[PRESS RELEASE] Connected Development’s Follow The Money Celebrated as Africa’s Best Initiative on Achieving Sustainable Development Goals.

[PRESS RELEASE] Connected Development’s Follow The Money Celebrated as Africa’s Best Initiative on Achieving Sustainable Development Goals.

Connected Development [CODE] has won the ONE Africa 2016 Award recognizing, rewarding, and advancing the exceptional work of organisations, founded by Africans and based in Africa, dedicated to helping Africa achieve the Sustainable Development Goals

It’s initiative, Follow The Money, the largest volunteer grassroots movement on transparency and accountability in Africa, emerged winner among three finalists, presented by Bono, the lead singer of the UK group U2, and co-founder of ONE Campaign, during the Mo Ibrahim Foundation Governance forum, that was held on Saturday, April 8, 2017 in Marrakech, Morocco.

The Chief Executive of Connected Development, Hamzat Lawal on behalf of the organization, received the award. The Award highlights the dynamism and achievements of African groups and organisations that are building a better future for their communities, countries and continent. “We are super excited to be the recipient of this award and also thankful to ONE Campaign for this great opportunity. This Award restates the continental belief in our rural development works. This we warmly appreciate. And ultimately, this is timely and will be exceedingly utilitarian in broadening our continental impacts through facilitating development in marginalized communities, as well as empowering them to stand up and hold their leaders accountable.” said Lawal who also doubles as the Co-Founder of Follow The Money.

The 2017 Governance Forum which focused on violent extremism and migration, participation and democracy, inclusive economic growth and jobs for youth.  brought together various thought leaders in Africa and the World at Large including the Emir of Kano, HRH Sanusi Lamido Sanusi; the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, Amina J. Mohammed; Former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan; Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, Former Finance Minister, Okonjo Iweala, Africa Development Bank President, Akinwunmi Adeshina, among other dignitaries.

For any press enquiries

Celestina Obiekea

Tel: +234-09-291-7545

Email: celestina@connecteddevelopment.org

Editor’s Note:

Connected Development [CODE] is a non-government organization [NGO] whose mission is to improve access to information and empower local communities in Africa. Our initiative, Follow The Money advocate, visualize and track government spending and international aid spending in rural communities.

AN OPEN LETTER TO MRS AMINA MOHAMMED, MINISTER OF ENVIRONMENT

AN OPEN LETTER TO MRS AMINA MOHAMMED, MINISTER OF ENVIRONMENT

Dear Honourable Minister,

I wish to use this medium to congratulate you on your appointment as the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations. It is an honour well-deserved. It is also an elevation that naturally stirs mixed feelings in some of us who are very much aware of what Nigeria stands to miss in your absence.

So far, you have distinguished yourself as not only a dynamic Minister of the Federal Republic, but a hard-working development worker for the people. At a time the nation yearned for deep understanding of its environmental challenges, you brought the insight and hands-on feminine balance that enabled this great country get back on its ecological track in order to retain its pride in the comity of nations.

As an adviser to the Federal Government on Nigeria’s implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the precursor to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), you drove the programme efficiently and attained high points in critical set targets. This of course prepared you for your esteemed role in negotiating the seventeen SDGs under the outgoing UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and effectively stood you out as an asset to the development world.

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Likewise, the passion and patriotism you have displayed in your duties as a minister, have now engraved your name in the annals of history. This is because the commitment you brought to the job is based on your inherent capabilities and ingrained capacity acquired over the years in your service to society.

Your stewardship is now evident. Nigeria has launched the implementation of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Climate Change Agreement. The Ministry of Environment has also successfully launched the historic Sovereign Green Bonds – first of its kind; flagged off the Ogoni Clean-up Programme; and streamlined the Great Green Wall programme for a focused and sustainable implementation.

Dear Minister, in spite of the pleasure we find in celebrating your value and landmark achievements, we are still perturbed by the nagging fear that your efforts may yet be in vain if the solid foundation you are laying in the sector is not capped with a seamless transition to sustainable pillars of continued progress, as you move on to your new international office.

This is why we also use this opportunity to draw your attention to some real issues that when properly addressed, would spell the survival lines to this all-important sector, and to the country in general.

Firstly, we are conscious of the fact that your tenure as the Minister of Environment brought a lease of life to the energy efficiency sub-sector, and effectively cleared the foul and dark aura already engendered by the Clean Cookstoves saga. Presently, you have set a fresh course that promises to reignite hope in the achievement of the goals that inspired the project in the first place.

