC and PDP policy documents have no clear plan on:
– Emergency preparedness; with communities across Nigeria still bearing the brunt of flooding and the number of internally displaced persons spiralling by the day.
– Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities (PwDs): there are over 25 million PWDs in Nigeria, with little or no priority on service provision and inclusion of PWDs in governance.
– Development and maintenance of quality database on the Nigerian population: lack of appropriate data has been the bane of implementation of government policies and specific government programmes over time.
– Making technology affordable: while the policy documents aim to address the issue of accessibility, affordability remains a challenge for rural communities and the estimated 80 million Nigerians who live in poverty.
– Dealing with security challenges outside the northeast; while plans to tackle the decade long insurgency in the northeast is commendable, there are other growing security challenges; religious, communal and secessionist clashes across the country that needs to be nipped in the bud before they escalate.
- The development agenda of the PDP is hinged on privatisation.
While AAN recognises that the economic conditions of the nation require drastic measures, with privatisation seeming as the best option, butconsidering that privatisation has not worked in the past, particularly in the power sector, it is pertinent to tread carefully. Privatisation rather than solve problems of corruption which has continued to undermine development in the country, has only, deepened poverty and continues to widen the gap between the rich and the poor. AAN is concerned that privatisation will further increase the margin between the rich and the poor because with privatization, public services will turn into a merchandise available only to the highest bidder. AAN believes public services should be publicly financed, publicly delivered, equitable and inclusive and of good quality in line with human rights framework.
- The APC Healthcare Plan is focused on Human Resources.
While AAN commends the plan to pay young doctors to work in rural communities, the effort may not yield much result without commensurate infrastructures, drugs, and other essential healthcare consumables. To achieve a sustainable healthcare for Nigeria’s growing population, the duo of human resources and quality infrastructure is key.
- The PDP is looking to leverage on low Corporate Tax to attract investors. However, there is no guarantee that a lower corporation tax rate will encourage multinationals to invest in Nigeria if insecurity and infrastructural deficit persist.
- The APC empowerment programmes focused on specific initiatives of the Presidency: While AAN recognise that some citizens have benefitted from government short term programmes from the offices of the president, and vice president, AAN suggests a more holistic approach to tackling Nigeria’s social challenges. AAN advocates for sector wide approaches, with MDAs having clear Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), against which Nigerians can measure their performance.
Recognising that the manifestos are a compendium of the political parties’ policy agenda for the country, we advocate the following;
- That the Agenda and programmes of the candidates for the various offices ought to be in sync with the manifestos and official programme documents of the political parties of the respective candidates. Without this synergy in the plans, it is difficult to see or envisage how the programmes of candidates are going to be implemented in office if they are different from the programmes of the parties through which they got their mandates.
- Security of the country is paramount; there is strategic need to address the increasing insecurity situation in the country. This has unfortunately resulted in loss of lives, properties etc across the country. In addition, many investors and companies have left the country due to increased insecurity and uncertainties. With this undesired scenario, there is need to have a clear action plan on how these challenges of insecurity will be tackled not just in the northeast, but in all states across Nigeria.
- Page 10 of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, 2017-2020 recognises poverty, inequality and unemployment as major challenges confronting Nigerians today. To tackle these challenges, government need to invest more on essential public services like education, health and agriculture. Evidences have shown that increased investment in these pro-poor sectors has strong impact on poverty and inequality reduction, while simultaneously creating employment potentials.
- There is need to strengthen regulatory mechanism and increase funding of public institutions. Privatisation should not be seen asthe only alternative solution to failing public institutions, as evident in the power sector, steel industries etc. Privatisation in these areas have led to increased cost without commensurate services, asset stripping, moribund industries and opening of doors for importation leading to adverse effect on economic growth. In an economy riddled with inequality and increasing poverty, the development agenda ought to be focused on increasing public investment to deliver efficient and effective public services to create enabling environment for poverty reduction and reduction in the inequality gap.
- Government should not encourage Race to the Bottom by lowering the corporate tax as instrument to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). This has become the common practice across the West African region. However, studies have shown that tax exemptions, holidays etc have little impact on attracting FDI, rather government is encouraged to boost infrastructure, improve on the ease of doing business as mechanism for attracting FDI.
- There is need to strengthen the taxation system in Nigeria with the cardinal objective of making it more progressive, thus creating a situation whereby High Net Worth Individuals, companies etc are made to pay their fair share of tax. This action will lead to the redistribution of resources, enhanced domestic resources mobilisation to finance development objectives of the government etc.
- It is pertinent for candidates to itemise plans on preparedness for emergencies, mitigating the effects of emergencies on household and recovery of survivors to prevent more Nigerians from plunging into poverty. This can include:
- The need for strengthened accountability and transparency in the Public Finance Management (PFM) system has been over-emphasised. To overcome the continuous mismanagement and wastage of the public resources, we need a participatory and gender responsive budgeting processes, an effective revenue administration and expenditure management, open contracting and procurement, transparent accounting and reporting procedures, effective internal controls etc. As active citizens, we are expected to demand accountability on the utilisation of our common resources.
- Focus should be placed on improving the ease of doing business in Nigeria; a pay as you earn model, where the wealthy pays more taxes, and an accountable revenue generation drive with clear plan on how to improve tax collection systems.
- ActionAid Nigeria recommends a census to ascertain Nigeria’s current population and other vital database such as figures of farmers in the country, considering that agriculture is the highest employer of labour.
In conclusion, ActionAid Nigeria recommends that the candidates move a step forward from “What-to-How.” Having the policy documents are not sufficient. In the coming weeks, and during the presidential debate, ActionAid Nigeria demands that the candidates state in details to the electorates, how they want to deliver on these campaign promises with clear-cut bench marks that are time-bound.