The Early Days of Open Government Partnership in Nigeria: Issues of Coordination and Trust

The Early Days of Open Government Partnership in Nigeria: Issues of Coordination and Trust

So finally, after 3 years of intent, Nigeria got admitted into the Open Government Partnership (OGP) in July 2016 , a multilateral initiative that aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance while creating a platform for civil society organizations to collaborate with government institutions on ensuring transparency, accountability, citizen participation, and technology and innovation.

In view of this, I had to visit the city of Kaduna, to attend the CSO Day on Sunday, October 23 and the retreat with government institutions on Monday, October 24. The CSO day brought together civil society organisations from every part of the country to discuss the CSO draft national action plan and the future of CSO engagement with the OGP. One resounding issue during the day was coordination – not only amongst government agencies but also amongst the CSO, and a consensus was reached, that the Open Alliance continue to lead and coordinate CSO engagement for the actualization of the OGP in Nigeria.

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A cross section of participants at the OGP CSO Day

It is expected that as part of the coordination, CSOs that focus on the values of OGP at the sub-national level can become responsible in that area once they have been admitted as a member of the Open Alliance, who presently has about 40 members intending to join it, and 10 members already. As OGP success hinges on partnership, trust and coordination, it will be important to “think strategically with coordination, find champions in the government and to be able to overcome the issue of partnership, you must trust the government and the government must trust the CSOs” as taken from the words of Maureen Kariuki, the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Regional Civil Society Coordinator for Africa and the Middle East.

One other take away from the CSO Day was the conversation around how to encourage citizen participation and government feedback, using the platform OGP has created. With many citizens platform in the country without government feedback, I think it will be relevant and mostly appreciated if the National Action Plan been drafted presently can include a coordinated citizen engagement platform, in which government agencies can commit to being part of, to offer timely responses and feedback to citizens, maybe, the Nairaland of citizen participation. Sanjay Pradhan, the CEO of OGP, mentioned an example of such platform to be Prozorro, in Ukraine, actually, I met the developers of this public e-procurement system in Madrid during the IODC.

With the present draft National Action Plan having 8 commitments by the government, spearheaded by the Ministry of Justice, we can only hope that CSOs focus on their strength, and become watchdogs of the implementation of such commitments, I mean, they have been doing same in their everyday activities – maybe this time with proper coordination and direction – no thanks to the OGP!

 

Post #IODC16: Will The Real Open Data Movement Please Stand Up!

Post #IODC16: Will The Real Open Data Movement Please Stand Up!

Isn’t it nice to be back in Europe after 2 months – this time in the city of Madrid, not to see the Santiago Bernebeu, or a bull fight, but for the 4th International Open Data Conference (IODC) between October 6 – 7, 2016, the second I will be attending after the IODC in Ottawa, Canada in 2015. These IODC’s always bring back memories of the Open Knowledge Festival where you can be overwhelmed with information due to concurrent sessions taking place at the same time. The IODC in Madrid alone had 87 talks, 28-preevents, 1.660 attendees and lots of hours of shared experiences, with new networks in the kitty, and I was opportune to speak at the Indigenous Open Data Summit, a pre-event of the IODC, and also a speaker and Impact Panelist on Data + Accountability session of the IODC on the first day.

Surprisingly, the word “open washing” came out of this conference like it never had before, and I am still pondering over this like, isn’t this the same that has happened to any multi – stakeholder movement. The truth is that it has become difficult for development to persist without politics of governments. The government in this sense can now be categorised into the government of developed countries, and those of developing countries. My thoughts here are for the government of developing countries, who have not realised the potentials inherent in Open Data. They do not have to do Open Data because it is been sponsored by another government organisation, they can look inwards (if they have the right kind of eyes) and find benefits.

For instance, infrastructure dataset could be made accessible to citizens, while entrepreneurs can build tools based on the available data public use. An example could have been Doctors Office a mobile application that provides patient with a doctor to talk to, and also a healthcare locator. Although at its early stage, I asked the creator of the platform what their plans were to make this available on feature phones, so rural communities could have access as this can reduce lots of waiting time, and unacceptable death due to emergencies. Also Imagine what cmapIT can do if location dataset is made available by the government of Nigeria – Government should collaborate with this entrepreneurs, and open up these datasets while they get revenue accrued from tax – that’s what government should be doing!

