How Radio is fostering Citizen Participation and Government Accountability

How Radio is fostering Citizen Participation and Government Accountability

[ All 13 episodes of the Follow The Money Radio Program can be listened to at https://soundcloud.com/follow-the-money-129876762/sets/followthemoney-radio-editions ]

“Follow The Money, I have a health facility in Imesi Ile, in Osun State, which has been turned into a warehouse, can you please activate your campaign in this rural community because the facility should have catered for so many people.”

“I will like to inform you that the reconstruction of the primary school at Tongo in Gombe as commenced, we thank the Follow The Money people in our community and also you for mentioning it on the radio.”

Those were some comments from listeners of the 13 episode Follow The Money Radio program, aired on Wazobia FM 95.1 Abuja during the second quarter of 2017 (April to June 2017). In 2015, snap poll results released by NOIPolls Limited revealed that 62 percent of Nigerians surveyed get their daily information via Radio, as such we introduced Follow The Money Radio at a radio station that allows local language – Pidgin. The pidgin language is widely understood and spoken by Nigerians, as such we decided to partner with the popular Wazobia FM in Abuja, which has a reach covering millions of Nigerians. Just to note, that there are other citizen engagement radio program in Nigeria as well, such as the popular office of the citizen by Enough is Enough Nigeria Coalition and Budeshi by procurement monitor that airs every Friday morning on Nigeria Info FM Abuja

But how do you complement a movement like this on the radio? Last year, Connected Development experimented its advocacy strategies with the School of Data Radio, allowing it to garner 1,005 followers on Twitter, and three callers that turned into data evangelist. Even though, the SCODA Radio had bits of drawbacks because there were no directors and a permanent presenter. The drawbacks were useful lessons, for us to initiate the Follow The Money radio. We had to employ the knowledge of Uche Idu, a media for development expert to produce the program. We leveraged on our 2016 Community Media Champion – Big Mo to lead the presenters of the show. Every episode of the radio program was captured on Facebook Live as well, thus making it available to our community on Facebook

Follow The Money Radio

I remembered how much we discussed who the co-presenters will be. After three episodes, we concluded that it is important to use CODE’s staff working on Follow The Money, as they are in-tune with happenings within the community. With learnings from the School of Data radio, I had to start a documentation for the program which became a living document for Follow The Money Radio with presenters, the producers, the social media crew amplifying what happens during the radio program.

Many thanks to Cele Nwa Baby (Operations Manager at CODE) and Baba Bee (Programs Manager at CODE) who took out time to compliment Big Mo on making stories of communities engaging their sub-national government to air on radio, and making sure responses were gotten on such stories. In one of the episodes, the presenters instructed: “honourable Yaya Bauchi from Gombe, we are calling on you to commence the rehabilitation of the primary school at Tongo 2, we already know it’s a constituency project”. Two weeks later, the headmaster of the school joined the radio program to affirm that the rehabilitation of the school as actually commenced. Honourable Yaya Bauchi is the present house of representative member representing Tongo in the National Assembly, and it was confirmed that the renovation of the school was included in a constituency project proposed by him. Another intriguing story was that of the Primary school in Gengle, Adamawa state where hundreds of children learn under a dilapidated building. Three weeks after it aired on the radio program, the communities in Gengle joined the show to inform that the government visited their school, and they offered to start rehabilitation.

From Left – Baba Bee, Olusegun (Handling Facebook Live),Cele Nwa Baby, Oludotun, Uche Idu. From Back Left Olusegun, Bluetooth and Big Mo

So, what next for Follow The Money Radio? “You have all done well in bringing this to the radio; I think you should take this program to the state as well” advised one of our listeners during the last episode. As parts of messages gotten during the program, we have received emails from two other radio stations, who wanted to rebroadcast the show. Unfortunately, they are all in Abuja. Going forward, we are planning to initiate Follow The Money radio in the states, as such if you are a running a radio station in the state, or you are an OAP passionate about good governance, let’s get more voice amplified on your radio station, and feel free to contact us by joining our largest community on governance in Africa at http://ifollowthemoney.org or via info@connecteddevelopment.org. In the meantime, the Follow The Money Radio will be coming to you in the next quarter, join us at http://ifollowthemoney.org to get information on where it will be airing. Please stay tuned!

Addressing Citizenry Extensive Concerns on the 2017 Budget Proposal

Addressing Citizenry Extensive Concerns on the 2017 Budget Proposal

On 23 February 2017, the Director-General (DG) of the Budget Office of the Federation choreographed a media briefing on several issues surrounding the 2017 Budget Proposal. The DG also used the briefing to make certain clarifications on public outcries over several budget items on the proposal. Most of these outcries were on many frivolous items (especially on electricity and utility bills of MDAs; several humongous expenses on the state house budget on utensils and feeding, electricity bills, travel expenses etc.); repetitions of budget items; budget cycle crisis; the budget preparation expenses; lack of details on some of the items; budget padding etc.

