The executive secretary of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), and the sub-Chairman, codes and standards of the National Steering Committee on the 2nd peer review of Nigeria under the Africa Peer Review Mechanism, Professor Bem Amgwe graciously invited me to attend a one day workshop on the African peer review standards and codes for the 2nd peer review of Nigeria on May 4th 2015 in Abuja.
What struck me when I received this invitation was the fate of thousands of African migrants who have perished trying to get to Europe through the notorious Mediterranean Sea. These migrants branded by Western media as African boat people are running away from a range of man-made economic and political impediments in their homelands. The situation of economic adversities in most African countries characterised by high youth unemployment, dysfunctional infrastructure and the high crime, including the vicious circles of impunity marked by mass killings are caused largely by poor leadership standards which these peer review mechanisms have failed to satisfactorily addressed.
The interrogatory that immediately hit my subconscious was ‘what really is the essence of the entire exercise of African peer review mechanisms if majority of Africans are fleeing the continent due largely to abysmal failure of leadership? This question on my mind was thrown at the Nigerian official, Mr. Pius Otteh the Director of international law department of the Ministry of Justice who stood in for the Solicitor-General but he spoke in favour of continuation of this processes. But the fact that emerged from the first major paper delivered at that workshop was that most government officials from ministries that interface with some international bodies do sign treaties and instruments without a comprehensive comprehension of the imports of what they have signed. For instance, Nigeria once acceded to the terms of World Trade Organisation but even before the ink could dry, the Nigerian Customs went ahead to enforce a ban on importation of some products covered under these agreements. Again, many government ministries are in the habit of failing to deposit copies of signed agreements with the office of the Federal Attorney General and Minister of Justice as provided for by the national legislation governing international treaties and instruments.
Putting this African peer review mechanisms side by side with the emerging scenarios of Africans flooding into Europe through the risky venture of offering themselves to human traffickers in Libya, one can easily dismiss the peer review mechanisms as African Leader’s peer deception gambit.
For many years that this process started most African countries have witnessed cases of poor governance dominated by corruption that have rendered the economies of these states incapable of engaging in proper and appropriate redistribution of their wealth. Because of economic corruption by most African leaders, the required environment for self -fulfillment is no longer there, thereby compelling many of the youth to seek for greener pastures in other continents of the World. It is a fact that nearly 80 percent of university graduates produced yearly in Nigeria will not find jobs either in the public or private sectors.
This piece is basically an advocacy for a fundamental tinkering and restructuring of the entire gamut of the peer review mechanisms to ensure that the benefits are not only written in papers and kept in government offices but that the pragmatic impacts of the transparent implementation of the review process improves the living conditions of Africans. African youths will stay back in their countries and contribute meaningfully only if they are sure the regime of impunity, lawlessness, arbitrariness, wanton looting are brought under control and for the internal legal mechanisms of each African country are brought to bear on any official that breaches the laws. Institution building in Africa is therefore imperative because there is just no way that the capital flight affecting many African countries can be checked if the internal legal law enforcement institutions are not operationally and financially independent.
The African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) is a mutually agreed instrument voluntarily acceded to by the member states of the African Union (AU) as a self-monitoring mechanism. It was founded in 2003.
The 37th Summit of the Organisation of African Unity held in July 2001 in Lusaka, Zambia, adopted a document setting out a new vision for the revival and development of Africa—which was to become known as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).
In July 2002, the Durban AU summit supplemented NEPAD with a Declaration on Democracy, Political, Economic and Corporate Governance. According to the Declaration, states participating in NEPAD ‘believe in just, honest, transparent, accountable and participatory government and probity in public life’. Accordingly, they ‘undertake to work with renewed determination to enforce’, among other things, the rule of law; the equality of all citizens before the law; individual and collective freedoms; the right to participate in free, credible and democratic political processes; and adherence to the separation of powers, including protection for the independence of the judiciary and the effectiveness of parliaments.