Therefore, we call on you to set a lasting template that would sustain the momentum of the clean cookstoves project, even in your absence. We hope your efforts would help ensure that government delivers on the statutory 15% from the Ecological Fund, while also inspiring the ambition and bureaucratic urgency needed to deliver on the project.

Secondly, we can never forget that your motherly intervention and tireless activism impacted positively on the success of the ongoing Shikira lead poisoning remediation project. However, having assessed the progress of the cleanup, we are convinced that the project has to go beyond just remediation, but also a sustainable structure for ecological management. This is in order to ensure that there is no future outbreak of lead poisoning in Shikira and in other communities involved in artisanal mining.

Thirdly, we are worried that if the proper systemic adjustments are not made in the ministry of environment, we may lose some of the critical milestones achieved under your watch. This is why we call on you to effectively utilize the remaining few months you have to work in Nigeria in strengthening the structures that would ensure that in the absence of a good driver like you that the vehicle does not crash into the bushes. We sincerely pray that things will never deteriorate to “business as usual!”

We wish to see that the ball you have set rolling maintains the momentum, because we are convinced that the environmental sector is the fulcrum of the development sector especially in a developing economy like ours.

For instance, Nigeria’s NDC is an ambitious document, which needs imaginative inter-sectoral engagements for its effective implementation. With the vast opportunities that lie within the NDC and the potential complications that could entangle our bureaucratic infrastructure, we are concerned that, in fact, not just any hands can take over the helms at the ministry of environment.

How we wish, you could groom your own successor! Fourthly, we also cannot forget the fact that two critical regions in Nigeria are directly affected by your present and future offices: the South South and the North East. The Ogoni Clean-up project which you successfully initiated needs a proper and sustained project implementation.

The social dislocation that has erupted as a result of the humanitarian emergency in the North East also waits for your intervention. We humbly call on you to use your esteemed position as the UN Deputy Secretary-General to redirect the eyes of the world to the region. This would not only entail getting the required international support for humanitarian aid, but most importantly in ensuring that transparency and accountability are mainstreamed in their disbursements.

Finally, conscious of the importance of your UN appointment not only to Nigeria but to Africa as a region, we are hopeful that you will utilize the platform to inspire a revived spirit of transparent democratic governance, which we believe is the only effective way to address the region’s development challenges. And, we are glad that your experience in the development of the SDGs will also give you the fillip to inspire a proper mainstreaming of its implementation process in Africa.

Then, ultimately, we hope that you spearhead Nigeria’s bid to becoming a permanent member of the UN Security Council. We are convinced that you have a date with history, and would have stamped your name in gold in the annals of history if you could work with your new boss to reorganize the UN and make it more democratic by increasing the Permanent membership of the Security Council. History will remember you if Nigeria fills Africa’s slot in the new arrangement, in order to reward our great country’s half-a- century old contributions to the UN.

Sincerely,

Hamzat Lawal
Chief Executive, CODE
Co-Founder, Follow The Money

The Implementation of Capital Funds Intended for Primary Healthcare Provision in Nigeria

The Implementation of Capital Funds Intended for Primary Healthcare Provision in Nigeria

CODE participated in the Stakeholder Briefing on Primary Healthcare Centres (PHC) which was held on 29 November 2016 at Spice Platter Gallery, 18 Libreville Crescent, Wuse 2, Abuja. It was choreographed by the Public and Private Development Center (PPDC) and was a briefing on the findings from PHCs visited by PPDC and CODE, in 2016.

PPDC on its part has been mobilizing procurement monitors to track and verify the performance of contracts awarded for projects such as PHCs across the country. This is with the aim of ensuring that public resources are been judiciously utilized in providing public services. CODE also through its Follow the Money initiative has been tracking government implementation of capital funds that are intended for local communities in health, education and environment.

The stakeholders meeting then provided a platform for the two organizations to interact with relevant stakeholders drawn from the National Assembly, State Ministries of Health and several media agencies. The event featured a presentation by PPDC on their procurement and budget tracking works in local communities. In the event, the organization also presented its Budeshi online platform. The online platform is a dedicated site that links budget and procurement data to various public services. It is accessible to the public to interact with and make their own comparisons. This is in a bid to make information around public contracts and procurement process more coherent. Budeshi is also an attempt to demonstrate the Open Contracting Data Standards across the public procurement value chain.

