[During one of our townhall meetings at Uratta Umuoha Community, Abia State – a key social accountability strategy through which we have enabled communities organize stakeholder engagements to facilitate the implementation of projects intended for them]
On the 11th of April 2017, the boardroom of MacArthur Foundation Nigeria was filled with several civil society actors on accountability, transparency and civic engagement. In attendance were over 30 representatives from domestic non-profits who are MacArthur grantees. They were there for a conversation with two accountability scholars, John Gaventa, and Walter Flores. An event in which staffers of MacArthur Foundation Headquarters joined virtually from the United States, the aim was to share ideas and have grantees move from tactical accountability approaches to more strategic approaches. As one of the representatives of Connected Development [CODE], I went in with several expectations which were met.
The conversation started with a presentation, Dancing the TAP Dance: Linking Transparency, Accountability and Participation, by Prof John Ganveta who teaches at the Institute of Development Studies, United Kingdom. He started with sharing key governance issues that led to the rise of accountability and transparency movement globally. Most of them encompass accountability deficit, democratic deficit and impecunious active citizen participation in governance. He then went on explaining how several tools such as ensuring service delivery, improving budgetary processes, ensuring open government, aid transparency and NGO accountability can be utilitarian in addressing these challenges. Addressing these challenges would consequently lead to better services through monitoring, improved democracy, reduced public service corruption, empowerment, human rights, greater access to information and challenging inequality.
Another presentation, Citizen-led Accountability: Power, Politics and Strategies, was by Dr Walter Flores of Center for the Study of Equity and Governance in Health Systems (CEGSS) who took time to share his organization’s works on accountability and challenging inequalities in Guatemala. He emphasised that the roles of transparency and accountability in curbing inequalities include turning citizens from passive to active users of services who can demand accountability from the government. According to him, when they started, they first of all started collecting data on how a particular faction of the society was being marginalized in getting services in drug stores and hospitals. The data was collected through sms, audio/visual evidence and they embarked on advocacy and engaged the government with such evidence for appropriate response. They also created channels of engagement for such citizens to discuss problems and implement solutions.
At a time, politics came into play and they were challenged by governmental authorities for not having the legitimacy to advocate for the communities. They then were forced to decentralize their operations to let citizens and communities lead it through their building capacities. Communities were then organized for monitoring. In a presentation in which he shared most of their successes, he finalized by stating that social accountability is crucial for accountability to work. And that in such work, it’s better to start with community organizing and rights literacy, while collective and participatory interventions, strategies and results are imperative.
After the phenomenal presentations were questions, comments and commitments from organizations present. In line with Dr Flores presentation, I made a remark on the effectiveness of his social accountability strategy which we use at CODE. At CODE, in tracking governmental expenditure in rural communities for service delivery, we start with rights literacy in the concerned communities and co-organize town hall meetings with their community leaders for conversation around the particular projects with implementing governmental agencies and contractors. The town hall meetings have helped to embed community ownership in our works and within the chain of our participatory strategies, communities are empowered to ensure these projects are implemented long after we have pulled out. Also in the same line, for sustainability, decentralization of our strategies and community ownership, we activated ifollowthemoney.org to mobilize young people in these communities to ensure governmental accountability themselves.
The conversation was quintessential and more of it are crucial with respect to capacity building of the civil society and sharing of ideas.
Chambers Umezulike is a Programme Manager at Connected Development and a Development Expert. He spends most of his time writing and choreographing researches on good and economic governance. He tweets via @Prof_Umezulike.
Connected Development [CODE] in partnership with ONE Campaign and The League of Progressive Ambassadors of Nigeria (LEPAN) organized a one week outreach to engage legislators on the #MakeNaijaStronger campaign which is a national health campaign to draw attention to the urgent need for increased public investments to improve health and nutrition outcomes in Nigeria. The Campaign amplifies the calls of various Nigerian organizations that have called on government to priorities increased health investments to help strengthen health systems and save lives.
The aim of the outreach was to get the legislators to sign the petition which calls on the government needs to ensure full implementation of the National Health Act, including more resources and better spending to ensure all Nigerians, including the poorest are able to access health care.
The National Health Act was signed into law by the president on December 9, 2014 with the aim to establish a framework for the regulation, development and management of a National Health System, to set standards for rendering health services in the Federation and other matters concerned, it also provides that there would be improved funding of health care services at the grass root so that people don’t have to travel far to access medical services. This Act will also ensure that states participate in improving health centers through a counterpart fund that would enable them benefit from the consolidated funds.
