The Community, The Change and the Changemakers

The Community, The Change and the Changemakers

Having successfully supervising more than 10 campaigns in more than 10 communities with more than 7 community reporters, I can boastfully say I have moved to become a follow the money evangelist. The passion for seeing the change I wished for keep pushing me and the first – hand knowledge of the local communities in Nigeria as someone who spent a significant part of his life in the village really paves more ways for me to understand what the struggles in the marginalised communities could be like.

As someone who constantly speaks, mentor and train community reporters, I am always trying to see things with their eyes as most times, I get the information as it is hot. Hence, this led me to the majority of my decisions in the organisation.

As an organisation that is almost clocking its 5 years of existence, Connected Development has reached the heart of many marginalised communities in Nigeria, and the love of the community led us to our constant reinvention of our process and workflows.

In Oludotun’s blog titled, “Taming the Monster in Nigeria Budget System“, he made it cleared that; Many developed and developing countries are still working towards linking performance to public expenditures, framework or strategy. If these linkages are not made, there will be no way to determine if the budgetary allocations that the support programs are ultimately supporting are successful.

As such, it can be collectively agreed on that the challenges in the spending of the Nigerian government is not about what to spend but about if the monies allocated is actually been judiciously used or not which is a big question that follow the money seeks to answer.

As written by Olayiwola Victor Ojo in his paper titled, “Ethnic Diversity In Nigeria“, it is presented clearly that the polity Nigeria is one of the most ethnically divided society globally with diverse ethnic cocoons and myriads of dialect. And as such, it may be difficult to Follow the Money in all the local communities in Nigeria and the best approach to solving this diversity problem to empower the communities is to train the locals on how to follow the money, and this has always been the bane of operation of follow the money which makes us  have community reporters in almost all states of Nigeria with the goal of reaching all wards in the country.

This is not only a proposition or goal of the organisation, we also share this as a part of the purpose of the organisation which is to empower the marginalised communities in Nigeria through our little effort which made us have a community of follow the money enthusiasts.

In all of these, Mark Zuckerberg in his speech at Havard made it known that membership in communities is declining. Many people feel disconnected and depressed and are trying to fill a void. And in our own little way, we are building a community of people who will Follow the Money and become a champion in the Nigeria we aim to see in years to come, this cannot be possible without the sense of belonging to a community who are attached to a purpose of making the government function for the people it is meant to serve.

According to Mark, Change starts locally. Even global changes start small and we hope our little change will have effects the communities to be proactive and ask the government the right question as to demanding for good governance, we hope they will be inspired to know and seek to know what is budgeted for them as a community and they would always request for it and also, we hope to give a voice to that champion who is ready to take a walk and give a voice to his/her community by becoming a champion through leveraging on our platform.

As the community manager of the Follow the Money project, I found a purpose and this will go a long way in my life. It is all about the community, it is about the people and it is way all about leveraging technology to solves challenges facing the communities.

Like the barrister who approached me in the office one day has said “Knowing about this movement made me find what I really want to do”, I hope to see more people who this will truly be their voice, someday.

Maiduguri Hosted the Biggest Community Meetup for Follow the Money Enthusiasts as Hope Gets Higher in North East Region

Maiduguri Hosted the Biggest Community Meetup for Follow the Money Enthusiasts as Hope Gets Higher in North East Region

Open Data Party has come and gone but the feedback we received from the event which took place in Kano in November 2016 live with us as an organisation. From the event, it was found out that our community champions need more community gathering which will be a follow the money immersive session. Also, we have been receiving requests such as, “how can we follow the money in our states” and we feel more need to reach out to more communities as they are our major focus.

Finally, our zeal to train more community champions to follow the money in their respective states came to reality as we won the One Award in April 2017 and this to us, means more communities empowered and more community champions championing Follow the Money.

We officially kickstarted our training in North East Nigeria as we Follow the Money to Maiduguri, Borno State which is the epicentre of the Boko Haram crisis in Nigeria. The decision to start our training in Maiduguri was borne out of passion for communities to follow the money meant for the rehabilitation of the displaced persons in the region as increase in the inflows of aid is made possible by the Oslo Humanitarian Conference of 2016 so that the funds won’t be mismanaged like the aid gotten in the past years in tune to more than $30bn.   

The North East mapping event, in partnership with Exit Lanes, took place on 17th and 18th of May in Maiduguri. It had a turnout of 138 participants from the six states in the North East region of the country (Borno, Taraba, Gombe, Adamawa, Yobe and Bauchi). In a post evaluation of the 2 -day training, 75% of the total respondents (32 number of them)  said they are now aware of fund flows to their states, where to find the information and how to Follow the Money.