CODE on its part made a presentation on its monitoring of the implementation of capital funds for the rehabilitation of PHCs in Akwa Ibom, Enugu, Kano, Kogi, Osun, and Yobe states. Part of the funds include the $1.5 million health grant from the World Bank to each of the 36 Nigerian states & the FCT and N10.5 earmarked by NPHCDA for the rehabilitation of a PHC in Afia Nsit Urua Nko, Akwa Ibom State. The presentation also accentuated the fact that no sort of implementation is going on with respect to the funds and that governmental agencies are so lackadaisical in replying FOI Requests on further perspicacity on these funds.

The concerned stakeholders such as the personnel from Oyo and Osun States’ Ministries of Health commented that most states have not accessed the World Bank Health Grant. This is contradictory to information that CODE has at this time which is that some states have gotten access. Moreover, our interest is on getting the costed work plan for the grant’s employment, as well as safeguarding citizen engagement on the usage of the fund – which all do not have anything to do with the technicalities of funds provision, assessment, receipt . . . The representative from Osun State Ministry of Health promised to provide the costed work plan of the $1.5 million usage in Osun State to CODE. We hope he does this, and that the State Ministries of Health put information on all the expenditure and intended projects in the public domain.

CSOs Seek Collaboration with National Assembly on Budget Matters.‎ By Olusegun Olagunju

CSOs Seek Collaboration with National Assembly on Budget Matters.‎ By Olusegun Olagunju

In a bid to safeguard transparency and accountability around several themes concerning the Budget, the Committee on Diaspora and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) of the Nigerian Senate in collaboration with Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC) and UK‎ Department for International Development (DFID) on Wednesday, November 3rd, 2016 hosted an Interactive Session. The Session was between the Senate Committee on Diaspora and Non-Governmental Organisations and Civil Society Organisations on Nigeria’s Budgeting System with a Focus on 2016 Budget Performance and 2017 Budget.

The President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki was available to declare open the Interactive Session. He stated, “The implementation of the 2016 Budget is still ongoing” and added that, “Non-oil revenues are also falling out of projection, affecting the Budget implementation.”

img_0393-editThe Chairman, Senate Committee on Diaspora and Non-Governmental Organisations, Senator Rose Oko gave her opening remarks and extensively gave commended the efforts of the NGOs and CSOs partnership that has yielded a whole lot of benefits over the past years.

She said, “At the first session held at Transcorp Hilton on 8th of February 2016, a consensus was reached that a Memorandum of Cooperation be developed.”
According to her, “On the 10th February 2016, another session was held in the Senate Conference room and was attended by the Senate President. A Major outcome of the meeting was the strong position canvassed by the CSOs seeking to be involved in the budgetary process in the National Assembly. The Senate believes that the involvement of CSOs would add value to the budgetary process of the National Assembly.”

She went further to say, “Senate reasoned that their involvement would also help to improve service delivery as government would feel pressured to perform better based on the CSOs budget analysis, general oversight role and information dissemination.”

“Senate therefore considered that the participation of CSOs could strengthen the legislators’ functions on budgetary matters by way of delivering research-based evidence and advice to members of the National Assembly”.

Senator Rose Oko reiterated further that the Senate, “Will use this forum to develop a functional framework that will enable us to achieve enhanced results in the budget system. Fundamentally, this meeting will offer us a crucial window to preview and endorse our Memorandum of Cooperation with a view to affirming the direction of our partnership. This development would enable us to commence without further delay, mutual activities and joint actions beneficial to our Nation”.

She congratulated us all and welcomed us to this new bond of a working relationship between the CSOs and Legislature.

img_0384-editThe Chairman of PLAC, Mr. Clement Nwankwo was in attendance and also gave insightful tips on how the Senate can gain the CSOs trust.

He said, “We want to see the figures reeled out as to what has been achieved”. He expressed further that, “The executives should explain to the masses what has happened to the 2016 budget.”

To bring his remarks to a close, he said, “CSOs have questions to ask” and that, “We hope the partnership between CSOs and the Senate will bring good results.”

In attendance also was Dr. Otive Igbuzor, the Executive Director, African Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development. He gave a detailed speech tailored towards ensuring mutual harmony of the CSOs and Legislature, he was, however very brave to point at the hollow points in the designing strategies of the budget and gave a broader overview.

In his remarks he said, “In Nigeria, there are a lot of blockages to effective budgeting. First and foremost, the budgetary process is not participatory. Citizens and communities do not participate in formulating policies and agreeing on projects that go into the budget. Meanwhile, It has been documented that wherever participatory budget is implemented. It has expanded citizenship, empowered excluded groups, redeemed rights, deepened democracy and stimulated civil society.”

