The vacuum of transparency and in Nigeria’s civil society spaces accountability (2)

‘A body of men holding themselves accountable to nobody ought not to be trusted by anybody’ ~ Thomas Paine.

In 2011, an international donor named Global Funds petitioned the ICPC over discovery of heinous frauds in the course of auditing 15 grants awarded to 7 NGOs amounting to $474,519,260, which was disbursed between 2003 and 2009 earmarked to fight Aids, tuberculosis and malaria in Nigeria.

In June 2022 the High Court of Borno State sentenced Ms Aisha Wakil (Chief Executive Officer of Complete Care and Aid Foundation) to a Five Year imprisonment over fraud. In 2019 Officials of the EFCC intercepted cash to the sum of N54,000,000 at the Maiduguri International Airport being laundered by two NGOs and their cohorts. Are the Nongovernmental Organizations and Civil Society Organizations in Nigeria serving as the Third Sector of the Society or just some opportunists with self-centered intents using the platform as a money making enterprise?

In March 2021, a survey was conducted by the European Union Agents for Citizen-Driven Transformation (EU-ACT) to establish the current levels of compliance with the legal frameworks amongst it supported CSOs/Networks/CBOs in Abuja, Lagos and 8 other States.

The results of the survey indicated that out of 119 sampled, a third of them were complaint with the CAMA law, less than 10% of the CSOs were fully tax complaint and 14% of the CSOs were SCUML complaint.

The NGOs/CSOs attribute noncompliance of existing regulations to lack of requisite knowledge and information about the laws, ignorance being a perfect alibi for a group of people who are conversant with Nigerian, AU, EU and UN laws but mischievously ignorant to laws regulating them.

Since Nigeria’s return to Democracy in 1999, there have been proliferation of Non Profit Organizations (NPOs) under the dual aegis of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) and Civil Society Organizations (CSO) who have consistently interrogated Nigeria’s Government policies and demand accountability and transparency, ironically the NPOs themselves are deficit of financial transparency nor accountable. Civil Society Organizations operate under the perception of being the voice and defender of the people, but the Civil Society Organizations in Nigeria operate as a fraternity who uses the needs of the people as machinery to gaining access to International Organizations’ grants and Government’s MDAs while evading transparency claiming ‘Silencing and shrinking of civic voices’ whenever they are requested to open their accounts.

A random check at the websites of active CSOs in Nigeria shows less than 20% of them publish their financial statements, thus furthering suspicion about their activities. According to World Association of Non-Governmental Organization (WANGO) ‘NGOs should have proper financial and legal procedures and safeguards in place, not only to stay within the law, but also as a measure of the organization’s health and to assure donors, members, and the general public that investments in the organization are safe and being correctly used.

NGOs should employ sound internal financial procedures, maintain financial records carefully, and make financial statements available to the public. They should also have their financial records reviewed periodically by a qualified examiner who can certify that the organization is operating legally and according to generally accepted accounting practices. NGOs must be diligent that they are complying with applicable federal, state and local laws.’

Most of the Nigerian Non Profit Organizations have sit tight Chief Operating Officers who are permanently at the helms of affairs like monarchs contrary to the dictates of World Association of Non-Governmental Organization (WANGO) which stipulates there should be a tenure and a time limit for the leadership of an NPO. Some Organizations in Nigeria have been personalized having the CEOs and their spouses as signatories to the accounts of the organisation, NPOs in Nigeria operate loosely without a supervisory agency.

NPOs in Nigeria live an affluent life, they spend the larger chunk of donated funds on their lavish lifestyle instead of spending for the targeted beneficiaries. They operate from 5 star Hotels with some having Offices at highbrow areas while driving luxurious cars under a project’s budget. Their luxurious lifestyles mixed with the lack of transparency makes their credibility questionable knowing they don’t have any means of income aside international grants. Most of the NGOs/CSOs have on their website’s ‘Annual Report’ which is a summation of activities they have done for the year not financial reports, a random analysis of the financials of some selected NGOs in Nigeria vis-a-vis what is on their website and what is on the donor’s website has the following: –

1) Civil Society Advocacy Center (CISLAC)
Civil Society Advocacy Center (CISLAC) was incorporated in 2006, on their website there is a link to their financial report, however the said financial report link is a dummy when clicked it display Cislac’s Antifraud policy.

Cislac is an advocate and a partner of Open Governance Partnership, but have failed to make public its financials. Over the years Cislac have been a recipient of foreign grants some of which are on the pictures below: –

2) Policy and Advocacy Center (PLAC)/ SITUATION ROOM
PLAC was founded in 2009, PLAC is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit capacity building organization that works to strengthen democratic governance and citizens’ participation in Nigeria. PLAC website contains all infographics of NASS bills, and pictures of it activities but there is nowhere on the Site where it financials is published. Below is a fraction of unpublished grants that PLAC have received: –
3) Connected Development (CODE)
Launched in 2012 to improve public governance in Nigeria by empowering marginalized communities to demand high levels of accountability and transparency from the Government.

Credit to Connected Development for hosting it 2021 financial report on their website , using CODE’s doctrine of ‘follow the Money’ there are discrepancies between what the Donors published to have awarded and what is on CODE’s financial report. In its report CODE claims that to received N23,900,000 from MacArthur in 2020, but in MacArthur Foundation’s website it published that it granted CODE $450,000 in 2020. From the report between 2020-2021 CODE spent over N53,000,00 for Communication.

NGOs in Nigeria have been recipient of Funds from National Endowment for Democracy (NED) which is a cover for CIA operations, Strengthening Private Sector Participation and Capacity to Effectively Support Post-COVID Economic Recovery got $1,035,191, EIE received $145,000, SERAP got $200,000, BugtIT $102,000, and Premium Times $50,500 from NED published on NED’s website ‘who comes to into equity must come with clean hands’…. Civil society organisations and non-governmental organisations in Nigeria cannot demand accountability and transparency from the government while they remain unaccountable.

Salisu writes from Abuja