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Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, Prioritising The Vulnerable



Auwal Ibrahim Musa Rafsanjani is the Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC). In this interview with JULIANA AGBO, he speaks on his passion for the protection of human rights, fight for transparency and accountability, a violence-free society among other issues.

Rafsanjani In Short

Auwal Ibrahim Musa, popularly known as (Rafsanjani), is a Political Scientist from Bayero University Kano, Nigeria.

Born in Kano City in 1968, he is currently the Executive Director of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and former General-Secretary or West Africa Civil Society Forum (WACSOF).

Auwal is the Head of Transparency International (Nigeria) and the Chair, Zero Corruption Coalition (ZCC). He was the post-immediate Coordinating Committee member representing Sub-African region on Civil Society Coalition on the United Nations Convention against Corruption as well as Board of Trustee Amnesty International (Nigeria).

He has had many years of experience in the areas of Anti-corruption, Human Rights, Gender, Environment, Extractive revenue transparency, Budget activism, as well as legislative advocacy capacity enhancement.

He is among the forward-looking individuals who set up the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) and has served in various capacities from 1998-2012.

Before he became the Executive Director of CISLAC, Rafsanjani had worked with the Community Action for Popular Participation (CAPP) as a Programme Officer where he led projects on Community Development and Human Rights. He then moved to the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) during which he was the Policy and Legislative Advocacy officer.

He was delegate representing civil society at National Conference in 2014.

Mr. Auwal has gained considerable experience on training programmes at the international level and has also written many articles, as well as being a regular public commentator on TV – Al-Jazeera, CNN, BBC, NTA, AIT, TVC, Channels TV; Radio – BBC, VOA, Radio Germany, Radio France and Radio Iran both in Hausa and English languages; and has been featured widely in the Newspapers.

About the organisation…….

Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) is non-governmental, non-profit legislative advocacy, information sharing and research organization, arising from the felt need to address defects in the legislative advocacy work of civil society and open the window through which legislators can also access civil society groups.  It aims to strengthen the work of Civil Society on Legislative Advocacy and bridge the gap between legislators and the Civil Society.

The formation of CISLAC arose from the context of the fact that the return to civilian rule in Nigeria was achieved largely by the struggles of the organizations of Civil Society especially the Human Rights and pro-democracy groups.  Many activists lost their lives in the demonstrations, and sometimes, violent eruptions which characterized agitation for democracy and the opening of the democratic space in the context of authoritarian military rule and dictatorship.

Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) is currently one of the major civil society organisations in Nigeria with a primary focus on legislation and legislative processes. CISLAC is also engaged in policy/legislative advocacy, civil society capacity building and media engagement. CISLAC works to train and enlighten civil society on policy making, the responsibilities of the legislature, and the existing policies and legislations affecting Nigerian citizens. It also aims to ensure that the legislature at local, state and federal levels are aware of their relationships with other government bodies and have a responsibility of acting as a voice for the people.

CISLAC was integrated as a corporate body (CAC/IT/NO22738) with the Nigeria’s Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) on the 28th December 2006.  Prior to this incorporation, however, CISLAC had actively been engaged in legislative advocacy work since 2005.  The organisation is also compliant with the Anti-Money Laundering Act 2007.

The Organisation reports to SCUML, any transaction that is above One thousand dollars, detailing the payee, purpose and the other KYC (Know Your Customer) requirements.  This is done on a weekly or monthly basis depending on the volume of transactions and to ensure appropriate compliance with anti-money laundering laws.

CISLAC is also registered organisation under the National Planning Commission. In recognition of its broad perspective, CISLAC was granted an ECOSOC status by the United Nations in 2011 giving it the mandate and the instrumentality of the United Nations. CISLAC is duly registered in accordance with the provisions of Section 5(1) (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC). It is the national contact of Transparency International (TI).