He said, “The budgetary process is not open. Corruption in any country starts from the budgetary process. In very corrupt countries, the budget is done in secrecy. Releases are done without the knowledge of citizens. Procurement information is not made available to Citizens and corruption is guarded and protected.”

He went further, “A budget is regarded as open if Citizens have access to the key budget documents; have high level of involvement in the budgetary process and have access to procurement information.”

Still on citizens participation in the budgetary process, Dr Otive said, “As a matter of fact, democracy will be meaningless if the citizens do not participate in how government raise and spend money. This is why the tool – Open Budget Survey Tracker – developed by the International Budget Partnership is a very useful instrument.”

What he said concerning the budget not being in accordance with the development challenges of the country is that, “There is no synergy between plans, policy and budget. We have always argued that there is the need for better public finance management across the world because of increasing inequality and non-inclusive growth. The past five decades have witnessed monumental changes in the world. Global economic wealth has increased sevenfold and average incomes have tripled.”

He said there are frivolous expenditures in the budget that will not stand any reasoning and logic. “For instance, the Centre for Social Justice documented N668.8 billion frivolous expenditure in the 2016 budget. They include N3.91 billion allocated annual reporting maintenance of villa facilities; N322.4 million for linking of cable to drivers rest room at the villa; N213.8 million for linking cable from guest house to generator house etc.”

He was quick to point at the institutions and mechanisms for oversight of the budgetary process as being weak. He said, “In any modern democracy, the legislature, civil society and media are expected to play oversight functions in addition to the internal control system in place by the executive.”

According to him, there were many lessons learnt from the 2016 budget implementation, some of which are: the Engagement by Citizens and citizens’ groups produced some positive reports in terms of reduction of frivolous expenditure. For instance, CSJ documented a total saving of N71,954,532,546.00 from the 2016.

img_0377“Delay in passage of budget continued in 2016. This has the potential to affect budget performance negatively. There was low capacity in understanding the new budgetary approach of zero base budgeting on the part of public servant and civil society,” he asserted.

He also made a deep dive into how Civic Education, Social, Economic and political resilience, budget literacy, comparative analysis of best practice in budgeting are the issues that formulate emerging consensus among civil society that needs to be addressed going forward.

According to Dr. Igbuzor, there are three ways we could measure the impact level performance of the 2016 budget, they are: Input Level, which is how much of the budgeted amount was released and used in the implementation.

Process, how the activities were carried out. Procurement process asks if the activities are carried out as and at when due.

Output, Outcome and Impact levels concerns the immediate result of the activities. The effect of the budget activities or any change attributable to the budget actives and Change in people’s lives attributable to the budget respectively.

He lamented that, “For a very long time, Nigeria had no institutionalised monitoring and evaluation system where there is a regular production of monitoring information; regular production of monitoring findings; and monitoring and evaluation findings are used to improve government performance.”

In conclusion, he commended the National Assembly for the interactive session. He stated, “We need to go a step further by ensuring public hearing in the budget at all levels: Federal, State and Local Government. I undemanding that the leadership of the National Assembly has agreed on the need to subject the budget to Public hearing. The 2017 budget should be the beginning point.”

Positive reactions and  towards his remarks came from different sections of the room.

Critical observations and assessment of Citizens’ priorities in Budgeting Formulations was made by Barrister Eze Onyekpere of the Centre for Social Justice.

The representative of Department of International Development prayed ‎prayed that, “It will be helpful if you can ensure this becomes a norm and part and parcel of the legislation in terms of what concerns the citizens.”

The Chief Executive of Connected Development, Hamzat Lawal who was present at the Interactive Session raised the tempo of the hall when he greeted with the assertion that,‎ “There’s a World Bank intervention fund for PHCs across Nigeria, we just came back from Akwa Ibom, Kogi, Osun, Yobe, Enugu, Osun and Kano as we seat, nothing has been done.”

Senator Tejuosho, Chairman Senate Committee on Health also mildly acknowledged that, “Of course The Health Act is one of the declarations that I know we are violating”.‎

Senator Rose Oko, in her closing remarks said, “We need to work together, the CSOs and the Nation Assembly need to work together.”

“We will recommend a resolution of this interactive session to the Senate for approval”.‎

Lastly, she assured that, “We will make available to you the conclusion of this meeting.”

The Senate was reminded of their promise that, ‎”You made a promise to #OpenNASS, please open it up”‎ and this, to me was the highpoint of the Interactive Session.