In attendance at the briefing were the media and Civil Society Organizations (CSO). In responding to some of these concerns, the DG took his time to counter some of the claims:

1). He stated that there was no sort of budget padding on the 2017 budget proposal.

2). That there were no frivolous items. That most of the extensive increments such as state house proposed expenditure on utensils and utility bills; electricity bills, security and cleaning services payments in MDAs etc. were either as a result of arrears of such bills/expenses or because funds were not later provided for them on the 2016 budget (meaning they were not implemented.)

3). He stated that there were no repetitions on the proposal, unless the repetitions being referred to were budget items on the 2016 one that re-reflected on the 2017 proposal, which was as a result of the fact that funds were not provided for such items on the former.

4). He reassured the audience of his liaison with the National Assembly to ensure that budget cycle would be from January – December of every year, which was clearly stated on the constitution, as against the culture of having a previous budget being implemented in another fiscal year.

5). He also explained that the details-deficit on some of the budget items were as a result of the perspective to keep the budget simple, for public consumption. That however that his agency would ensure further details on budget items when preparing subsequent budgets.

Representing Connected Development (CODE) at the event, I further engaged the DG and raised concerns over the NGN305/$ calculation on the budget proposal (while $1 is valued at NGN 520 at the contemporaneous market); if there are extensive plans for enhanced transparency and accountability in the 2017 budget implementation; our expectancy to lay hands on the 3rd and 4th quarters’ reports of 2016 budget implementation; his plans to ensure that revenue realization deficit would not frustrate the 2017 budget implementation drawing on the country’s experience with the 2016 one; and getting access to an extensive version of the budget that had further details on some of the line items. For the latter, I mentioned the ‘Talking Sanitation’, as well as ‘Afforestation’ and ‘Tree Planting’ budget items on the proposal, under the Ministry of Environment, which all lacked details such as where and how. Lack of such specific details has frustrated the works of CSOs that are into governmental capital expenditure tracking.

In addressing my concerns, the DG made commitments that were all in line with Nigeria’s commitments on the Open Government Partnership. He stated that the 3rd quarter 2016 budget implementation report would soon be in public domain while the 4th quarter’s would soon be out too. He further stated that there would be increased transparency, accountability and citizen engagement in the 2017 budget implementation. On this, he cited plans to have a digital platform for 24/7 citizen engagement on the budget. He also mentioned that there would be a breakdown on project basis subsequently when funds are released to MDAs. In addition, he promised a quarterly media briefing on the 2017 budget implementation. These were all good news and great outcomes for nonprofits that are into Open Governance advocacy. He mentioned categorically that the revenue realization plan on the proposal is quite realizable and that the FOREX regime crisis would not affect the budget implementation.

This media engagement is a step in the right direction as bringing all stakeholders involved and addressing public concerns on the budget proposal have boosted citizen participation in governance and also provided a platform for clarifications on several portions of the budget, as well as for stakeholders to make suggestions. It is hoped that the Director keeps to all the new commitments he made at the briefing and ensuring extensive open financial governance in the budget implementation. From our part, we are sending an FOI request for an extensive version of the budget, which he promised CODE would be provided with. And before I forget, he commented that he likes our name, ‘Follow The Money.’

 

Chambers Umezulike is a Program Officer 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.

What Next After Remediation of Shikira and the Minister Visitation?

What Next After Remediation of Shikira and the Minister Visitation?

On 22nd of January 2017 our team was informed of the expected visitation of the Minister of Environment to Shikira community to access the work done so far. To us, it was a surprised at first because it was on a Sunday, but also we think this is how the government should work which the Amina Mohammed Administration showed to us that the government could follow the money themselves too rather than doling millions out on a project without clear monitoring and evaluation criteria to assess the situation of the project.

Indeed between our last visit in August 2016 and 22nd of January, we have seen some changes in Shikira Community as the first phase of the remediation is finished and the second phase which was the last stage would be kickstarted in a matter of weeks.

The first phase includes the removing of contaminated top soils and spreading of clean soils to restore the soil to the way it was before the lead poisoning saga. The removed top soil was dumped in a temporary dumping site which will then be buried with clay soil coating in a low water level soil.

Observation on Phase One

  • The lead-contaminated soil is in the dumping site for now and it will soon be buried at a site which will be identified in few weeks time after a deep geological test by the approved personnel.
  • The compounds and soils that were once tested lead positive have been remediated with 400 – 405ppm lead level which the US EPA standard is 400.
  • The children are already undergoing treatment by the MSF (Doctors Without Borders Team) and they have started playing around again; though the treatment is still ongoing.
  • The only medical facility in the community has been renovated and it now has toilets, water, and medical personnel though none was found on the job when we visited.
  • The MSF team and the State Ministry of Environment have started a safer mining training for the artisanal miners in the community.
  • The community engagement is ongoing so as to avoid reoccurrence of such event and how to take precautionary steps towards lead poisoning.

