So finally, after 3 years of intent, Nigeria got admitted into the Open Government Partnership (OGP) in July 2016 , a multilateral initiative that aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance while creating a platform for civil society organizations to collaborate with government institutions on ensuring transparency, accountability, citizen participation, and technology and innovation.
In view of this, I had to visit the city of Kaduna, to attend the CSO Day on Sunday, October 23 and the retreat with government institutions on Monday, October 24. The CSO day brought together civil society organisations from every part of the country to discuss the CSO draft national action plan and the future of CSO engagement with the OGP. One resounding issue during the day was coordination – not only amongst government agencies but also amongst the CSO, and a consensus was reached, that the Open Alliance continue to lead and coordinate CSO engagement for the actualization of the OGP in Nigeria.
A cross section of participants at the OGP CSO Day
It is expected that as part of the coordination, CSOs that focus on the values of OGP at the sub-national level can become responsible in that area once they have been admitted as a member of the Open Alliance, who presently has about 40 members intending to join it, and 10 members already. As OGP success hinges on partnership, trust and coordination, it will be important to “think strategically with coordination, find champions in the government and to be able to overcome the issue of partnership, you must trust the government and the government must trust the CSOs” as taken from the words of Maureen Kariuki, the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Regional Civil Society Coordinator for Africa and the Middle East.
One other take away from the CSO Day was the conversation around how to encourage citizen participation and government feedback, using the platform OGP has created. With many citizens platform in the country without government feedback, I think it will be relevant and mostly appreciated if the National Action Plan been drafted presently can include a coordinated citizen engagement platform, in which government agencies can commit to being part of, to offer timely responses and feedback to citizens, maybe, the Nairaland of citizen participation. Sanjay Pradhan, the CEO of OGP, mentioned an example of such platform to be Prozorro, in Ukraine, actually, I met the developers of this public e-procurement system in Madrid during the IODC.
With the present draft National Action Plan having 8 commitments by the government, spearheaded by the Ministry of Justice, we can only hope that CSOs focus on their strength, and become watchdogs of the implementation of such commitments, I mean, they have been doing same in their everyday activities – maybe this time with proper coordination and direction – no thanks to the OGP!
A non-governmental organisation Follow The Money, an initiative of Connected Development (CODE)Connected Development (CODE) is set to launch “Virtual Newsroom.
The products from the Virtual Newsroom is set to further engage and empower more marginalized people in rural communities to enhance their livelihoods.
Speaking at an In-house training organised by CODE, the monitoring and Evaluation Officer, Oludotun Babayemi said Follow The Money is planning a virtual newsroom that will run 24 hours – several times in a month with the objective of strengthening the voice of 95 million Nigerians leaving in rural communities in Nigeria, while increasing their participation in governance.
He said it’s important to have a participatory kind of discussion on how the newsroom is meant to look like, who’s doing what and create a larger workflow other than the one we have been using.
“We are talking about a newsroom that has over 60 reporters reporting into it from remote places. This means we need a robust, scalable and efficient framework other than the one we were using before. We thought it will be good to have a meeting to deliberate, discuss, make comments and suggestions about how the newsroom is meant to look like and also decide on the future of Follow The money,”he said.
The Monitoring and Evaluation officer, said Follow the Money is always motivated by stories from rural communities, which never gets into the mainstream media, adding that every time there is a visit , they hear about new stories, not just for the success alone but of failures of communities that are still ailing other than the ones that are focused on.
He added that it is always motivating that the group can do more and can have more people to do more.
“We are looking at the massive strength in the young people that we have, we can engage more of them and we can also have more communities that will be proactively vigilant in ensuring transparency and accountability of funds meant for their communities as well. These are the motivation for Follow The Money,” he said.
Speaking on the challenges, Babayemi said the challenges the movement might face is keeping that of retaining human resources and availability of financial resources
“Some people might leave at some point because we can’t bring in 60-75 people and expect them to only be focused on our mission and goal. Some people would think of something else such as thinking of another movement from there. Both are the critical challenges we are looking forward to as we move on.,”he said
He further called on the general public to be on the lookout for new radio programs that will come up especially Follow the Money radio, adding that radio is what people in the rural communities rely on to get information.
Mr. Babayemi explained that Follow the Money radio will be used in increasing rural community participation on governance as it concerns implementation of funds meant for capital projects in their communities l.
“ They should look out for some of our bulletins and prints that we would want to share with them on the money we are following and money for the community and also on what the government is saying about such money should be something interesting the communities should be looking forward to,”he said.
Well in the next 15 years, the vision will be to see the present 95 million Nigerians living in rural communities listening and engaging their leaders through the Follow the Money Radio, likewise, seeing 50% of that population sending in feedback to Follow the Money via SMS and our various online portal. Mr Babayemi noted
He said these target audience could also be able to read about Follow the Money In online and offline bulletins or magazines.