What inspired me to establish CISLAC……

During my days at Bayero University Kano, I was a student leader both at university and also at national level. I served as Executive Members in Bayero University Student Union before I was elected as Assistant Secretary General of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) in 1991-1992. As a student activist, I was involved with pro-democracy and human rights movements like the Campaign for Democracy (CD), Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Women in Nigeria (WIN) and other democratic student organisations.

After my graduation, I was offered to work with Community Action for Popular Participation (CAPP) as Program Officer dealing with issues affecting human rights and democratic governance. Again, I was invited to join Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), an  international organisation with west Africa perspective focusing on issues around democracy and development where I worked on projects with diverse areas including legislative advocacy, local democracy, good governance, as well as constitutionalism and development.

In 2005, having studied the gap existed in the area of civil society’s engagement with the legislature, I reflected on the deficit in policy and legislative engagement. I felt there was a need to focus more attention on the legislature towards strengthening the civil society intervention. I left CDD and conceptualised the formation of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and then reached out to my senior colleagues in different civil society groups to share the new perspective.

How we have impacted…… 

CISLAC through its engagement of the governance processes in Nigeria has contributed towards  the passage of several primary legislation such as the Fiscal Responsibility Act, Violence against Persons Prohibition Act, National Tobacco Control Act, National Health Act, Public Procurement Act, and Nigeria Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative Act which promotes transparency and accountability in governance as well as the domestication of international conventions at the Federal and state levels in Nigeria through advocacies, presentation of memoranda and public enlightenment programmes and media engagement. CISLAC along with other civil society organisations campaigned and advocated for passage of the Freedom of Information Act. CISLAC is among the movement advocating for the passage of such pieces of legislation as Disability Bill, Gender and Equal Opportunity Bill, Whistleblower Protection Bill, Prison Reform Bill, etc.

CISLAC has created civil society awareness through publication and dissemination of monthly newsletter—Legislative Digest which have been in circulation for both public and legislative consumption since October 2006. It has been a central medium of accountability, as it provides citizens a platform to monitor the performance of their Legislators, and a channel for Civil Society Organizations advocacy on critical issues that require legislative intervention. Also, CISLAC has a wide range of publications such as Textbooks and Policy Briefs, which examines policies requiring amendment and providing recommendations. As a renowned CSO in Legislative advocacy in the region, CISLAC has on several occasions shared its experience on best practices for legislative advocacy on invitation from its international partners such as the World Bank Parliamentary Forum and the United Nations Millennium Campaign/Sustainable Development Goals in African countries such as Kenya and Zimbabwe. Similarly, Ghana, Kenya, and Democratic Republic of Congo have also requested support from CISLAC for replication of its work in Legislative advocacy. In many West African countries such as Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Cameroon, Niger, Togo and Benin Republic, we carried out experience sharing and advocacy exercises on the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative processes through supporting the passage of extractive industry initiative laws in these countries. CISLAC also undertakes capacity building for legislators, CSOs and Media on policy engagements in the above countries.

CISLAC’s sub-granting experience includes grants to national organisations. With skilled, committed, experienced and proactive leadership and employees, particularly in the areas of coalition building, tenacious advocacy, community mobilization and the clout needed to engage lawmakers at all levels, the organization has proven capacity to attract international solidarity, engage policy makers and mobilize local civil society groups and communities into action.

My take on the recent passage of Petroleum Industry and Governance Bill……

I commend the House of Representatives for the recent passage of the much awaited Petroleum Industry and Governance Bill (PIGB). We find such development worthy of commendation as it will to appreciable extent promote transparency, accountability and good governance, as well as curtail monumental financial losses in our nation’s oil and gas sector.

We are not unaware that the passage, which aimed primarily at the restructuring and reformation of the nation’s oil and gas sector has set the pace unbundling of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to establishing independence agency for effective operationalization and regulation of the sector and merger of its subsidiaries into an entity for appropriate supervision and coordination.

