The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) has officially launched its global office in the United States of America, on the 22nd of September 2017.
This followed its registration in the US and coincided with the UN World Peace Day and the launch of the Shadow Report on SDG 16, developed by CISLAC.
The launch was attended by His Excellency, The Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the UN, Prof. Tijani Muhhamed-Bande, and His Deputy, HE Mr. Sunday Itebode, House Committee Chair on Poverty Alleviation and member of the SDGs Committee, Hon. Muhammed Ali Wudil, Mr. Hilary Ogbonna the Africa and Middle East Coordinator of the UN SDG, Ms. Hauwa Umar – United Nations Environment Program, New York, CISLAC Global Trustee Members: Dr. Afia Zakiya and Mr. Francis John, Dr. Ada Okika – ED UNESCO Centre for Global Education, as well as other development partners, civil society organizations and media within and outside the United States.
During his opening remark, the Executive Director of CISLAC, Mallam Auwal Ibrahim Musa, welcomed all participants and stressed that the launch of CISLAC global office coincides with the UN General Assembly 72nd and the International Day of Peace.
He recognized that Nigeria is plunged into a critical period where the country is threatened by ethnic and socio-cultural turbulence, he observed that the civil society is mandated to advocate for peace, fairness and social justice as this will bring the much-needed development.
Musa further intimated that the idea of sharing the Shadow report is to key into the current anti-corruption efforts of the present government which he said will salvage the country and entrench sustainable progress. He further urged on the civil society and all other stakeholders to give their voices to the clarion call on peace and stability and eschew corruption.
In his welcome address, the Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the UN, Prof. Tijani Muhammed-Bande, commended CISLAC on her giant strides and efforts at strengthening the work she does. He observed that corruption is the bane of underdevelopment and social unrest in the country. He said that corruption is most epidemic among religious, ethnic and socio -cultural factors affecting the country’s development.
He remarked that Nigeria has been plunged into the conflict for the past three years and said that there cannot be peace if there is injustice. He further observed that Nigeria has had a string of leadership without transparency, where there is strong leadership. Everything revolves around the leader and not around creating strong institutions. He opined that strong institutions should be everybody’s business. He urged Nigerians to launder their image abroad by highlighting significant achievement.
Hon. Muhammed Ali Wudil in his remark, commended CISLAC’s effort in setting up a global office. He observed that any form of government without a legislation is no longer a government. He spoke about the government program on social investment which targets the poorest of the poor and urged CISLAC as a foremost civil society group working on legislative advocacy to support the program and further lend its voice to the Poverty Alleviation Bill at the National Assembly. He further urged civil society groups to play their role of casting by the people.
Mr. Hilary Ogbonna, during his presentation, expressed satisfaction with the fact that Nigeria is strongly interested in engaging with the SDGs. He stated that SDG 16 is a development enabler that will propel Nigeria if implemented to become the leader in Africa and not just a middle-income country. He was concerned that this task may be eroded since implementing SDGs is costly. He observed the need for Nigeria to attract technical expertise and also buttressed the point on the pivotal role of the civil society in reducing the gap between the executives and the legislature.
Dr. Afia Zakiya, CISLAC international board member, shared in her overview of CISLAC, critical rationale for setting up the CISLAC global office. She said that the global office will consolidate CISLAC’s huge experience and expertise in implementing regional and global outreach program and partnerships, strengthen global networking as Africa faces governance challenges that need to be tackled internationally, increase its advocacy and partnerships with the UN Missions/Institutions, Development Partners, Diplomatic Community and Relevant Committees in the US Congress.
She further stated that the CISLAC has the pre-requisite competence to mobilize the African diaspora and other entities and individuals to leverage their expertise and spheres of influence to the benefit of the African continent and finally seeks to position itself as a global stakeholder in parliamentary advocacy, capacity building and partnerships building on its experiences working with parliament at parliamentary bodies working at national, regional and global levels.
Furthermore, Mr. Francis John in his paper presentation on role of the legislators in revitalizing SDG 16 gave rationale for parliamentary engagements which include their legal mandate as representatives of the electorate and voice of the citizens, the leadership roles in policy formulation, fiduciary powers in appropriations legislations and the legitimacy of the legislature to oversight for the purpose of transparency and accountability and strengthening institutions for good governance at all levels. He further stressed the need for a holistic approach to the SDGs which will enable effective and efficient implementation and sustained development.
In her presentation on the shadow report, Ms. Chioma Kanu stated, the objective of the SDG 16 Shadow report was to provide a broad nonpartisan assessment of the government led national progress toward the SDGs. She intimated that the SDG 16 Shadow report focuses on the anti-corruption agenda, specifically focusing on targets 16.4 which is on illicit financial and arms flows, target 16.5 on reducing bribery and other forms of corruption and target 16.10 on access to information. She said that the report has 19 policy areas and 175 targets.
She further observed that although not much has been achieved by the government on SDGs. But there is political will to push the process forward in terms of legislative frameworks. She therefore urged the government to strengthen the legal framework by passing into law some enabling pieces of legislation such as the whistle blower protection bill and the lobbying policy and also called for the review of the Companies and Allied Matters Act, CAMA to include beneficial ownership disclosure.
In conclusion, Participants applauded the giant strides of CISLAC and encouraged CISLAC to stand tall as a leading non-governmental organization locally and internationally, in its efforts to drive legislative processes and agenda within the civil society space. They further encouraged CISLAC not to relent in its efforts to represent the local NGOs to mobilize international resources to deeply engage in shadow reporting that will permeate the grassroots for wider consultations with real Nigerians so as to project the voice of the voiceless.