“In essence, seeing Follow the Money as a community mechanism where they can also read about their own community, and get their voices amplified is the future we see through Follow the Money and I hope that we will be able to achieve that,” he said.
“Abeg, you cannot come and fix a programme that will start at 8 am on a Saturday morning, I will not be able to attend, please postpone it for another day or cancel it” responded Ijiwere to her colleagues, who wanted to visit another friend; “Let me tell you, If you want me to come for that ‘owambe’ party on Saturday, then you should let it start at 10 am” affirmed Giringori, to his friends who were planning an event for Saturday.
“Imagine, those my friend wanted to suggest 8 am as a time for that party, I totally disagreed, and told them Jigida will be aired on radio at that time, and that is the only way I can report the lack of water in Kagara” said Giringori to his elder brother – Ijiwere.
These are the kind of conversations that go on in Kagara community, with everyone looking forward to Jigida, a weekly, one – hour radio programme that allows for citizens to call – in and express their community needs, which afterwards are been documented and sent to the various local government chairmen, and State House of Representative for response and decisions to be made. That’s not all, the first 30 mins of the programme is dedicated to the Councillor of the community sharing with the community, how much and what they will be spending on in the week. This is what proactive vigilance is all about!
Although proactive vigilance or public participation in budgeting or government spending is relatively new, the evidence attesting to its impact on resource allocation and service delivery is growing. Many of the existing findings are based on the well-known Brazilian experience with participatory budgeting, established first in Porte Alegre in 1989, and now replicated in over 40 countries around the world. Nigeria, is not left out as well, as its government hopes to encourage citizen participation, with its recent commitment to joining the Open Government Partnership, a multilateral initiative that aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance.
You might be wondering, how many – landlord associations,vigilante groups, market women associations, community development associations, we have in rural communities. A lot of them! When are we going to start having “project vigilante” in rural communities, that will become voices of several communities, because by the time you wake up tomorrow morning, the news will be agog with “one billion dollars to be released to provide water in Kagara” only to go to Kagara after one year, you will find out that Kagara has no water source or a broken water source. Quite pathetic, and that’s is the way we are – the leaders and followers.
Nevertheless, I am excited that the Story Story writers at BBC Media Action are focusing on how citizens at the local government level, can be proactively vigilant on such issues of government spending in their communities, and I recently had some hours of session brainstorming with the crew, on how citizens can become vigilant themselves, I hope all will be reflected in their popular radio drama coming up sometimes in fall. Thanks to Nkem, our Reseach Lead on government finance, who took some notes on the highlights, and I have added them below:
Citizens can at every stage of this budget cycle engage their various government, but limited participation is expected during during formulation
- There is the local government or state government budget, a document that highlights government spending and revenue which can be for a financial year, or a multiyear.
- The Budget has its on cycle starting from formulation (when Ministry, Department, Agencies, put together their budget), to enactment (when the national or state legislative arm assent to the budget), to implementation (the stage at which contractors start executing projects in your communities), and lastly, the assessment stage (where everyone assesses the implementation of the budget, to provide feedback on how the next stage should look like)
- At every stage of the budget, citizens can make noise about their plight, and join in the conversation. They can form themselves as vigilante group or association, and always knock on the door of their local government officer or Councillor.
- They can forward a freedom of information request letter to the local government chairman to request for their budget immediately it passes the enactment stage, and even ask more question like who is the contractor, what is the work plan for the project, how much is the contractor getting, and when will the project be concluded. Here is an example of a freedom of information letter if you want to write one
- Government at the local government and state government level should starting providing platforms as well, for the assesement stage. E.g. using local radio programmes like Jigida, create a referendum mechanism for your local government area for people to have their say on projects proposed for next financial year. It should not be only during elections, that citizens see chairmen of local government or governors of states canvassing for votes.
- Like I always say, the budget is not only the means by which government declare their spending, in fact 50% – 60% of what’s on it might not be relevant. The other way is to always listen to the state news on your local radio, projects will be announced at all times, especially when they are project funded by other partners, such as the federal government or international donor agencies.
Ijiwere and Giringori have decided to do away with social gatherings, and focus on becoming a vigilante for community projects in Jigida, and if you are reading this, you should be towing same way, and you should share this piece. I look forward to the final drama series on this – If you have listened to Story Story, Voices from the Market program, then you should be more expectant. See you all in Kagara town, listening to Jigida on radio!
From left, Oludotun Babayemi, Nkem and the BBC Media Action Writers
Quest for good governance at the three tiers of government in Nigeria is compelling young people to be proactive in their agitations for equity and fairness in the polity, which are some of the major ingredients for sustainable democratic system anywhere in the world. #NotTooYoungToRun, a recently launched campaign, an initiative of Youth Initiative for Advocacy Growth & Advancement (YIAGA) is currently taking the lead in correcting the several archaic notions and popular misconceptions that young persons in Nigeria are unfit to hold political leadership positions, and as such they are not to be given important in space in the corridor of power.