CODEs co-founder, Oludotun Babayemi set the ball rolling on Day 1 by officially opening the training event, setting the event on a high tempo. He spoke extensively and intently about the dangers of not engaging government of which he painted an imaginary picture of what Borno state would be in 2030 if everyone seated in the room got involved. This tempo was however maintained all through the event.

The training sequence had a back to back approach, with adequate time allotted for questions and answers, there was a break after every session for participants to stretch and also give them time to internalise the information received, as well as the ample time to rest before other sessions came up. Tea break availed participants various opportunities to bond and explore areas of strategic interest to them.

Every session was practical, as various dialogue points came out of the questions asked, participants were taken through what Connected Development represents and how they could plug into the various models of the organisation in engaging and emancipating their communities, they were also made to engage in the process of identifying money to follow, hashtagging campaigns and connecting to our social media platforms, the right ways to take videos and pictures during community outreaches was also emphasised and done practically. In addition, the process of visualisation, tracking and advocacy, was emphasised.

On day 2, participants were grouped into their various states (participants from Borno – the host state had 3 groups) to find potential campaigns they could follow in the coming weeks. It was great to know that 7 campaigns were highlighted at the end of the session, with participants showing high interest in following the money of projects already identified.

Follow the Money Team in Fashir Interviewing the community stakeholder

We would not have visited Maiduguri without a community outreach to a rural community. This time we were in Fashir, where a  6 -year old abandoned health facility has been turned into a storehouse, and a shelter for animals. “At one time, we reached out to the contractor of this project, but he told us he could not finish the project because the state government has not provided adequate funding for the completion of the project”. After 1 hour of focus group discussions, the community mobilised themselves and were ready to engage the local government chairman and the state commissioner for health.

24 hours travel on road from Abuja, 138 participants, 2 days of great work, and 7 campaigns can be such an adventure for us at Connected Development, as we look forward to furthering outcomes from the campaigns identified. Moreover, the enthusiasm amongst participants to start their Follow the Money chapter was quite overwhelming, and something to look forward to in the coming months. Wondering when we will be in your state or region? Do join us at http://ifollowthemoney.org to be the first to know.

 

Building the Next Generation of Follow the Money Enthusiasts in Nigeria Through the Tertiary Institutions

Building the Next Generation of Follow the Money Enthusiasts in Nigeria Through the Tertiary Institutions

The follow the Money team was given 20min slot to speak about what we do in two events at the University of Ilorin.

The first event was co-organized by the Canvassity Pan African Youth Democracy and The Post-Graduate School of the Faculty of Life Science Student while the second event which was supposed to hold was organised by Junior Chamber Internation (JCI Unilorin) but, did not later hold due to logistics reason by the organiser (JCI Unilorin)

The theme of the event was “Understanding Democracy: How to Leverage the Power of Technology and Social Media to Engage the Government and Increase Impactful Youth Engagement”.

The event which took place on the 29th of April, 2017 was very strategic for our team as it comes at a time we are planning to reach out to all the geopolitical zones in Nigeria by training them on how to Follow the Money. 

As such, starting from Tertiary Institutions in Nigeria will be instrumental to our work as we intend to reach out to the consciousness of the youth population in the academic community. Engaging this category of youths will drive intellectual change and conversation around development, governance and Transparency & Accountability.

Though the turnout for the event wasn’t as massive as we had earlier thought, but nonetheless – the message got to, and sank deep into the hearts of the participants as they all wanted to leverage on the Follow the Money Platform to empower their respective communities.

“Where have you guys been all this while?” That statement was echoed by the majority of the participants as they were all wowed about what we have been doing.

Akinsuyi who was one of the participants gave his remarks saying “An eye-opening presentation, but I think it is not for someone who wants to live long”.

In his remarks to feedbacks given by Akinsuyi, Busayo Morakinyo of Connected Development engaged him emphasising on the fact that “we cannot all be mute and watch things go by as we all need to be proactive and ask the right questions from the government, so we can all see and achieve the Nigeria of our dreams”

One of the participants who did not want his name in print raised a salient concern as he asked if  Follow the Money would not turn apolitical by the time it gain grounds and I discussed extensively on the nonpartisan traits of the organization and gave him assurance about the fact that we remained firm and resolute on our nonpartisan stand. Also, I was able to let him realised we cannot be a watchdog for the government and at the same time be romancing with them.

While explaining the more, I iterated and let the participant understand that if the organisation was a political one or has a political motive/s, it would not have stood the test of time since 2012 that it was founded. 