My Internship Experience So Far In CODE by John Paul

My Internship Experience So Far In CODE by John Paul

Life has been good so far, but not very good when one has not yet experienced the real world before now!

The reality of life somehow depends on the level of experience one has acquired. These and more were discussions I was having with my brother about my plan to get the real experience that I need and he told me not to worry as he will introduce me to an organisation that will help me realize my dreams, I was very happy with this response from him, I was told to send my  CV together with a cover letter to the CEO of CODE, which I did and, excitingly, I got an email after some days together with a phone call telling to resume on Monday by 8am, that was the turning point of my life, as I was filled with joy.

On that very Monday, the weather was not very friendly as it was raining heavily but I did not bother as I could not afford to miss the opportunity I have been looking for a very long time. When I got to the office on that day, I got many things playing football in my brain as I met with encouraging and vibrant young people as against my expectations of meeting with Chiefs and Alhajis.

The most surprising part was when the CEO of CODE came in and introduced himself as Mr. Hamzat Lawal AKA Hamzy!, I was like is this the almighty Hamzat? Honestly, his name sounds bigger than his appearance, he quickly introduced me to the team at CODE and I was warmly received by everyone and immediately I joined in the team’s meeting, and after I was assigned to work with Mr. Tunde on the Grenade team (Data Mining). Honestly, working with him has been amazing as he’s teaching me everything I need to know about data mining and all about CODE’s work. He has never failed to answer any of my numerous questions or put me through in any difficulty, and, has inspired me so well.

One of the things that CODE has automatically changed in my life is the use of E-MAIL as an important means of communication. I have had many email accounts but only use it when I have something that phone calls or SMS can’t do. Now, I have been able to use one email for a whole month which has never happened in my entire life as I always find myself in the past, each time I want to check my mail, it would have been blocked because I am not very friendly with it as I have always preferred text messages and phone calls as means of communication, I am very happy that CODE has installed the use of email in me.

imag0591At CODE, I have been taught the use of Google drive which seems to be a big deal before I got here because I use to hear it from friends, I can remember when a friend asked me to pay him so that he can teach me, I am more excited today because I have learnt more than what he could have taught me, within my first one month in CODE, I can say that I have been able to develop a good working relationship with the team as I have noticed that everyone is committed in bringing out the best in me.

While I still work as an Intern here, I expect to gain writing confidence as I know that I love to write but have always doubted my ability. I strongly believe within my short stay at CODE, I will gain the ability of putting out strong, positive and constructive write ups.

Being too friendly has also been a challenge to me as I am not a very social type, but the CODE family has been of great support and help to me. As I continue as an intern in this great organisation, I intend to learn more than I can as working with CODE has been my best experience in life and i thank the management and staff of CODE for the opportunity given to me and all their commitments and efforts put in place to ensure I become a better person.

My Internship At CODE has unfortunately come to an end by Nkem

My Internship At CODE has unfortunately come to an end by Nkem

Before I could realize it, my three months internship at Connected Development has unfortunately come to an end.

After three months of exciting and unforgettable time at CODE, I can say it has been an awesome experience. I would like to take a moment to remember and cherish our times together. It has been great interacting and knowing each and every one of you. I appreciate having the opportunity to work with you all. During my stay at CODE, my associates gave me support and through their encouragement and guidance, I have been able to excel at the tasks I was assigned to.

The atmosphere there was awesome, peaceful, with good hearted and thoughtful people around. For an introvert like me, CODE presents a culture shock, almost everyone is an extrovert. I got acquainted with people who have devoted their lives for the betterment of the society; with no self-gain or greedy motive behind it. They chose social work as their profession because they wanted to do it, not for gaining publicity or making money but for the satisfaction of joy of giving.

nkem-w-hamyI’m part of the data mining team for Follow The Money. As a coordinator, I enter money figures of capital projects meant for rural communities in the area of health, education and environment into the bulleta word we use in our innovative virtual newsroom. Looking for these figures and filling them into the bullet wasn’t an easy task but once I got into the routine, I started to enjoy every minute of it.

I’ve had a brilliant time at CODE and honestly it’s a shame it had to end. I will greatly miss the team.

I want to use this opportunity to Thank  Hamzy! For his full support. I’m so thankful that you are my boss. You are not just a leader to me but an inspiration. Your hard work has been my inspiration since i joined CODE. Working for you is a pleasure, an experience that i will truly treasure. Thank you.

I look forward in the near future for an opportunity to work in CODE and contribute the little I can give.

Cheers,

Nkem Iroala.team