Oludotun Babayemi on the Impact Panel on Data and Accountability at the IODC in Madrid

Sitting on the panel on Data + Accountability with Global Witness, IDRC, Civio, Open Knowledge Germany,

Having said that, there is a renewed interest in open data by national statistics offices of countries. Talking to Mohamed Salimi, the Chief of the division of the statistics office in Rabat, Morroco made me had a sense of the direction of most statistics office and their interest in open data. Perhaps, to create more data for entrepreneurs in their countries, and largely an opportunity for them acquire knowledge on data processes. Systems that allow for capacity building is key to the open data movement, the people on the supply side must revamp the systems that operate within their organisation to allow for effective use of training within their institutions – I mean, how do you expect the culture of open data in an institution that still cannot run an organization email. As much as it is important to train government officials, it is also pertinent that we strengthen citizens knowledge on the use of data – which the school of data has started already, but a lot still needs to be done!

During the two sessions that I presented our Follow The Money work, I was asked on our relationship with the government, and how we hope to make the initiative locally owned other than some set of people determining campaigns in communities. Simply put, when we started, we were like an enemy of the government, but recently, government agencies had turned partners, but at arm’s length, with no MOU 😉 When we have contractors for government projects sending weekly situation reports to us on project implementation, then we are partners. In answer to the second question, we have community reporters leading campaigns in 29 states out of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria but cannot initiate campaigns because we have not done proper orientation for them, but the idea is for them to own it. Going forward, you should look out for the next episode of Follow The Money driven by community champions themselves – how we did this, will be presented at the next IODC in Buenous Aires, Argentina. See you there!

 

This Week – We Invite you to Join us at the #Opendata Olympics in Madrid!

This Week – We Invite you to Join us at the #Opendata Olympics in Madrid!

On the week of October 3 – 7, 2016, thousands of data and governance enthusiasts, from over 40 countries will be heading to Madrid, to discuss strategies and tools to accelerate the government – citizen engagement; and the future of open data as a tool for empowering local communities. Many call it the Olympics of open data!

It’s quite exciting to see how these movement has grown – from the open government data camp in the UK in 2010 ; the open government data camp in 2011; the Open Knowledge Festival in Helsinki in 2012; the Open Knowledge Conference in Geneva in 2013; the OKFestival in Berlin 2014; In 2015, it then became the International Open Data Conference that was held in Ottawa You might want to ask, how conversations in these conferences have impacted local communities like ours, I tell you – Connected Development [CODE] and its activities is a product of some of the conversations, and we look forward to some provoking thoughts out of the 2016 edition in Madrid.

In Madrid, we will be learning new tools, and sharing lessons learnt with colleagues from other 22 countries around the world at the Omidyar Network Governance and Citizen Engagement Forum from October 3-4 at the Impact Hub; the Journocoders event with School of Data and Open Knowledge Spain on October 4 talking data journalism at Medialab – Prado; and on October 5, we will be speaking at the Indigenous Open Data Summit and also attend the Follow The Money IODC Pre – event at RED.ES  on October 6 – 7 we will be joining the conversation on Open Data, while we will be joining the panel on data + accountability on October 6

If you will want to meet with us at these events, feel free to email – info@connecteddevelopment.org, and also we will be live tweeting and blogging some of the great events lined up for us, so subscribe to our blog here and on Twitter @connected_dev Hala Madrid!

 

 

Procurement Standards: Challenges Within the Nigeria Education Sector

Procurement Standards: Challenges Within the Nigeria Education Sector

“For most of the Millenium Development Goals project for education in Nigeria, that we monitored, we found out that a larger percentage of them have turned abandoned project, and the major reason was that there were problems at the procurement stage” said Mrs Hajia Liman, the deputy director at the Federal Ministry of Education, overseeing Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4) projects in education.

Owing to the lessons learnt from the Millenium Development Goal project, they decided to organise a 3 – day workshop between September 21 -23 at the Chida Hotel in Abuja in which CODE’s Follow The Money team was invited to facilitate sessions on open contracting standards and tracking the SDG project on quality education (SDG4). Actually, I was amazed by the number of challenges the head of federal government secondary schools highlighted, especially during the procurement processes.

