February 16, 2021

By Stellamaries Amuwa,

Auwal Ibrahim Musa popularly known as Rafsanjani is the Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Head of Transparency International and Trustee Chair, Amnesty International (Nigeria). In this interview with Stellamaries Amuwa, he says education enables people to play meaningful role in the society.

What drives you?


Basically I am driven by human rights activism and anti-corruption is my desire to see that social justice is addressed. I was born and brought up in Kano city, where I have seen a lot of exemplary of people struggling for liberation, social justice as anchored by the Late Mallam Aminu I grew up with the desire to see progressive tendencies to ensure that we continue to advocate and demand for social justice in Kano and also in the country at large.

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 organization 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 conceptualized 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.

Tell us a little about your family

I am from Kano City, my parents, grandparents; great grandparents up to 6 generations are from Kano city. I am a true son of Kano, I had my primary, secondary schools in Kano, we were the first set of the 6,3,3,4 system of education in Nigeria. I studied at the Bayero University Kano and I have 3 children, one boy, and two girls and then my wife. I also have brothers, a sister and my mother. All my family members are based in Kano.

What does CISLAC stand for?

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.

WHY Does CISLAC Plan To Float Endowment Fund?

If there is any Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) that has been consistent in its drive towards the entrenchment of democracy in Nigeria, it is unarguably the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), as it has significantly been contributing to the entrenchment of democracy and good governance in the country.

The reason for the foregoing view cannot be far-fetched as its ground-breaking effort in the capacity of legislative advocacy in Nigeria and Africa at large cannot be overemphasised.

Its committed role as expressed in the foregoing has no doubt brought to the fore the need for a robust engagement between the legislature and civil society organisations.

To further expand and consolidate on its achievements captured within the core areas, CISLAC’s Board of Directors now seeks endowment fund to solidify the centre’s operations and for the erection of a permanent headquarters in Abuja.

The rationale for the endowment fund, no doubt, becomes understandable even as CISLAC is poised to meet its stakeholders’ expectations despite the fact that Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Africa are facing unprecedented threats.

CISLAC as a resilient organisation is determined to remain irrepressible in the face of the civic room becoming attenuated due to governments’ increasing authoritarian tendencies thus leading to the disappearance of support from traditional development partners.

It is expedient to say in this context that CSOs in the country operate under an environment where the aforementioned dual dynamics prevail.

In fact, established CSOs working on anti-corruption and, more broadly on governance issues, face threats from organisations and individuals who thrive in an environment devoid of accountability, and where Ad hoc and arbitrary arrests of journalists, harassment of civil society leaders and other criminal and administrative impediments are growing.

At the same time, CSOs in Nigeria, without exceptions, have been 100 per cent reliant on ‘Western’ development partners. This support is shrinking as well. With the ratio of Overseas Development Aid (ODA) being reduced as a proportion of Nigeria’s annual budget, civil societies need to be innovative and creative to survive.

CISLAC has since witnessed the establishment of too many ‘meteorite’ organizations, which shot to prominence, started implementing projects but do not sustain enough development support and eventually disappeared without much impact and legacy.

According to CISLAC, “The proposed endowment fund is a reaction to these trends. We that our invaluable service of the Nigerian people cannot be sustained under current model of financing. We need to be sustainable, independent and innovative.

“With a source of funding not tied to any particular source, CISLAC will be able to implement its vision, mission and strategic priorities anchored on our strategic plan, which is a result of a multi-stakeholder assessment.”

The Covid-19 pandemic will only accelerate an inevitable trend for Nigerian CSOs that will force them to mobilize their financial resources. Traditional models are in the current context, not sufficient anymore and do not reflect the fast changing realities in Nigeria and globally.

Many organizations will disappear just as some hope to emerge stronger, more independent and determined to serve Nigerians as they always have.

With the document, CISLAC aims at creating a fully transparent and independent financial framework, which will be used to deliver on our mission, vision and mandate as stipulated in our public commitment to Nigerians.

In the same vein, CISLAC is poised to ensure that its board biannually review the balance sheet of the fund and approve the allocation of resources according to the six programmatic priorities.