Getting the legislators to sign the petition was not an easy ride as most of them could not be found at their offices. Those that were around were apprehensive and bluntly refused to append their signature, while some will verbally support the cause and refuse to sign the petition. We also understood that it was a very difficult time for them as previously they just experienced a total blockade of the complex by an aggrieved group and therefore there was little acceptance given to advocacy groups at the moment. Notwithstanding a total of 84 petitions were signed by the legislators.
This shows that 34 distinguished senators and 50 Honourable members are also joining CODE, ONE Campaign, LEPAN and the Nigerian citizens to call on the Government to fully fund the National Health Acts and its provisions, Increase transparency in health programming and spending and also scale up investments in the 2017 budget for areas that can have the greatest health impact for Nigerian citizens in other to #MakeNaijaStronger
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.
Leading Youth Organisations in Africa such as Connected Development (CODE) in Nigeria, Youth Environment Network (YEN) in Zambia as well as other youth organisation in Malawi, Zero Waste Centre for Africa and No Excuse in Slovenia have agreed to synergise in the fight to save our planet earth by signing up to promote ‘Project #SwitchBags’, a campaign on the ban on single-use of plastic bags in Zambia and Sub-Saharan Africa. The urge to synergise in saving our planet earth became imperative at the last Sustainaware Regional Partners Meetings (RPM-Africa) in Lusaka, Zambia. The meeting which was scheduled to be a two-day roundtable meeting on Global Partnership towards attaining speedy implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at various countries of Africa and other Europe, Asia and across the globe, which is part of the objectives Sustainaware seeks to achieve, gave African youths opportunity for dialogue on the action plan towards addressing myriad of challenges confronting the continent.
Project Coordinator for #SwitchBags, Luwi Nguluka while speaking during her presentation at the meeting said the campaign also seeks to educate people across the globe on the hazardous impacts of plastics waste (non bio degradable) to our immediate environment, with the intention to ultimately cause reduction in the use of plastics bags that are non-bio-degradable and encourage the use of biodegradable bags.
Tomaz Gorenc, Sustainaware Coordinator and Team Lead for No Excuse, a youth campaign organisation based in Slovenia, who applauded this initiative coming from young people in Africa said “the impacts of young people would never be felt until platforms and opportunities for global partnership such as Sustainaware are being made available to them”. He added that the Sustainaware project having being funded by the European Union (EU) has, in the last five years focused on how young people across the globe can be the agents of change within their various continents by providing solutions to emerging challenges in the 21st Century.
Hamzat Lawal during his presentation on SDGs
Billy Lombe, Founder and CEO of YEN said, YEN has since its inception single-handedly led several campaigns on environmental sustainability, Gender Equality and Human Rights issues in Zambia. “YEN has a mandate to mainstream Gender Equality and women empowerment in all programmes and projects”. He alluded further that YEN workds to uphold this mandate: facilitating inclusive development, catalysing the achievements of the SDGs.
Chief Executive, CODE, Hamzat Lawal who made an excellent presentation on SDGs highlighted the roles of the youths towards actualising each goal. He said the role of young people cannnot be overemphasised in the implementation of SDGs whether in Africa or Europe. “ it is our future and until we realize the need to work in partnership, we may never be able to achieve much” citing several impacts of Follow The Money and other CODE’s projects in Nigeria as major contributions any youth organisation could offer its country.
Sequel to our past findings and reports on the challenges militating against the #WaterBachaka, Follow The Money (Bikudi) Team once again visited Bachaka community to engage the people on the progress so far and whether GGW Agency has eventually looked into the issue of inadequate provision of Water for the dry crops and Orchards within their community. The responses we got from them were documented below:
The Head of the community who is also the Maiyaki of Bachaka Community spoke us first. “We are just waiting for them to complete what they started, they came callings on us to make the GGW project a success by getting our women and youth involved, yet they are the ones that have messed up the project themselves because most of the trees and plants in the Orchard are dying off due to unavailability of water source to wet them”. he explained.
Alhaji Barmu Liman, Head of Farmer in Bachaka bore his mind on the plight of GGW water project, “I even persuaded my wife to support the project since inception when they came. During the launching they brought two tractors that have tank for watering the Orchard, when the Orchard were at still nursery stage. But after sometimes we didn’t see them again. We later discovered that those tractors are still within a nearby community close to Bachaka. They have been abandoned there, he explained.
Speaking as the head of farmers in Bachaka, he said their annual yields and farm produce have dropped since they do not have water to support their plants and crops. “we have to wait for raining season for us to plant any crop because without adequate water supply they might dry up” he affirmed.
“Myself and other women within the community were given some portion of the Orchard which consist of varieties of plants at the nursery stages such as oranges, watermelons, mangoes, tomatoes, Dongoyaro trees to wet and nurture till they grow big, but they have refused to build more water sources to ensure the success of these project. They promised us that we wont lack water to wet those Orchards since there would be several water sources for us, till now we are yet to see those water sources” said Hajia Hauwa Barmu Liman.