The Open Contracting Standard Process

The open contracting standard processes as seen at http://standard.open-contracting.org/latest/en/getting_started/contracting_process/

Immediately Dr Hussain Adamu, of the procurement department finished his presentation, questions could not allow us to introduce our session, and I wonder, when last these head of unity schools, from the 36 states and FCT had time to discuss the procurement act, and standards they should follow. As stated in the Nigeria Public Procurement Act 2007, any institution embarking on projects must publish a call for bid in the Federal Tenders journal and in one other daily newspaper. Participants responded to this as – “We do not have budget and funds to advertise, so how do you want us to place adverts, even in the federal tenders journal, and at that, you even need to travel from my community down to Abuja to place the advert”. Oh my, God, I hope you aren’t dumfounded too! in this age of emails.

One challenge that was reiterated amongst the head of schools was how the inflation rate in the country is already affecting the budget that was appropriated. “For instance, If 10 million was appropriated for the construction of a library, and we send tender notices, and during bidding evaluation of all submitted bid, the average price quoted for the best and qualified contractors was at 15 million Naira, what do we do, even when only 7 million out of the money was released to us by the Ministry” asked one of the head of schools. It was a consensus at the workshop that this was the reality on ground with the 2016 budget already, and the response was that they should go ahead and agree in the contract document to pay the amount the school have at hand which is 7 million Naira, and later adding the balance of  8 million Naira to their proposed budget for 2017 as an ongoing project. So just in case, you will be analysing and tracking the 2017 budget, there are already issues to deal with.

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Oludotun Babayemi using participatory approach to disseminating methodologies that can be used in tracking SDG4 expenditures

Tracking of government spending isn’t sexy at all! I remembered in 2014 when we were tracking funds meant to provide an industrial water borehole at Federal Government Girls College, Gusau, we only went to the school to ask the principal question and armed with our already made paper visualisation on funds that was meant to provide the water borehole for girls in the school. He was amazed by the knowledge we already had about the project. However, before he could grant us an audience, he asked severally if we had authority from the Federal Ministry of Education.” But we do not have to, we are citizens, and even with a secondary level of identification, anyone can ask for what and how is his/her tax is been spent” I affirmed to him. In the same vein, the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) desk of the Federal Ministry of Education hopes to partner with our Follow The Money project in ensuring what happened to the MDGs wouldn’t occur again. At times, announcing such partnership is a delight, but one question still remains if the government can work at the pace we work – Something to look out for!

 

 

Where Data Wranglers Meet: The School of Data Summer Camp

Where Data Wranglers Meet: The School of Data Summer Camp

What makes Potsdam thick? The breathtaking castles; what about Ottawa? It’s War Museum and the Rideau Canal; and what about Ibiuna? Does it even sound familiar? So this year the School of Data annual summer camp moves to Ibiuna in Sao Paulo, Brazil. With a population of 76,432, the School of Data will be adding 36 amazing participants from 24 countries in 5 continents to this small municipality. For me, it was a pleasure to be attending the 3rd summer camp in a row. Yippie! and what about this summer camp, hosted by the amazing guys at Escola de dados – lets ride!

The opening sessions on day one was grand with Dirk Slater introducing participants to what to expect in the next 5 days, followed by a breakout interaction where participants get to share why they are interested in this data work or data movement. One fascinating A-ha moment for me in my group was meeting Mariano, a tall, middle aged lawyer from Greece. “I don’t believe in working without been paid, we should find how to create business models that can pay for the good works we do. And just to let you know money motivates me” – He further said. Meeting the likes of Natalia, a Lawyer, teacher and now turned data journalist; Kabu, a new fellow from Zambia who is interested in health data because she feels the relevant datasets are not available in Zambia; Jennifer from South Africa, with a background in commercial ,now in interested in tech for social change, and working with Code for South Africa inspires her many times to continue doing the kind of work with do.