The event ended with a good understanding of what we do and how the participants can sign up to be a part of the organisation. More of this training will continue until we are able to reach out to all Tertiary institutions in Nigeria, creating systems and deep-rooted thoughts on transparency and accountability. The event ended with commitments from the participants as they indicated their interest to join our Follow the Money Platform. 

If truly we are serious about Following the Money, then, we should be able to train the next generation of leaders to be proactive and always speak up and most importantly, they too need to start Following the Money.  This is one of the major reasons why we are on the train of training to the tertiary institutions. Look out for our train in the various campuses around Nigeria. We will keep you posted the more, as it is happening.

If you know of any event on social development, transparency and accountability which you would want us to talk about what we do and possible recruitment of Follow the Money enthusiasts, do not hesitate to comment or reach out to our team.

 

 

REPORT FROM THE SAVING ONE MILLION LIVES PROGRAM FOR RESULTS (SOML-PFORR) CSOS ROUND TABLE

REPORTONTHESAVINGONEMILLIONLIVESPROGRAMFORRESULTSSOMLPFORRCSOSROUNDTABLE

In 2012, the Nigerian Federal Government initiated the Saving One Million Lives Program For Results (SOML PforR). The program intends to rollback child and maternal mortality in the country and saves an estimated 900,000 women and children that die each year from preventable causes. In 2015, the World Bank approved $500 million credit for the program. Subsequently, in mid-2016, the World Bank provided $55.5 million as part of the credit to the Federal Ministry of Health who then gave $1.5 million to each of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.

In line with Connected Development’s work in ensuring an open government in governmental expenditure in rural communities and in our three thematic areas (which includes health), we immediately got interested in tracking the implementation of the funds across the country. On learning about the $55.5 million approval from the Bretton Woods Institution and in the last quarter of 2016, we started tracking the implementation of the $1.5 million at Primary Healthcare Centres across rural communities in Akwa Ibom, Enugu, Kano, Kogi, Osun and Yobe States. Subsequently, we arranged and had meetings with the World Bank and Federal Ministry of Health SOML PforR program team for information sharing and to share our experience in tracking the fund implementation. One of the key outcomes from these meetings is the importance of Civil Society Organisation’s involvement in the PforR implementation. It’s on this note that this CSOs roundtable was organized.

Download the Report Here

Download the Communique Here

 

 

Beyond Amnesty International Reports: Civil – Military Relationship in Nigeria

Beyond Amnesty International Reports: Civil – Military Relationship in Nigeria

While some are debating about Big Brother Naija(BBN), Amnesty International (AI) published a bashing human right report on the Nigerian Military, I think these are more pressing issues that tell directly on us and our perception in the International sphere than BBN. The general perception of the average young Nigerian has always been towards entertainment and the arts, which are not wrong in themselves, but requires balance to make us global citizens and engage more in active statesmanship. The quest for development cannot be achieved until we collectively get involved in those things that matter and concerns national development the most, this isn’t stopping them from being social or interact within the social space but to place emphasis on these various issues will go a long way to make these issues potent in the public domain.

The disappointments and the mystery many shares from the backlogs of bad governance and social injustice could be a justifiable reason for this wide lack of morale, but we must all collectively understand that the future must be better than the past, hence the need to be more active citizens than just active netizens, engaging more in the collectivity of our reality and steering the ship of state to focus more on pressing issues covertly influencing governmental policies, human and civil rights to the point where spaces will be vacated for young people to show what they have gathered over the years as political power will not just fall on our laps, we must work (hard) for it.

Some people deliberately have raised serious issues on the details of the report with more focus on killings of civilians by the military following various claims by CSOs, Amnesty claims its reports are concrete following the kind of methodology it used including the world acclaimed ‘triangulation’. The document which is over 400 pages, highlights the human rights abuses and violation world over in an alphabetical order. This report is a yearly survey which is geared majorly towards ‘state actors’ with little or no importance to ‘non-state actors or parties to conflict’.This emphasis has made it a little difficult for people to fully comprehend why not enough credence is giving to the military with all its successes in the offensive against terrorists and its strides in protecting the territorial integrity of the Nation.

Nigerians may not understand vividly what all these means, while conflict entrepreneurs may use these as a bashing tool against the government and military, I am not taking sides here but just analyzing these issues based on facts and available data, to be able to strike a balance from the whole situation, no matter how confusing it may look like.

I watched the Researcher from Amnesty International on Sunrise daily (24/02/2017) talking about the report and how the army has been indicted and to balance up immediately was the Spokesman of the military, who debunked all allegations and also opined that the videos and pictures released are cropped and hence not true, stating vehemently that the Army should be celebrated for its feats in keeping the nation together as one through all the various unrests in all parts of the country as if they are doing us a favor in discharging their job responsibilities.

