Friday, September 30, 2022

CSOs tell presidential candidates to be faithful, declare assets

A coalition of civil society organisations, on Thursday, called on 2023 presidential candidates, the government and other critical stakeholders to prioritise accountability issues in governance processes, fiscal transparency, and on plans to strengthen anti-corruption agencies and address gender challenges.

In a statement made available to journalists in Abuja, the CSOs namely: Accountability Lab Nigeria, Connected Development, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, BUDGET, the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development, Paradigm Leadership Support Initiative, Yiaga Africa, and Enough is Enough, reiterated the need for Nigeria to work towards achieving inclusive governance.

“Nigeria needs to work towards achieving inclusive governance where all classes of citizens and underserved groups have every opportunity to participate in governance processes effectively,” the statement partly said.

The statement said further that the organisations decried the lack of public data on the declaration of assets of potential political candidates.

“Despite the existence of a legal framework for asset declaration for political office holders, the level of compliance is unknown as data on asset declaration for office holders is not available to the public. The lack of public data on the assets of potential political aspirants provides an avenue for opacity and a lack of accountability, thereby, fueling political corruption.

“The monetisation of politics was the main headline during the political parties’ primaries and has become a pointer to how vote-buying and selling will play a disruptive role in the 2023 elections. This has also affected the value of the naira, as aspirants now deal in and distribute major international currencies, especially the dollar.

“In the last couple of weeks, the dollar to naira exchange rate peaked at N715 on the parallel market due to the undue pressure on the value of the naira. Vote-buying has become a widespread practice, where democracy has struggled to be fully consolidated due to Nigeria’s entrenched corrupt political class, trapping citizens in self-sabotaging, subservient relationships with political leaders,” it read.

Speaking on the solutions, the CSOs called on the candidates to “Publicly declare their assets; Declare the utilisation, and retiring of their 2019 campaign funds in compliance with sections 85-90 of the 2022 Nigerian Electoral Act, as a sign of good faith and commitment to publishing same after the 2023 elections; Declare plans to address negative behaviours that lead to violence, such as vote-buying and publicly reject vote-buying before and during the 2023 elections.”

They further requested the candidates to, “Reinforce Nigeria’s value system in line with the National Pledge: ‘To be faithful, loyal and honest. To serve Nigeria with all my strength. To defend her unity, and uphold her honour and glory;’ Adopt a Gender Equality and Social Inclusion approach in their campaigns and political engagements toward inclusive governance, and a plan to advance the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill.

“Declare the percentage of appointive positions for Persons with Disabilities in line with the National Policy on disability – the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, 2018.”

“We also demand that the National Assembly oversees full operational independence of the Independent National Electoral Commission ahead of the 2023 elections and yield to numerous calls for transparency regarding its budget and auditing of its finances,” the statement concluded.

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