Speaking at Public Debate held in Abuja yesterday, Samson Itodo, Coordinator YIAGA and the initiator of #NotTooYoungToRun said the campaign is aimed at ensuring that young persons in Nigeria (above 18 and below age 35) be given opportunities to run for elective positions in government through #NotTooYoungToRun Bill. Itodo added that the Public Debate is targeted at stimulating public discourse on the rational and general principles of the Bill. “The debate will enlighten citizens on the role of the legislature, constitution review process and strategies for engaging state and federal legislators” he explained.
Honourable Tony Nwulu, Representing Oshodi-Isolo Federal Constituency 2 of Lagos State, who has also been the major sponsor of the #NotTooYoungToRun Bill which according to him has just passed the second reading in the hollow chamber of 8th National Assembly said “Young people in Nigeria have great potentials to be great leaders just like their counterparts in developed nations but it is quite disheartening that plethora of challenges are militating against them, the biggest challenge being lack of legal framework and constitutional backing for them to run for elective offices before age 35.
“It contravenes the fundamental human rights that any young person above 18 who has the right to vote, right to get married and be responsible for his or her family to be asked to wait for another twelve or fifteen years before he could be allowed to run for elective positions” he posited
Nwulu added that there is urgent need for constitutional review to ensure that these young intelligent Nigerians are given their space to run for political offices come 2019 and if possible before then. He further added that through this campaign young Nigerians are giving the older generation leaders a lifeline.
Jude Iloh, Country Representative, Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) who also gave an insightful speech at the event said older generation of leaders in Nigeria have completely made a mess of the government. “Old politicians in Nigeria only get energised when it comes to the issues of partisan politics, doing everything within their powers to overshadow the efforts of younger political aspirants contesting for political offices, thereby preventing them from making meaningful contributions at the decision making levels and government policies.” Ilo further encouraged the Nigerian youths not to relent in their pursuits in getting #NotTooYoungToRun Bill passed into law.
The senior Social Development Specialist West Africa Social Development of world Bank, Edda M Ivan -Smith, has called on all Civil society organisations (CSO) to have full participation in various project.
Ms Edda, made this known at the World Bank Workshop titled “Social Assessment of the Impact of Power Sector Reform on Users.
“The Voices of CSOs are more like voices of an advocate,and so we are happy to work with CSOs,” she said.
Also speaking, the social Development Specialist, Michael Gboyega, called on CSOs to help support Bank project by dialogue with government to tap into various projects.
He said that there are lots of opportunities for SCOs to get engaged in helping sending the necessary messages across to the people at large.
The purpose of the workshop was to provide an opportunity for a range of stakeholders to consider the social impact of electricity services. The workshop further presented preliminary findings and recommendations of a social assessment, undertaken by World Bank consultants.
The assessment further considered impacts on gender equality and women’s economic empowerment, as well as the opportunities for electricity consumers to be heard and to hold organisations to account.
The workshop also identified how to maximize benefits to low-income electricity consumers, the population that currently lacks access to electricity, and socially disadvantaged groups.
The world bank supports the Federal Government of Nigeria in developing the power sector in Nigeria. World Bank supports is in the form of direct investment support and in the form of indirect support for private sector investment.
Minister of Environment, Amina Mohammed, who has been one of the major influencers of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) launched late last year in New Yok has reiterated her stance on SDGs once again at the inaugural town hall meeting tagged ‘Buharimeter’in Abuja yesterday.
Amina posited that the role environment plays in actualising each of these Global Goals (SDGs) cannot be overemphasised hence it’s important that all Nigerian citizens get involved in its implementations so as to accelerate and maximise its impacts on our nation’s overall economic growth. ‘We cannot leave everything for the government to do, Yes, Ministers are public servants and it is a privileged to be one, but things would only work perfectly if we can earn your cooperation and work together in achieving all these goals. She stated that this administration would ensure that its delivers on all its promises at addressing security issues, ensuring steady infrastructural development and revamping the economy.
The Minister, who had earlier visited the lead poisoning affected communities in Niger State like Shikira, mentioned that the emergency response to remediation of these communities would commence as soon as the fund for the remediation is approved by the Federal Government. “In collaboration with Ministry of Solid Minerals, we will commence the remediation of these affected communities in Niger State’ she alluded.
The Buharimeter Townhall Meeting was organised by Centre For Democracy and Development (CDD) aimed at assessing the one year in office of President Muhammadu Buhari and his All Progressives Congress (APC) government. The event had five federal Ministers in attendance namely: Lai Mohammed (Information and Culture), Babatunde Fashola (Power, Works, and Housing), Audu Ogbeh (Agriculture and Rural Development), Amina Mohammed (Environment), and Udo Udoma (Budget and National Planning).