What the challenge of the community is 

They need water as they are presently fetching water in more than 20 miles away from their community and the water is not safer as it might likely be contaminated with lead too. Simba Tirima of the MSF said we cannot say we are remediating this community without providing them water as that was part of what cause the contamination in the first instance. If we are to be done finally with this remediation, we must provide water for them so they won’t have to go back to the water that was contaminated.

Lead Contaminated soil Waiting to be Buried

What is left to be done

  • The community with the state Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Solid Minerals & Mining is to provide a plot (50×100) of land with low water level for the team to bury the contaminated soils.
  • The site would be fenced with a restricted area inscription so that the people in the community won’t dug it up later after the contaminated soils have been buried.
  • The community would be provided with water source/s
  • There will be a geological test to identify a low water levelled soil to bury the contaminated excavated soils.

Our reaction

We are calling on the Minister of Environment, Amina Mohammed to consider handling the project to the hand of trusted officials as she will soon be leaving office so that the monies earmarked for the second phase which is as important as the first phase won’t go missing as there have been some cases of likely misappropriation of the fund by some cabals within the Ministry.

Also, the Follow The Money team is thanking the minister for her due diligence, professionalism and vigilance on the #SaveShikira Campaign, her actions gives us more hope that the government can be transparent and responsible when called on by the people. And we also congratulate her on her new position in the UN.

COUNTING THE COST: COAL IN NIGERIA’S ENERGY MIX

COUNTING THE COST: COAL IN NIGERIA’S ENERGY MIX

Global Rights organized a town hall meeting, which brought together stakeholders in Nigeria’s energy sector, including government, coal mining companies & their host communities, the media and civil society. The meeting was for a debate on coal in Nigeria’s energy mix considering the challenges the country suffers from energy deficit that is negatively affecting its socio-economic development and practically every other part of its national life. Because energy sources in Nigeria can no longer meet demand, the Federal Government, therefore proposed alongside with other sources to meet 30% of Nigeria’s energy local need demand from coal energy without considering the implication of utilizing coal as a source of energy in Nigeria.

Key Highlights from the Meeting:

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Looking at an overview of global trend on coal energy, coal was accountable for emitting 14.2 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide (C02). That is 44% of all energy associated carbon dioxide emissions and more than one-quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions. In other words, no other energy source other than coal contributes as much greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, digging up coal to generate electricity stirs out emissions that escalate greenhouse effect and because coal is pure carbon, it is one of the enormous sources of climate change. However, coal is burned to manufacture heat and electricity that emits a lot of CO2 along with some quantities of methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N20). (Friends of the Earth International, COAl ATLAS 2015).

Usually, producing electricity from coal is harmful to the climate, most gas powered plants releases only half as much as carbon dioxide as modern coal-fired power stations. This is why most coal mining companies in advanced countries are shutting down because of the enormous effect it has on the environment and health of the people which in turn will adversely affect sustainable development.

(Okobo Community Traditional Rulers explaining the ordeal they are facing)

Nigeria really need to consider the concept of trade-off, looking at the cost of ownership which covers short term benefit and long term cost. As a coal mining company in Okobo community in Kogi State is already affecting the people and their sources of livelihood.

Nigeria’s proposed utilization of 30% of coal is definitely going to jeopardize our commitment to the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) to The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Paris Agreement. Focusing on coal as energy source will only give us short term benefit and long term cost, as a country we should look at other sources of energy which will benefit us more in the long run.

In addition, the Federal government of Nigeria could consider cleaner alternatives to coal such as windmill energy: which is dependent on available wind, has no impact on landscape and no emission of carbon dioxide, Biomass energy: from wood, crops, landfill gas, alcohol fuels and garbage. By using biomass in power production instead of fossil fuel, C02 emissions are significantly reduced. Hydro power plants have a long economic life with no fuel cost and lastly solar energy which is the fastest growing renewable energy source. All these are cleaner and achievable sources of energy which we could take as a country to meet our energy demand.

SAY NO TO COAL…

MARRAKECH COP 22: National Civil Society Consultative Forum at Heinrich Boll Hall, Abuja

MARRAKECH COP 22: National Civil Society Consultative Forum at Heinrich Boll Hall, Abuja

Climate change is a global issue that does not respect national border. Looking at the science behind climate change, we are not referring to weather; weather and climate change are not the same thing. Weather can change from season to season, even hour to hour and sometimes when you least expect it. In other words, weather reflects short-term conditions in the atmosphere while climate change on the other hand, refers to the average temperature and precipitation rates over a long period of time.

