Chair of the Coalition Governance Team (CGT) of the State of the Union (SOTU) Mr. Okeke Anya, spoke with Abimbola Akosile on development issues in Africa, on the sidelines of the launch of the 2015 report on Nigeria’s country compliance with the African Union (AU) instruments, which took place in Abuja
Can you outline briefly how involved you are in the State of the Union (SOTU) process both at the national and continental level?
The State of the Union (SOTU) is a coalition of civil society organisations in Africa working to hold African governments accountable to their commitments reached at the Africa Union (AU) towards the ratification, domestication and implementation of some of the instruments. At the national level, I work as the coordinator for Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) which is the organisation implementing the SOTU project in Nigeria; while at the continental level, I am the Chair of the entire Coalition Governance Team (CGT) of SOTU.
If you were to prioritise, which specific AU instruments would you focus on to achieve development on a continental level, and why?
It is difficult to pick one instrument or protocol. However, I believe that efforts must be made by all countries and the AU itself to see that the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG) is fully ratified, domesticated and implemented by every African State. The upholding of this Charter will reinforce implementation of several other charters, because its principles include the promotion of democratic values and participatory democracy, separation of powers, holding of regular, credible and transparent elections, gender equality and a rejection of acts of corruption, related offences and impunity. A lot of human rights abuses, corruption and impunity have been the elixir for conflict in many African countries, which has stunted development. So for me, the ACDEG is a very important charter to put more effort on.
To your knowledge, has the application of these instruments, protocols and charters been able to promote regional integration?
There is the Treaty establishing the African Economic Community (AEC). It is a treaty setting up grounds for mutual economic development among African states through a gradual process by coordination, harmonisation and progressive integration of the activities of existing and future regional economic communities (RECs) in Africa. The RECs are regarded as the building blocks of the AEC. This includes the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS). The stated goals of the organisation include the creation of free trade areas, customs unions, a single market, a central bank, and a common currency thus establishing an economic and monetary union by 2028. Unfortunately, this is not happening fast enough.
Nigeria has signed onto several of these instruments. Is there any particular one, which is domesticated and implemented, that can really help boost the nation’s development process?
With the level of dwindling oil revenue in Nigeria currently; youth unemployment and the massive importation of food items in the country, the full implementation of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Plan (CAADP) will boost the nation’s development process. Overall, CAADP’s goal is to eradicate hunger and reduce poverty through agriculture and strive to increase economic growth in Africa through agriculture-led development and agricultural reform. To achieve this goal, African governments should be committed to increase public investment in agriculture to a minimum of 10 per cent of their national budgets and to raise agricultural growth by at least 6 per cent. This will be done by improving co-ordination, sharing knowledge on successful and failed experiences and promoting joint efforts to achieve the CAADP objectives. The true position is that Nigeria’s budgetary allocation to agriculture is still a far cry of the 10 per cent requirement, standing at 1.4 per cent and 0.9 per cent in 2014 and 2015 respectively. If rapid development must take place, Nigeria must improve its investment in agriculture and implement the CAADP principles.
Can the various SOTU platforms around Africa effectively influence policy decisions at the AU Commission?
SOTU is a platform that is just about four years in existence. For the few years it has been in existence, it is implementing and engaging in ten African countries currently – Tunisia, Mozambique, Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Senegal, Rwanda, Malawi, Cameroun and Ghana. It is also partnering some AU organs like the Pan Africa Parliament and AU Commission Department like the Department of Political Affairs.
You recently unveiled a report on Nigeria’s level of compliance with the AU instruments in 2015. What are the three major findings from that report?
There were a lot of gaps in terms of implementation of the AU instruments. One AU legal instrument – the African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (2003) – is yet to be ratified by Nigeria.
The second major challenge is the pervasive issue of corruption, and the incumbent administration of President Buhari has positioned the war against corruption as a cardinal point in his administration. Corruption has stunted the growth and development of the country and her citizenry. Observance of human rights, in tandem with the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, has been problematic with the level of corruption which has swept through the police, judiciary, legal practitioners and the entire penal institutions.
The AU policy framework expressed in the African Health Strategy has been a focal point in health matters. Nigeria has been seriously underfunding the health sector at all levels in contrast with the AU recommended percentage of 15 per cent of the national budget, and by implication, reducing accessibility and quality of health services to the citizenry.
On implementation of NEPAD Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Plan (CAADP), Nigeria has been defaulting in meeting the AU-recommended budgetary target of 10 per cent of national budgetary allocation in funding the important agricultural sector.
From the major findings of the compliance report, what are the three main recommendations you would make to the Nigerian government to get the country back on track in terms of the instruments?
The first is for the government to ratify the Revised African Union Convention on Nature and Natural Resources and start implementation of the provisions of the Convention. The second and third is to appropriate the right budgetary allocations to agriculture and health in line with CAADP and the African Health Strategy respectively.
Where member countries of the AU default in ratification, domestication and implementation of AU instruments, can sanctions be applied?
Unfortunately there are no sanctions per se to non-compliance to these AU instruments. However, the AU has set up reporting mechanisms and peer reviews to monitor compliance.
To promote African unity and development, the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) was created years ago. In the context of present realities, is this mechanism still relevant?
The APR, as adopted, is a mechanism voluntarily agreed to by African countries to self-monitor its compliance to AU instruments. I think the APRM is still very relevant in today’s Africa. There is need for the APR Secretariat and at the national level to bring the work they do to inform and enable citizens make demands for better implementation from their governments.
If you were to take two lessons from some countries that are very compliant with the AU instruments for their development process, which would you pick?
In terms of two lessons, I will talk about ratifications and implementations. In terms of ratifications, countries like Mali and Niger Republic are the highest ratifying countries in Africa. These two countries are also among the few African countries that have made 10 per cent or more budgetary allocation on Agriculture in line with CAADP.
“With the level of dwindling oil revenue in Nigeria currently; youth unemployment and the massive importation of food items in the country, the full implementation of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Plan (CAADP) will boost the nation’s development process”