We recall that both Chambers of the National Assembly passed the PIGB for a second reading in June 2017 after which the leadership of the House set up the ad hoc committee to conduct Public Hearing for stakeholders’ inputs to fine tune the bill.

We are pleased that the passage is in line with overarching recommendations made by CISLAC during an engagement with the House’s Ad hoc Committee on PIGB in October 2017 with subsequent commitments by the Committee to get it passed along with other outstanding PIG Bills, before the end of their tenure. We believe this passage comes in fulfilment of the commitments.

Considering other outstanding Bills that are paramount to the existence and composition of PIGB such as those related to the host communities and fiscal issues in the sector that have passed through second reading in the House, we call for sustain efforts and commitments to fast-track their passage.

We understand that with this development, the PIGB has approached a stage awaiting consideration for appropriate harmonisation with that of the Senate to sail the adopted version for Presidential assent.

On our launch of Global Office in New York, United States of America…..

We officially launched our global office in the United States of America, on September 22, 2017. This coincided with the UN World Peace Day and the launch of the Shadow Report on SDG 16, developed by CISLAC.

The Global Office aims at promoting democratic and accountable governance for socio-economic development of Africa, and parliamentary independence, accountability and inter-parliamentary partnership at national, regional and global levels; coordinating and strengthening civil society legislative advocacy, parliamentary outreach and through strategic engagements and capacity building in Africa; promoting parliamentary accountability through effective constituency outreach and relations; and coordinating regional and global partnerships within Africa and the African diaspora to leverage expertise, knowledge and generate African solutions to advance democratic and accountable governance in the continent.

Challenges faced by Africans prompted establishment of CISLAC Global…..

The Global Office will consolidate CISLAC’s huge experience, knowledge and expertise in implementing regional and global outreach programmes and partnerships, strengthen global networking among Africans in the Diaspora, provide a platform to address governance challenges internationally, and increase its regional Africa and global advocacy and partnerships with the UN missions/institutions, development partners, diplomatic community and relevant committees in the US Congress.  CISLAC is blessed with pre-requisite competence to mobilise the African diaspora and other entities and individuals to leverage their expertise and spheres of influence to the benefit of the African continent.  CISLAC by establishing its global office therefore seeks to position itself as a global stakeholder in parliamentary advocacy, capacity building and partnerships building on its experiences working with parliament and parliamentary bodies working at national, regional and global levels.

How CISLAC Global functions….

The Global Office among other things, serves as a focal point on African Civil Society affairs to the United Nations and other international institutions working on UN affairs; promotes partnership between Permanent Missions of African countries to UN and Civil Society that will encourage public participation in foreign relations especially in UN affairs; providse technical and liaison services to African CSOs and development partners with interest in engaging with UN Institutions; mainstreams African civil society perspectives on issues of international affairs for effective participation and inclusiveness; mobilizes African and African diaspora resources and technical expertise to promote socio-economic development in the continent.

In order to achieve these functions, we have we are targeting our advocacy around Sustainable Development Goals, transparency and accountability in Asset Recovery, advocacy against Illicit Financial Flow, promotion of Human Rights, sustainable security, climate change, WASH, Health and human development, migration, gender, anti-corruption, and deepening parliamentary democracy.

Our strategic plan for 2017 – 2020 is geared towards… 

This document comes in the context of challenging times for Nigeria. The protracted economic recession caused by low revenues from oil has nocked millions of people out of the job market. Contrary to the global trend, Nigeria witnesses the growth of poverty reaching alarming 62% of the population living below poverty line in 2016 . The average life expectancy is only 53 years, average years of schooling stand at 9 with the highest rate of children out of school in the world.

The governance domain in Nigeria is characterised by combative political nature along religious and ethnic lines. Grand corruption within the political elite continuous shocking the world and the public sentiment loses the initial enthusiasm, which came with the 2015 presidential elections and promises made to tackle vast plundering of public resources. The challenging security environment may be a symptom on political dysfunctionality and weak economic performance. Nigeria faces a number of instabilities in the North East with continuous Boko Haram insurgencies, incessant threats in the Niger Delta region and increasing crime rate across the country.

