‘Come here, let us work together’

Abimbola Akosile captures the brainstorming session on Nigeria and Africa’s development process, which was the focus of the 2016 Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the State of the Union Nigeria Campaign Platform (SOTU-N-CAMP) held recently at Keffi, Nasarawa State

The State of the Union Nigeria Campaign Platform (SOTU-N-CAMP) with support from the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and the State of the Union (SOTU) held its 2016 Annual General Meeting (AGM) recently in Keffi, Nasarawa.
The AGM among other things had the objectives of reviewing the activities of the coalition so far in terms of implementation of SOTU-N-CAMP related activities, deliberate on the effectiveness of the national platform; agree on priorities for the coalition for the year 2016 as well as articulate plans for sustainability beyond the parent project lifespan.
SOTU-N-CAMP is a platform comprising over 30 member organisations drawn across civil society groups that are working on 14 African Union (AU) Instruments and Policy standards which when properly adhered to will translate to better welfare and improved living standards of the Nigerian citizenry.
The meeting had SOTU-N-CAMP member organisations in attendance articulating strategies for carrying on organisational work aligned with AU Instruments, strengthening engagement of the Platform, as well as elucidating sustainability strategies.

Vital Observations
Concerned that Nigeria is signatory to a number of AU Instruments and the country has largely not been able to make these numerous AU instruments work for the benefit of the average Nigerian, deliberations were in-exhaustive.
The Campaign members observed that the SOTU-N-CAMP remains a platform for apt intervention across key governance issues and fostering accountability in the entire governance architecture of the country.

They noted that the year under review was characterised by a number of political and socio-economic dynamics, and saw SOTU-N-CAMP experiencing challenges in critical areas such as the ability to converge outside of AGM’s, feedback and reporting to the Secretariat, deepening the work of SOTU-N-CAMP at the zonal levels and also financing
To them, the tremendous work and achievements of SOTU-N-CAMP both at member organisational and coalition levels have not been adequately documented, amplified and showcased for propagation of both the Platform’s line of work and the contributions it has made to Nigeria’s compliance with AU Standards.

The forum noted that both at the National and continental level, CISLAC as an institution has performed tremendously well in hosting the Platform’s Secretariat and piloting the SOTU Project implementation in-country which has amounted to the Continental Secretariat in Kenya being headed by a Nigerian as well as a Nigerian being elected as the Chairperson of the Coalition Governance Team (CGT).

It was also observed that due to the demographic dynamics of the country, there still remains an enormous amount of work to be done with respect to getting Nigerian citizens duly informed on AU issues and the implications of the country being signatory to the AU Instruments.

The meeting also noted that SOTU-N-CAMP being a Platform of diverse groups working on numerous areas of governance and socioeconomic issues has not duly harnessed internal resources to the fullest as collective capacities and resources can be stringed together for better results.

Baseline Study
The SOTU-N-CAMP platform recently unveiled a periodic State of the Union (SOTU) report, which was a study to audit and monitor compliance and implementation of Protocols, Conventions and Decisions of the African Union Member States.
The 2015 report, which was provided by the African Chair of SOTU, Mr. Okeke Anya, is essentially an incremental assessment of the status of implementation of the selected ten legal instruments and four policy frameworks, highlighting implementation policies and practices of the Nigerian Government.

Vital Findings
The 2015 SOTU study found that one of the AU legal instruments – the African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (2003) – was yet to be ratified by the Federal Government, and it was being expected that the new administration of General Muhammadu Buhari would pay attention to it in due course.
The study also found that most of the issues in the AU legal instruments and policy frameworks fell under the Concurrent List of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria in which Federal and State authorities could exercise policy actions and joint implementation.

It found that with the progress of democratic governance in Nigeria, the citizens’ consciousness of their rights are getting deeper, and public agencies are learning the art of observance of fundamental rights of the citizens, while the government is poised to curtail the excesses of the personnel of the Armed Forces and other security organisations who breach citizens’ right with impunity.
The report made recommendations to improve Nigeria’s level of compliance with the provisions of the AU legal instruments and policy frameworks, and the expected policy outcomes would be improved living conditions for the Nigerian citizens, good governance and sustainable development.

Crucial Recommendations
The campaign members, recognising the role the Platform has played in addressing some of the above observations, made some crucial recommendations.
The forum stressed the need to ensure that members of the SOTU-N-CAMP work assiduously in promoting and sustaining sensitisation, advocacy and programmes in line with the broad objectives of the Platform as the benefits inherent in same are tremendous for the country.

Members called for existing resources to be documented and developed in a form similar to that of a compendium to serve as a means of showcasing the Platform’s work, advocacy and sustainability drive just as existing Zonal structures become more proactive in driving and championing the objectives of the Platform at sub-national level for deeper and wider reach of the project.

They sought that measures be put in place to kick start the compilation of reports, key achievements and success stories of SOTU-N-CAMP which will serve as a tool for advocacy, institutional memory and sustainability of the Platform.

To them, reporting as an issue becomes a criteria for consideration in nominating member organisations for representation of the Platform at both continental and regional engagements, award of grants and other benefits.

To the forum, fostering linkages with unhindered flow of communication between and amongst members and leveraging upon internal resources available within the Platform should be sustained as this will advance the course of the Platform and also translate to better living standards of the average Nigerian riding on AU Instruments that Nigeria is a party to.
The study recommended better collaboration between Media and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) on issues affecting the citizen, and stressed the need for sensitisation on the provisions of the African Charter and other African Union Conventions.

Civil Society Groups and other stakeholders were enjoined to organise concerted lobby of federal and state legislators for steady upward review of funding proportion for health.
According to the report, there is need for domestication of the Convention on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women; while the Federal Ministry of Justice, Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and the National Assembly should work together to ensure the domestication of the Convention.
In the area of political participation, the report underlined the need for government to meet the 35 per cent affirmative action on Nigerian Gender Policy by appointing women in various positions. It recommended that women rights to access to justice should be enhanced by government creating the enabling environment.

The report recommended that states should be encouraged to adopt the Child Rights Act, while States that have adopted the child rights Law should set in place the family courts so as to deal with issues relating to the child as prescribed by the Act
The 2015 SOTU report further recommended the need for government at all levels to be preemptive in their approach to dealing with security issues in order to prevent scale of violence in the country.

Moving Forward
The 2016 AGM was characterised by high and low moments with members remaining resolute on the need to ensure that the activities of the Platform is made to translate the benefits inherent in AU Standards to really impact in the lives of Nigerian citizens.
Participants, in a communiqué jointly signed by President, (SOTU-N-CAMP), Ken Ukaoha; Vice President, Geraldyn Ekeakile, and the Secretary, Mr. Austin Erameh, thanked CISLAC for providing the needed support and logistics for the realisation of the 2016 AGM and pledged commitment towards ensuring that AU Standards are promoted and engaged as a yardstick in engaging governance issues.

To them, these issues have been proven to contain roadmaps and recommendations which when properly adhered to have the potential of transforming Nigeria which is the most populous nation on the continent.

QUOTE

“The study recommended better collaboration between the Media and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) on issues affecting the Nigerian citizen, and stressed the need for sensitisation on the provisions of the African Charter and other African Union Conventions