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.

WATER ACCESSIBILITY AND ITS QUALITY IN NIGERIA

Sitting at the second technical committee meeting on the review of Nigerian standard for drinking water quality(NSDQW) NIS 554: 2007 organized by Federal Ministry  of Water Resources in collaboration with the Standard Organization of Nigeria [SON] , the World Health Organization, UNICEF and other stakeholders in the water sector, I remembered Tunga Guru, a community in Zamfara state which had only a pond to take water from.”This is our only source of water, and we have not seen anyone interested in giving us a hand pump like the other communities” exclaimed Ahmad Almakura, a Tunga Guru Community member.

As Tunga Guru isn’t the only community deprived of safe water, the memories of our community outreach to Gutsura dawned on me. “As we have given up on expecting the government to errect building on the new site they said we should relocate to, we have decided to move ourselves, but I have dug three wells at the new site, but couldn’t find water” lamented Muhammed Tukur.

So far, Nigeria is way off-track in meeting its Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets of 75% coverage for safe drinking water and 63% coverage for basic sanitation by 2015. This is even more worrisome if one considers that access to safe, clean water is a cross cutting issue which affects all other sectors such as health and education with wider impacts on the economy.

In Nigeria, approximately 66 million Nigerians still do not have access to safe water (i.e. 44% of the population). Only 47% in rural areas do have access while 75% in urban centers do have access. Performance on sanitation is even worse. The sanitation coverage stands at 31% representing a reversal from 37% coverage in 1990.

As poor coordination of the activities of the various agencies working in the WASH sector also has proved to be a big setback in the delivery of effective services in the sector. This is because inadequate clarity on the roles and responsibilities of the different actors in the sector makes it difficult to maintain coherence and avoid duplication of efforts and resources, which is crucial for effective and efficient use of the limited resources available and for increased productivity. the committee meeting, was mostly dedicated to getting MDAs to know their exact roles in terms of WASH activities in the country, and modeling. It was agreed that to avoid contamination a minimum of 10m and maximum of 30m should be the distance between water sources and septic tanks. All parameters and maximum permitted limits for drinking water quality remain the same.

The most interesting part of the document was on data management which is on 6.4 on the living document. It stated that Water quality result shall be accessible to the general public; in essence water quality should be made open. But how open and available is water points and their quality in Nigeria? Having knowledge of water points and its quality will allow policy makers to donor agencies to make better decisions especially on where or what community needs water.

With the Federal Ministry of Water Resources data bank  still pending and “closed” it will be pertinent for stakeholders to keep advocating for its implementation. “I believe we have all seen and made adequate comments on the document so that this meeting will serve as a means to harmonize these comments in order to finalize the process and come up with a standard document that is enforceable with all stakeholders owing it and performing their responsibilities effectively” said Mr S. O. Ome, the Director Water quality control and sanitation.

THE OPEN DATA DAY IN ABUJA: LIBERATING SERVICE DELIVERY IN THE EDUCATION SECTOR IN NIGERIA

 As building capacity of government officials, CSOs and journalist remains important in the data liberation evangelism, the Follow The Money team focused more on their data expedition class on Open Data Day held at CODE with 28 participants. They include government officials from Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative [NEITI], National Space Research and Development Agency [NASRDA], and the FCT Mass Education Board, participants from the private sector, the media and CSOs. With Oludotun Babayemi, a data enthusiast taking the participant through basics of data design, data cleaning and publishing data, participants were thrilled having insights on how to use data to tell stories “I have been bundle with so much information today, and I appreciate this session, I now know where to get data from and how to use spreadsheet for collaboration” explained an excited Chinyere Opia from HOT FM

Demonstrating the practical session at the Education Hackathon was quite strategic to use in complimenting the practical sessions that went into training participants on sorting, filtering and cleaning data. The Hackathon allowed participants to filter and sort Nigeria data on Education within datasets downloaded from the World Bank project sites, and also update mapping of funds from the budget office on capital expenditures meant for federal education institutions in Nigeria. [LOOK] how one of the participant described #ODDAbuja

In Nigeria, billions of Naira has been spent [through government spending and international aid] on infrastructures on education that, often wouldn’t reach the community [Please read achieving the MDG goals in Nigeria] that it was meant for. “Infact we have many challenges, One I will like to say is government providing books and infrastructures that will make the children to learn, and also levies on children which at times they might not be able to afford” says Blessing Hassana [Watch the video], Principal of a secondary school in Nasarawa state [that’s a state just 20km away from the capital city, Abuja], what will happen in other states? Perhaps, this says much about why there are still about 10 million out of school children in Nigeria.

With the Education Budget Tracker still being curated for government spending and international aid, the strategy is to focus on how many education projects are operational in these communities. This Education Budget Tracker which allows for education point mapping has huge potential as an effective monitoring and management tool for planning and decision making. It can really help government and funding agencies to know where to focus more on. Some places might need infrastructure, while some its maintenance and others might be training.

In this way, the Ministry of Education and other donor agencies will be able to monitor the impact of its large investments in the education sector. It will also allow transparent tariff settings that reward good performance and highlight inefficiencies. Moreover, it is interesting to know that this tool allows trusted local people to provide information about the education service delivery in their communities using their mobile phones. “Going forward for us, the Follow the Money team is seeking partnership with interested entities to pilot the usage of this tool in one of the states with poor education performance index in northern Nigeria” says Hamzat Lawal while demonstrating how we intend to use the tool to participants.

The Open Data Day evening session started with a brief introduction of the Digital Humanitarian Network and how its members have been using technologies before, during and after emergencies. How CODE intends to engage organizations and communities interested in emergency response across the West African region using technology was highlighted and some government participants were quite interested and keen in how CODE will integrate crisis mapping into their situation awareness room. “It is quite interesting to know that CODE is leading innovative ideas in the region to help in early warning and emergency response, it will be great to showcase this to the National Emergency Management Agency [NEMA]” advised Godstime James of the National Agency for Space Research and Development.