In view of this development, CISLAC outlined its vision as [a] Nigeria where legislators and policy makers are safeguarding citizens’ rights and welfare while citizens effectively demand accountability. The corresponding mission guiding this document and by extension CISLAC for the next five years is to engage state and non-state actors for improved policy and legislative frameworks, transparency and accountability in governance for people oriented development. The strategic goal for CISLAC in 2017-2022 is [to] make government accessible, responsive and accountable to citizens.

To achieve this goal, this strategic plan identifies six strategic axes within CISLAC portfolio. Strategic 1 focuses on the support to democratic process in Nigeria, mainly through the formulation, implementation and monitoring of key government electoral policies that ensure credible and participatory electoral processes. Strategic axis 2 zooms the fight against corruption and promotion of transparency in public finance management with working packages related to themes within the scope of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC).

Promotion of Peace, Security and better management of Migration & IDP constitutes the third strategic pillar with ongoing work around the promotion of transparency and civil oversight in defense procurements, countering violent extremism and protection of civilians as well as the promotion to adherence and implementation of UN and AU treaties on migration and internally displaced persons.

The fourth strategic axis aims at promoting the legal framework for environment and conservation of nature, in particular within the Revised African Union Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.

The fifth strategic pillar spans over the broad area of promotion of health, human development and social inclusion. This pillar is very essential as it encompasses all the other strategic focuses of CISLAC through the engagement of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Agenda 2030, with clear indicators and targets for measuring of results.

Lastly, Institutional Strengthening of CISLAC comes as an important element to this strategic plan as the institutional and organisational upgrade and maintenance of CISLAC is of paramount importance to the successful implementation of the growing portfolio. The competency in advocacy, evidence-based policy input and continues staff capacity building will be promoted.

The implementation of the portfolio rests on upholding and deepening of fundamental values of the organisation defined as integrity, transparency and accountability, team work, partnerships and value for money. CISLAC’s national partnership landscape spans over the impressive list of governmental and non-governmental partners as well as both chambers of the Parliament and judiciary. Regional and international partnerships are vital in attaining the goal, mission and vision of CISLAC.

CISLAC has acquired a non-binding, consultative status to the UNCAC with the United Nations Economic and Social Council. The 2017 will also mark a finalisation of the accreditation process to become a fully-fledged Transparency International chapter in Nigeria. This strategic plan envisages further deepening of these relationships through a range of measures such as a liaison desk within the Nigerian Permanent Mission to UN in New York, field offices in Nigeria, MoUs with international governance think tanks, etc.

Lastly, the growing portfolio of CISLAC and obligations emerging from international partnerships urge strong internal governing mechanisms. The Board will continue leading and overseeing the strategy and monitoring the strategic plan implementation. Organisations under the CISLAC’s umbrella have formed newly inaugurated Advisory Committee, which provides a participatory platform for affiliated organisations and defines their interaction with CISLAC. The secretariat headed by the Executive Director has a clearly defined role and mandate in the implementation of this 5-year portfolio.

How recommendations made to UN / Nigerian government at the launch of CISLAC global office will redefine the country……

We recommend the UN for opening space for civil society participation in its global development agenda.  We also urge the African Union and ECOWAS to as well borrow a leaf from the UN to create space for Civil Society genuine involvement and participation.

We recommend that our government should establish a clear plan for short, medium, and long term national development that includes harmonization with the SDGs, Agenda 2063 and other relevant African development plans.

We call on the government to expedite action on asset recovery by setting up a Special Integrity Trust Fund to be monitored by the Civil Society to ensure repatriated funds are duly channeled to sustainable development efforts; and strengthen existing policies and laws regulating the revolving door policy to include cooling off periods for public servants’ transition to private sector.