Excerpts from Frank Nweke II’s foreword at the NES 18 in 2012
The nationwide strike which followed the FG’s decision to deregulate the downstream sector of Nigeria’s oil industry and the subsequent removal of fuel subsidy on January 1, 2012 catalyzed public interest and discourse on the need for fundamental changes in our public governance system to ensure transparency and accountability in the management of public resources, reduce the cost of governance, tackle corruption and make government work for our people.
This citizen activism and resistance to a government policy was unprecedented. It cost the nation about N208 billion according to estimates provided by the National bureau of Statistics and demonstrated deep frustration and social discontent amongst our people. In a national broadcast, President Jonathan pledged to implement institutional reforms and ensure passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill.
These actions have not assuaged citizens and underscore the significant trust deficit between government and the people. Fresh revelations appear daily across local print, electronic and social media on the considerable wastages in government. This is in spite of Nigeria’s infrastructural challenges with an annual funding deficit of N1.5trillion according to Ministry of Finance;dire statistics of 23.9% unemployment rate as at 2011 and the dismal Human development indices which ranked Nigeria 156 out 187 countries according to the United Nations development program.
Seven months after the protests, the PIB remains unpassed while the institutional changes promised are yet to become manifest. Corruption in the oil and several other sectors continue to thrive. The economic condition of our people and state of insecurity across the country has worsened and the future of Nigeria as a sovereign entity has become a subject of debate.
In spite of the depressing state of affairs in our dear country, we can do so much more than despair. We must rise up as one people and confront the difficult choices before us. To do otherwise is to mortgage our future and that of our children through wasteful spending and inefficient use of our resources.
We must participate in shaping and bringing about the changes that we want to see in our country. Let us support the opening up of our economy, demand a level playing field for all economic actors and the prudent management of public resources.
We lose our moral right to complain or criticize the performance of government when we do not engage in shaping public policies and programs.