It added that the audit of the fund will be reviewed annually, and all decisions will be documented and made public upon request and through its website.

It assured that its board will also review all sources of funds and will advise on the ethical dimension in cases where conflict of interests or other ethically problematic questions could occur.

As explanatory put, “CISLAC’s Advisory Board will guide the fund on the most effective disbursement according to the stipulated targets. Their bi-annual decisions will be made public and available through our website.

Still on the preparedness to drive endowment fund with integrity, CISLAC’s leadership has in a statement assured that “All assets acquired through the endowment fund will be managed separately from the rest of the organisation’s funds.

“Dedicated bank accounts will be established and all incoming payments/donations and outgoing expenditures will be made public. CISLAC will act as a secretariat, and the finance department will ensure that accounting standards are according to the approved endowment fund financial policy to be approved by the Board.”

In the same vein, CISLAC’s leadership assured that it will ensure that the financial department, monitoring and evaluation department, the Executive Director and a dedicated manager, implement pre-approved activities in line with high organisational standards for maximum impact. Financial, technical and ad hoc evaluations will be conducted and made public to demonstrate an impact entrusted funds”.

To say that the need for CISLAC to have befitting headquarters cannot be far-fetched as there is need for it to continue its efforts in bridging the chasm between the legislature and the CSOs through advocacy.

Against the foregoing background, there is no denying the fact that CISLAC is in dire need of a permanent headquarters from which it would operate without encumbrances. The total cost for the erection of its headquarters is estimated at N1, 146,320,000 ($2, 952,531).

While ostensibly buttressing the impact of CISLAC on every Nigerian, its leadership noted in the statement, “The fight against corruption is a primary responsibility of every well-meaning Nigerian, and it is one of the core areas of CISLAC’s interventions. To sustain the fight against corruption, CISLAC requires the sum of N382, 108,000 ($984, 180.30) to effectively increase.”

On the need for democratic governance, it noted that to strengthen CISLAC’s work in the area of good governance and to further expand the scope of reach and operations, that N382,108,000 ($984,180.30) would be required to continue with the good work it has been undertaking in advocating for good governance across Africa.

Against the foregoing background, it says CISLAC’s Global office in New York, USA would require N384, 000,000 ($1, 000,000).

In a similar vein, its UK’s office, which it set to position as a global stakeholder in parliamentary advocacy, capacity building and partnership, building on its experiences working with the parliament and parliamentary bodies at national, regional and global levels would require N300,000,000, which is an equivalence of ($781,250), (£603,622) and (€663,717).

CISLAC explained that its office in the UK is newly set up, with the intent and mission to engage, build the capacity, not for only Nigerians in the UK and Europe, but also to engage global parliaments, governments and agencies in forming partnerships in fighting corruption, illicit financial flows and asset recovery.

It noted that CISLAC, UK, intends to also work on modern slavery/human trafficking and humanitarian crisis.

Advice for young Nigerians

For young Nigerians, I advise you get educated because if you are not educated you will not be able to play any meaningful role other than the role of political thug, electoral violence, religious and ethnic violence and other vices in the society like kidnapping, robbery and others but when you are educated, you behave responsible and patriotic and will not allow yourself to be used by any politician. I also appeal to young Nigerians to use their time productively and do not engage in Yahoo, Yahoo or vices that will destroy their lives.

What has been the major challenge in achieving the goals of CISLAC?

The major challenges we face is that we are dealing with people who do not want reforms, we are also dealing with people who deliberately and consciously want to continue to engage in corruption. We are dealing with institutions that have collapsed. We are also dealing with people who do not have political will to respond positively to some of the issues we are raising, and of course we are dealing with the fact that we have limited human and financial resources to be able to carry out the work. So it is a great challenge though we have made some progress even within some government agencies because we have some willing people but in the legislature, executive and in the judiciary as well as able Nigerians who are happy to join the effort of sanitizing governance in Nigeria.

What does fashion and style mean to you?

I love to wear my local Hausa traditional outfit because that is one of the ways I identify where I come from whenever I travel outside the shores of Nigeria. I always like to look like and African especially like a Nigerian that I am, you get more respect from foreigners when you hold your culture high. I love my Nigerian made clothes.

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