Even It Up: Tackling Inequality in Nigeria Through Analysis and Advocacy

Early February Oxfam collaborated with BudgIt Information Technology Network Lagos to hold a conference with relevant stakeholders and members of the press in Lagos to discuss the options and possibilities to tackle inequality. The theme for the program was “Even It Up: Tackling Inequality in Nigeria Through Analysis and Advocacy”, with an emphasis on Right To Food (R2F) and Financing for Development (F4D). Along with Conflict and Fragility these make up Oxfam’s three basic theories for change.

According to Mr. Celestine Okwudili Odo, private & public sector transparency & accountability coordinator at Oxfam, “the organization has five pathways to change: improved policies of government on tax and budget, improved policies of private sector on tax, wages and corporate social responsibility, increased citizen’s voice, stronger and wider alliances across the country and capacity strengthening of CSO’s.” And Oxfam’s strategy includes “research, lobby and advocacy, citizens mobilization and enlightenment, networking and alliance building, capacity building for the civil society and the government.”

“Data collection and analysis is important to generating contents for advocacy and implementation.”

Some of Oxfam’s successes to date:
– Sponsor and lobby for the Right To Food (R2F) Bill that is currently before the National Assembly (NASS), has passed Second Reading in the House of Representatives and is now on the table of the Constitutional Review Committee of the House.
– Mobilizing over 40,000 Nigerians, mainly youths and small-scale farmers, to campaign for increased funding and investment in the agricultural sector.
– Facilitation and mobilization of small-scale farmers to access loans.
– Continued advocacy for the implementation of the new National Tax Policy and the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme – VAIDS.
– Continued advocacy for a tax amnesty window for tax defaulters towards stopping illicit financial flows and revenue leakages for the government.

To achieve these successes Oxfam has teamed up with many local partners, including ActionAid Abuja, Niger Delta Budget Monitoring Group (NDBUMOG), BudgIT Information Technology Network Lagos, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), KEBETKACHE Women Development and Resources Centre, HEDA Lagos, Farm and Infrastructure Foundation (FIF) and Nigeria Association of Nigeria Traders (NANTS), many of whom were present at the conference.

“It is a human rights bill which protects people from hunger,” Mrs. Abiola Bayode of the FIF responds when asked to explain the concept of the R2F Bill. “The challenge is that the government sees food as a need and not a human right. We want to see that the right to food is explicitly stated in chapter four of the Nigerian constitution; this will make the government more accountable on food security in Nigeria. It is therefore not about distributing food free of charge to all Nigerians, but a necessity to protect the vulnerable people by creating an enabling environment.”

Mrs. Emem Okon of the KEBETKACHE Women Development and Resources Centre addressed some of the challenges encountered in the implementation of the programs: “It has been noticed that community needs most often do not get included in the state and federal government budgets. Therefore, we are training members of communities on how to conduct needs assessment. We also train government agencies, parastatals and ministries on community needs assessment to ensure that the extant or future budgets include the needs of the people.”