She added that Bachaka women suffer to access potable water on daily basis, we have to spend more than N1,500 monthly to buy water. Our fear is what if the only borehole we fetch water from suddenly pack up what will become our fate?, she lamented.
Hajia Barmu Liman, Bachaka Women Leader
GGW Local Supervisor in Bachaka, Yayah Mohammed in his comment said, GGW States Representatives had come with good intention at the beginning but refused complete it. “We were given quite a lot of assignment to do but they wouldn’t compensate us” They promised to provide us with accommodation close these Orchards for effective and proper monitoring, they are yet fulfill it. he affirmed.
Saliu, who is an unskilled labourer, has a different story to tell, he said, himself and other community youth were employed as labourers and as securities at the commencement of the project, but they have not paid their entitlement and wages till now.
We are appealing to the National Agency for Great Green Wall in Kebbi State, to come and fulfill their promise to Bachaka, and also to save these Orchard from drying up” Currently the only source of water is solar powered water tank which is not enough to cater for these Orchards, another major barrier is transporting the water to Orchards to the nearby communities to wet the plantations. No vehicle is available to do this said Salihu, APC chairman Bachaka Community.
FOLLOW THE MONEY TEAM EFFORT
Having engaged the Bachaka community previously to know the efforts that GGW Agency in Kebbi state has made towards reviving the dead Water Sources for the GGW projects within their community, we further engaged the major stakeholders of the GGW projects in meeting at Modiyawa Hotel in Birni Kebbi on the 25th May 2016. The meeting commenced exactly 10am. We had representatives from Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Water Resources, more than five representatives from Bachaka Community and Media houses such as Kebbi TV and NTA Kebbi.
The stakeholders meeting was interactive session aimed at getting the Kebbi State GGW Representatives to interface with people of Bachaka and also to suggest possible way out. Engr. Aminu Umar from Kebbi State Ministry of Water Resources, who gave vivid explanation of the involvement of Kebbi State Ministry of Water Resources in GGW project. “Ministry of Water Resources was never part of GGW project we only came in to help built borehole and water Tank for the project at the initial stage of the GGW project, which we later got compensation from GGW” In other words, we were paid back the money spent in building the borehole at Bachaka Community.
When asked whether he is aware of the condition of borehole, he said, he knew the borehole got spolit later when the GGW project began, “Initially, it was built and powered by solar but some unscrupulous people stole the solar panel, till now we couldn’t find the culprit. In spite of this we were able to provide them with small generator which they to pump the water for use, yet they refuse to fuel it.
Representative from the Ministry of Environment, Alhaji Umar B. Diggi, he is the Head of Forestry and also double as the Spokesperson for GGW project in Kebbi State, commenting on the issues of #WaterBachaka, “We knew from the outset of this project that such incidence of vandalism and theft may occur that was why we made the project a community owned project, giving them sense of belonging in GGW project,”
When asked the efforts of GGW to revive the water source, he said, “I want you to know that GGW doesn’t have an office in Kebbi, it is just a programme that is being run under Ministry of Environment, so there are still many challenges confronting this project, “There is institutional challenge for GGW project in Nigeria”. Although GGW is gradually becoming an Agency on its own, despite this, at state level we are still struggling.
He also gave some spending analysis on 10 million Naira that was released for the project in Kebbi state. He said the money were divided according to the communities that are beneficiaries of the GGW project. “We did water projects in several other communites in 2 Local Governments, namely:(Arewa LGA) which includes Koro Ango, Bachaka and Tsulawa; (Dandi LGA) which include Agwa Hassan and Tukuruwa amongst others.
Diggi stated further that there are plans on the part of the Federal Government to collaborate with the 11 frontlines states in the North where GGW project is ongoing. “There is a deliberation on the collaboration between the 11 states involved and National Agency GGW for counterpart funding agreement, albeit yet to implemented still in the pipeline” We are hoping that this collaboration yield good results he said.
Boiling with anger, Head of Women in Bachaka, Hajia Barmu Liman, asked the State Ministries in Hausa what have they been using the funds meant for the GGW for? “What have you been using all the money government has been releasing for GGW for? Who is eating the money? We cannot continue to use our money to fuel the generator after giving our lands to support the GGW projects” She said.
There was an intense interactive session between the people of Bachaka and State Ministries Representatives, however they recommend that People of Bachaka could form a committee that would manage the borehole and Water Tank by raising funds to buy fuel to power the generator to pump water temporarily, pending the state government and possibly GGW Agency’s intervention.
Regarding the non-payment of securities and labourers they said they have disengaged them temporarily because of the issue of funding. And promised to pay them as soon as it is resolved.