Participants at the Opening Circle

                                Participants at the Opening Circle

The “spectrogram” a facilitation type which breaks participants into groups to figure out controversial statements relevant to the data movements’ and afterward participants will have to move to a side that agrees, disagrees or in between followed, and this got participants thinking with statement ranging from if public interest should override personal privacy; collecting data about ethnicity; open society is better than equal society; data journalism takes too long to be effective; and if we can make open data without computer. These are all great thoughts as we enhance data literacy, but what are your thoughts around these questions? Feel free to add your comments at the end of this post.

Of course the summer camp can’t be more energized without the 15 minutes breaks – so much a time for you to quickly ping your loved ones, have a CAMEL cigarette ;), roll down the cliff, feed on some biscuits, and also have some coffee. “Hey guys, it’s nice to see the sun rising” exclaimed Dirk. Yes, at this time of the year, the mornings were always cold, and no thanks to the heavy storm a night before day 1 which did not allow participants like me have early morning hot bath. However, I was thrilled when Marco said a call was put through to their power holding company at 3.30 am and they came to the neighborhood 1 hr 30 minutes later to fix the electric poles that were affected by the lighting during the rain. Fantastic, right! Especially if you come from my part of the world. Oh I might be wrong, so if you know of any government servicing company in Nigeria that responds to emergencies like this swiftly, please give some thumbs up to them in the comments box below, we’ll be glad you did!

Participants at the Governance track setting up indicators for data trainings

Participants at the Governance track setting up indicators for data trainings

But can you crowdsource the Agenda for an event? That was exactly what we did after the break on day 1, with sticky notes flying around the wall on what participants would love to learn or achieve before they leave the event. Why not? There must be a reason for you travelling far down to Sao Paulo, and you must let the organizers know. The Agenda were grouped into skillshare, communications, membership, Opportunities for Collaboration, and talking about the later the next session was dedicated to knowing what School of Data is in a “standing fair mode”, another instance of speed dating where you get to know how members got started with School of Data, what the role of Open Knowledge International, and the steering committee is, and what members do. It was memorable listening to Sanders narrative on how Open Knowledge started School of Data, and its exit strategy; very captivating listening to Natalia as she patiently defined the 5 members of the steering committee while engagements with Bardhyl (Bar – deal if you need some beers ;)) of Metarmophosis  in Macedonia, and Sylvia in OK France was simply amazing.

So afterwards, was the 2 hours break which was followed by the governance track and the fellowship track. So every summer camp has a list of fellows who are embedded in their countries with different organizations to work on projects with CSOs, and journalists to achieve specific goals. The fellowship track allows fellows (this time we have 10 of them) to meet their partners, work on their deliverable, and help them curate activities they will be carrying out for the entire six month.

The Fellows track where new fellows set up a road map for their activities

The Fellows track where new fellows set up a road map for their activities

Just like you may know, talking about governance could be a tasking and unending issue among non profits, especially when the movement is a network or coalition. I remembered in Potsdam, where the governance talk started, it went into the nights and the conversation was heated up. One good thing that has happened was that the network has moved on from where it was back in 2014 to fixing its governance right, especially with an effective framework, which was consolidated on, at this summer camp. Talks at the governance session included fundraising, membership, fellowship, member support, and of course relationship with Open Knowledge International. In all, one thing remains clear that the School of Data is a small and young organization which would want to grow in a less chaotic way.

It is noteworthy that the School of Data accepts members, however the requirements you will need to look at includes you or your organization being able to establish a relationship of trust with school of data coordinators; send a plan to the steering committee, and if approved, expect to sign an MOU with the school of data. With the present 12 members, perhaps the School of Data might move into another learning year, with conversations that will shape its future for the coming year.

The closing circle at the Summer Camp

The closing circle at the Summer Camp

One week, so many sticky notes, wobbly internet (no thanks to the heavy rain), great food (No thanks to the hardworking caterers),29 skill shares: The data literacy track which started on day 2 had different skills shared by participants for one hour;and maybe no need to swim in the Itupararanga lake, as the rains were always in to the rescue. As we look forward to the next summer camp, some good memories will linger, like the energetic turkish – Pina; Guatemalan Danny the Elvis; Dirk for his opening and closing circles, and all the sharpies and sticky notes that will forever live in our memories. DATASCHULE!!!

There is  a Wiki at http://wiki.okfn.org/Summer_Camp_2016 where you can get more information about the 2016 summer camp.