It was a wonderful time as several civil societies met at the Heinrich Boll Hall, Abuja to look at the way forward, since climate change has become an essential part of reality. Global warming is already having severe impact on our socio-economic development, human health, food, wildlife and ecosystems more than we can imagine. Furthermore, The Paris Agreement that was adopted last year during COP21 to UN Framework Convention on Climate Change comprises a landslide agreement in global efforts to mitigate climate change and also prepare countries through adaptive actions to reduce global warming below 20c.

WHAT NIGERIA IS DOING TO ADDRESS THE IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE

The acting Director, Department of Climate Change of Federal Ministry of Environment, Dr. Peter Tarfa, gave a brief overview of what the Nigerian Government is doing to reduce the impact of climate change. He stated that government priority is on the issue of how to adapt to climate change impact, reduce deforestation and also create policy and strategies to help in reducing effect of climate change. National adaptation plan has been mapped out and the issues of capacity building, finance have been captured in the plan. However, Nigeria will observe annual knowledge fare on climate change by bringing expertise together with a theme that affect Nigeria; whereby everyone will bring out what they are doing in respect of climate change thereafter all will be put together to see how it can be used to address the issue.

In addition, government will also address the issues of assessing the global climate finance fund from international partners. In this regards, the Ministry of Environment climate finance desk have been given two years mandate to triple assess to global climate funds. However, Nigeria’s national climate policy requires policy intervention, it is due for review because it does not have current capacity to carry out the emerged climate change issues.

WHAT TO DO WITH PARIS AGREEMENT

After the ratification of the Paris Agreement it became a commitment. The five major areas that are Nigeria’s priority are power, oil & gas, transportation, agriculture, and industry. Nigeria’s priority in COP22 are assessing the global climate finance, let the framework be available, to get international funding to loss and damages e.g. flooding and elements for Paris Agreement to be dished out. As we all know, the Minister of Environment mandate is to empower people, tackle climate change and protect the environment.

 

Group faults government poor management of lead contamination in Shikira

Group faults government poor management of lead contamination in Shikira

By Etta Michael Bisong

Connected Development (CODE), a non-governmental and not for profit organisation monitoring the lead poisoning outbreak in Shikira, has condemned the federal government over the poor handling of the disaster that claimed 30 lives and leaving over 300 hundred others with high level lead contaminants in their blood.
The group is particularly angry that this year’s raining season has began; yet the government is still uncertain over the specific date when remediation will commence to save children below the ages of five in the small rural mining community.
Hamzat Lawal, Chief Executive Officer of the organisation in an interview with journalists in Abuja, urged the government to stop being conservative and be more transparent on management of the exercise so as to tackle it appropriately.
“The truth is that time is running out,” Lawal said. “Federal Government should come up with a clear work plan including date, data and timeline for the clean-up of Shikira.”
He decried that the situation is even more worrisome as Médecins sans Frontières (MSF)/Doctors Without Borders, an international network of humanitarian services provider has threatened to leave the community. MSF after realising the outbreak in April 2015 volunteered to render free medical services to the victims, but on the condition that the environment is first remediation to avoid duplication of treatment.
The CODE’s helmsman also frowned at the selective attitude of the government towards participating in activities and engaging with civil society groups working in the affected community.
“I am not happy that relevant agencies of government, especially the federal ministry of Environment, Solid Minerals and Health are not present at this important meeting after sending invitations ahead of time,” he said. “It shows us to what extent that the government value the lives of our vulnerable children who are in urgent need of medical attention.”
However, Lawal commended the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for passing a resolution mandating the Executive arm of government to embark on a total clean up of the impact site without further contemplation.
He urged the Senate to also look into and review the 2007 Mining Act to reflect current realities so as to properly integrate activities of artisanal miners to address the problems bedeviling the sector in the country.
IMG_20160617_151057
Simba Tirima, representative of TerraGraphics, the organisation that conducted analysis of the environmental characterisation and  impact of the devastation, said over 500,000 mg/kg Pb of lead contaminants were found in some parts of the village.
This outrageous figure, he hinted contradict the the United States Environmental Protection Agency threshold of  400 mg/kg Pb for residential soil.
Tirima advised the federal government to partner with victims and members of the affected community as well as other rights groups to ensure proper coordination in tackling the epidemic.
The minister of Environment, Amina Mohammed, visited Shikira recently and declared it a national disaster.
Mohammed after her assessment tour concluded that there was urgent need to clean up the environment to protect other children from further exposure of the contamination and restore back livelihood in the community.

While government, environmental rights as well as humanitarian groups continue to brainstorm on various methods of solving the menace, it is important to note that over 300 children are still living with high level lead poison in their blood with many others vulnerable to further contamination.

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