The disconnect here is however how the Army has consistently denied ALL these allegations stating that it doesn’t kill citizens and just abides by the Rule of Law and Rules of Engagements as it is enshrined in the constitution as their responsibility. Truth is, in the past, the military has proven to be above the law and has dealt ruthlessly with civilians in purely civil issues, they have ruled as gods on the street as we have seen so many times physically and on Social Media, beating, maiming, threatening harmless civilians at different locations and times in the country. This shameful act has over the years characterized the military as their presence anywhere only exudes fear and panic. This reality has developed an impression in the minds of every Nigerian, young and old which has further deepened and widen the gaps of interaction between the military and civilians in the country, the fear is not location sensitive.

I have had my fair share of military brutality, and it wasn’t a palatable one. Sometime in 2012, I was enroute Makurdi, Benue State, with some students in an 18 seater bus for a wedding, I have had a foreknowledge of the madness that comes with Military brutality as a regular traveller, before this time I wasn’t a victim and as such never had a close shave with the military, we got to a military checkpoint at the fringes of Okene, Kogi State, the driver had not seen that kind of sights before and was very amused, he saw people ‘frog jumping’ in a row, the other occupants in the bus expressed such amazement, but I cautioned them silently, we were about moving past the checkpoint when the husky voice thundered “stop dier”, I immediately knew there was trouble, when the driver was too excited and laughed out loud, we were all paraded out of the bus leaving out the ladies and a man who identified himself as a Pastor. The rest of us tried insisting that we were undergraduates with ID cards flashing everywhere to no avail, we filled out in a line like the victims before us and perform the delegated punishment for our driver’s laughter.

I was quite unfortunate that day as we returned to the bus after the punishment for laughing, though very angry and could hardly walk well, I tried to hide my anger in a smile only for the soldier to tell me to go start from the beginning again as he opined I was ‘smiling too much’. Some will opine that this is a result of the military hangover from the days of dictatorship and military incursion in politics, but we will bear witness to the fact that in recent times the military have started purging itself of these civil abuses with the way it handled the cripple man who was abused by its men.

In the times of War, as we have in the North East, International best practices enshrined in the IHL (International Humanitarian Law) and other conventions and protocols, places a definite demand on State actors to protect the civilian populace and further gives detailed guidelines of how to treat Prisoners of War (POW), maintaining the HUMAN RIGHTS and to treat with all sense of HUMAN DIGNITY of even the insurgents and other non-state actors involved in the armed conflict, when they are arrested .

This is a point where many defer, as they simply cannot comprehend why when a terrorist is caught, he should not be killed without been tried first by a competent court, and not just to be shot arbitrarily, why a terrorist still have ‘human rights’ and that rights must be protected with the terrorist having his own share of relief materials and should not be tortured to give information. This thought bothered me so much as a postgraduate student studying International Humanitarian Law as a course, I could not comprehend either at first but as I dug deeper, I got more clarity about the various dimensions of these issues. Unfortunately, the mandate of Amnesty International is to sustain advocacy on International Humanitarian Law and other issues that pertain to Human Rights abuses.

My opinion should be for the Military to intensify its efforts on bringing to book those within its ranks whenever issues of human right abuses occur with fairness and justice in time as to continue to allay the fears of Nigerians. More must be done to ensure the fusion of the military with civilians to enable the populace to see the military as partners in the Nigerian project and also build mutual trust with the same to further deepen the synergy. The military must not see CSO’s as enemies but partners, we do not need them to come out and flagrantly deny these allegations with illogical rhetoric but to check itself and purge its own systems of those who have vowed not to adhere to the rules of engagement as enshrined in the constitution of the ‘Federal’ Republic. The successes of the Military notwithstanding will be maintained when the Military points its searchlight on its men who would not do the right things, taking laws into their hands and bashing the hard work that seems to have been put in place to ensure its smooth running of its mandate as it concerns security and protection of our territorial integrity as a Nation. Just as the case of the crippled man that was brutalized for wearing a camouflage trouser, that kind of swift response with investigation and strict disciplinary measures must be sustained, this actions will build a support base for the military and will continue to bridge that gap that has been in existence from the days of Military dictatorship

Finally, the government must train, retrain and empower the police to take full responsibility for its job regarding civil matters, it is an aberration to see the military deployed as if they do not have a much bigger job of protecting our territorial integrity and keeping us safe, as I see more Military uniforms daily than that of the police. The State must wake up to its responsibilities before we begin to experience and witness more damning reports like this.

IMAGE CREDIT: Amnesty International 

Busayo Oluwadamilare Morakinyo is a Humanitarian and Refugee Expert and a Peace Scholar.