[Press Release] Time is Running Out For Sick Children with High Lead in Shikira

Press Release for Immediate Publication

 [Abuja, May 9, 2016] Over one year after lead disaster that killed little children, nothing has been done to save other living as Connected Development [CODE] warns that time is running out to solve the Niger crisis in Nigeria. “Shikira which harbours two villages (Ungwar Magiro and Ungwar Kawo) is reaching crisis point” said Hamzat Lawal, Chief Executive, CODE. “More than one year after the lead poisoning disaster was first discovered in Niger state, over 300 hundred children below 5 years are still awaiting critical medical treatment.

Our partner, Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) / Doctors Without Borders is ready and willing to treat these children, but cannot do so until their homes have been environmentally remediated. It’s time to get the lead out of Shikira,” he continues.

Remediation was due to begin at the end of October 2015, directly after the last rainy season. The window for remediation in Shikira is closing rapidly, if the process is not started before the end of May, it will be too late before the next rainy season. This could have disastrous consequences for the community, mostly vulnerable sick children – if the funds are not released now, doctors chances of treating lead-poisoning victims in Shikira is drastically reduced.

Lawal, has called on President Buhari led federal government to release the needed funds, estimated to be five hundred million naira ($2.6M) for remediation through the Ecological Funds Office under the Presidency so sick children can get chelation therapy treatments and to help curb the spread of lead poison contaminations to other neighbouring villages.

 Mr Lawal, who spoke at the Follow the Money Stakeholders Town Hall Meeting held on May 4 in Minna, Niger state, said he has called on the President and the National Assembly to declare Shikira community a state of emergency in the country.

 He further expressed his disappointment on some key agencies of the government who were not present at the meeting.

 “I’m not happy that relevant agencies of government, most especially federal ministry of environment, ministry of solid minerals and ministry of health are not present at this important meeting after sending invitations ahead of time.

 “It shows us to what extent government takes the Nigerian life serious, most especially our vulnerable children who needs urgent medical attention,” he said.

He concluded by saying, ‘As part of Follow The Money social media campaign using the hash tag #SaveShikira on Twitter, upon returning to Abuja, we tweeted at the Honourable Minister for Environment, Amina J. Mohammed, and she responded saying plans are underway to visit Shikira after the Ministerial briefing holding this week Wednesday’. But can children in Shikira wait any longer? Time that we don’t have would tell!

On Community Outreach To Shikira

Sefiya Ibrahim is a 27 years mother to Hafizu Ibrahim, a 9 month old baby who has been on admission in Kagara general hospital for 16 days receiving treatments from lead poison. According to MSF, Hafizu has over 200 mg/kg Pb lead level in his blood stream and this are the cases of other children in Shikira below 5 years. In tears, Safiya is pleading with the government to come to their aid so she would not lose her son after losing two children in 2015 due to the outbreak. ‘I’m begging our President to come and help us so we can see our children grow to become men and help us when we’re old’.

 Little Ibrahim did not stop crying the entire time we were in the hospital and he could not be pacified. We call the relevant government agencies to order and demand that remediation be done in these communities. We call on citizens to lend their voices to #SaveShikira and only immediate action by the Government can change the situation for the better. Doctors conformed that Hafizu has over 200 mg/kg Pb in his blood stream.

Before the Lead Poison Outbreak

Ever since the disease broke out in the Northern Region, it has left many dead. The disease is highly deadly and sometimes lead to fatal condition which causes severe mental and physical impairment. Young children below 5 years are most vulnerable to the lead poison, a highly toxic metal. This is caused by unregulated mining practices in communities across the country.

In May 2012, Occupational Knowledge International (Ok International) submitted a report to the Federal Ministry of Solid Minerals highlighting flash points of informal mining site is Nigeria that uses dangerous substances and mining techniques which are also prone to lead poison. In this report, Niger, Ebonyi, Nassarawa, Kaduna among other states where mentioned. The outbreak of lead in Niger state shows that nothing was done to curtail this buttressing government recklessness which has taken innocent lives, mostly children.

 CODE Stakeholders Town Hall Meeting

Speaking at the town’s hall meeting hosted by CODE in Minna, the Emirate Council representative, Galadima Katako of the Kagara community, said that the outburst has been on since last year, adding that he expected the government would have found a lasting solution.

He stressed that it is important for good coordinated approach spearheaded by government so we don’t have duplication of efforts and misinformation about the plight of our people. We are begging for quick actions on remediation so our sick children can access free medical treatments by doctors on the ground ready to administer them.

‘The issue has lingered on for a while now, and if the federal government does not provide a solution to it by July, then the situation will be critical.” he stressed.

 “I want the Federal Government to help put an end to this unregulated mining activities and provide alternatives to secure jobs for the villages, ranging from agriculture amongst others,” he said.

 However, the representative of the local miners, Shaibu Usman, stated that they agree that the mining they do is unregulated, adding that it’s the only source of their income in which they feed their families and also train their kids by sending them to school.

 “We know that the lead poison generated from our mining, but we want the government to create jobs for us so we can stop the mining we do, or teach us how to mine safely and provide equipments to help us do it better” Usman said.

 The Women Representative, Nuttu Shikira, also present complained about how life has become difficult for them due to the lead poison. ‘We have lost 30 children since the outbreak last year and we’re really worried so we don’t lose other children’. We call on the government of President Muhamadu Buhari to please help us. Not only our children are sick, even our husband has been ill for some time and can’t do any work again leaving me and my children to go hungry most times.   

 Mallama Shikira, further called on the Federal Government to provide urgent assistance to the people of her community.

 Also speaking, a representative and Doctor, Simba Tirima, of Medicine and Frontiers, MSF, said that there is a high need to eradicate the lead poison existing in the various communities so as to have a healthy environment.

 “there is need for coordinated efforts by the people living within the Shikira community to curtail the spread of the lead dust as a result of unsafe mining activities being carried out by the local artisanal miners” he said.

 He however noted that in November 2015, characterisation was done to ascertain the level of contamination in the community and found out that more than 2500 community members exposed with over 300 children with high lead level in their blood stream.

MSF has set up a base in Kagara since October 2015 and with support from TerraGraphics conducted a full environmental characterization in November 2015 with a remediation plan submitted to the government.

‘We saw in some cases >500,000 mg/kg Pb in some areas which is far much higher that US EPA threshold which is 400 mg/kg Pb for residential soils’, Tirima noted.

Tsema Okoye, Global Rights representative added that remediation and treatment are not the only ideal solutions to the poison, stating that the ideal solution to this is to encourage these artisanal miners to practice safer mining and have government regulate this activities in local communities across the country. ‘The rains are here and in all of this, safer mining practices is key in ensuring no more outbreak in Nigeria is recorded’.

Hope for Shikira

TerraGraphics, MSF and local stakeholders including Follow The Money Team are all ready to start work immediately upon the release of the funds. Both organisations have been collaborating with Government agencies and ministries to assure there is a system in place that is effective, accountable, transparent and that will guarantee the best outcomes for the communities of Shikira.

This kind of collaboration ensures community participation and ownership of both process and results while assuring accountability and compliance with internationally recognised standards and best practices.

Present at the meeting were the representative of the Niger State House of Assembly, Local NGOs in the state, Representative from Independence Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), Representative from security agencies, Shikira District Head, Head local Miners, Shikira Women Representative, Representative from the Emirate Council in Kagara, Project Coordinator in Kagara for MSF/Doctors Without Borders, the media and Global Rights.

                                                                                                                                  ******END*********

Editor’s Note:

Pictures from the Town’s Hall Meeting –  https://flic.kr/s/aHskzFbXxp

 Connected Development [CODE] is a non government organization whose mission is to improve access to information and empower local communities in Africa.

http://connecteddevelopment.org

 Follow The Money initiative has over 420 coalition members made up of NGOs, Journalists Campaigners, Activists and Academics using available data to ensure funds that are meant for local communities reach them. http://followthemoneyng.org

 For Clarifications or Interviews:

In Abuja, Nigeria: Amina Mohammed, Communications Officer | amina@connecteddevelopment.org | +234-803-300-9722.
In Abuja, Nigeria: Hamzat Lawal | hamzy@connecteddevelopment.org | +234-809-294-9669 / +234-806-869-9956 (WhatsApp & SMS Only).