So have you heard about the Colorado Springs? Our team members – Emmanuel Njoku and Babatunde Adegoke are there to observe the United States Presidential Elections in Colorado, on the auspices of Ford Foundation, Independent Republican Institute and the Institute of International Education. On November 7, 2016, They met the Chairman and CEO of El Pomar Foundation – William J. Hybl and his team of very cool people hosted them to a luncheon alongside Secretary of State of Colorado – Wayne Williams, and some wonderful young observers from South Africa, Botswana and Namibia at the prestigious Penrose House in Colorado Springs, where they discussed Leadership, Democracy, Governance and the November 8, 2016, presidential elections and processes that have been put in place to ensure that the polls is credible and trusted by all.
From right, Colorado Secretary of State, Emmanuel Njoku, Tunde Adegoke and a state representative during a meeting on November 4 at the Broadway
Interestingly, they were informed that the State of Colorado has about 3.5million registered voters, and about 2.6million of these people are expected to vote, of which 2 million of these votes have already been cast, which simply means that just about 600,000 persons will be voting during the elections today across the 64 Counties(LGA) of Colorado. So that you know, you can cast your vote 21 days before the real election day!
This early voting practised in the state of Colorado will completely eliminate all the pressure that usually will be witnessed on a typical election day. This brings me back to Nigeria, where elections are held in one day, and the economy of the whole country is put to a halt, due to the elections. Perhaps, the Independent National Electoral commission (INEC) should take a cue, and leverage technology to make voting possible even before the election day.
Group picture of African Observers meeting with the Secretary of State of Colorado at the El Pomar Foundation
That sounds like a pinch of salt, right? if INEC is to achieve this feat, it must yield to a whole change management system which should be initiated by the leadership of INEC. Again, I will not subscribe to lack of funds as an excuse, INEC only needs few dedicated experts that can always look up to the leadership for unflinching support in providing a methodology and system that allows for early voting. Unfortunately, I just remembered, INEC is still struggling with the registration of voters like myself, while you can register on the day of elections in the state of Colorado – See you in 2019!
“Amongst the 70 member countries of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), African countries has the most ambitious commitments, and also has the least number of implementations of their commitment as seen in the independent reporting mechanism but Nigeria can reverse that order as the country has made huge commitment at the London Corruption Summit and hopes to make it tandem with its anti-corruption campaign in the country” says Sanjay Pradhan during the first day of the OGP retreat in Nigeria on October 24, 2016 at the Hotel Seventeen in Kaduna .
The OGP CEO, Sanjay Pradhan making a presentation on OGP during the retreat in Nigeria
Looking at the panel to discuss commitments around the Nigeria OGP National Action Plan, I was deluded by the fact that the government representatives except for two, were not appropriate enough to discuss pertinent issues around beneficial ownership, open budget, open contracting, transparency in extractives, access to information, and open data. I quite understand that the people in authority, in this ministries are hard to get for such conversation, but if it were really a “government – driven initiative” we should be seeing them coming to talk about these issues in the public.
I would have expected to see Zainab Ahmed, the Minister of State, Budget and National Planning making commitments of publishing online, location – based infrastructure data with their baseline indicators (current state) to the public by December 2017, so this can aid better planning; also the out-spoken Funmi Adeosun, the Minister for Finance committing that “detailed” government spending will be made available to the public by default as from November 2017, and also that the Bureau of Public Procurement will upgrade their website to include procurement plans, tender notices, bid evaluation,contract award documents, and termination information, while connecting it to a citizen feedback platform that can help make sure projects are really been implemented by contractors.
Nevertheless, there were some takeaways from the panel Joe Abbah, of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms had stated that by 2019, all FOIA request will be responded to in 2 minutes! In – fact, they have started something that looks like that in the Bureau, if you want to request for an information from the government, [APPLY HERE] I am sure you are all looking forward to this, it might not be rocket science! Also, the representative from the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) mentioned that for beneficial ownership to work, the Corporate Affairs Commission and the Companies and Allied Matter Act must be amended immediately to disclose beneficial ownership of companies, and not just the publishing of company names that are registered with the CAC which anyways, is a step in the right direction.
Looking across the Panel of government + CSOs
But why does it take the government a longer time than the 7 days proposed in the law to get a response to an FOIA request, the representative from the Ministry of Budget and National Planning stated that the oath of secrecy signed by civil servants prevents most of them to disclose information requested for through the FOIA. That’s so unimaginable! However, Joe Abbah, stated clearly, that we need to amend the public service rules because civil servants abide by rules and not laws!
My worry is not that leadership in the executive arm of government would not come out and make commitments, my worry is that implementing such commitment on the basis of a system that would not allow it to work efficiently is the reality, and such is the case for most African countries. As much as this becomes a drawback for me in this “government – CSO “driven movement, I am certain that few positives might be recorded, as we have started seeing from the Ministry of Justice, the agent of the state where the OGP is domiciled in Nigeria.
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.
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!
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 – firstname.lastname@example.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!
“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 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.
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!
Quest for good governance at the three tiers of government in Nigeria is compelling young people to be proactive in their agitations for equity and fairness in the polity, which are some of the major ingredients for sustainable democratic system anywhere in the world. #NotTooYoungToRun, a recently launched campaign, an initiative of Youth Initiative for Advocacy Growth & Advancement (YIAGA) is currently taking the lead in correcting the several archaic notions and popular misconceptions that young persons in Nigeria are unfit to hold political leadership positions, and as such they are not to be given important in space in the corridor of power.
Speaking at Public Debate held in Abuja yesterday, Samson Itodo, Coordinator YIAGA and the initiator of #NotTooYoungToRun said the campaign is aimed at ensuring that young persons in Nigeria (above 18 and below age 35) be given opportunities to run for elective positions in government through #NotTooYoungToRun Bill. Itodo added that the Public Debate is targeted at stimulating public discourse on the rational and general principles of the Bill. “The debate will enlighten citizens on the role of the legislature, constitution review process and strategies for engaging state and federal legislators” he explained.
Honourable Tony Nwulu, Representing Oshodi-Isolo Federal Constituency 2 of Lagos State, who has also been the major sponsor of the #NotTooYoungToRun Bill which according to him has just passed the second reading in the hollow chamber of 8th National Assembly said “Young people in Nigeria have great potentials to be great leaders just like their counterparts in developed nations but it is quite disheartening that plethora of challenges are militating against them, the biggest challenge being lack of legal framework and constitutional backing for them to run for elective offices before age 35.
“It contravenes the fundamental human rights that any young person above 18 who has the right to vote, right to get married and be responsible for his or her family to be asked to wait for another twelve or fifteen years before he could be allowed to run for elective positions” he posited
Nwulu added that there is urgent need for constitutional review to ensure that these young intelligent Nigerians are given their space to run for political offices come 2019 and if possible before then. He further added that through this campaign young Nigerians are giving the older generation leaders a lifeline.
Jude Iloh, Country Representative, Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) who also gave an insightful speech at the event said older generation of leaders in Nigeria have completely made a mess of the government. “Old politicians in Nigeria only get energised when it comes to the issues of partisan politics, doing everything within their powers to overshadow the efforts of younger political aspirants contesting for political offices, thereby preventing them from making meaningful contributions at the decision making levels and government policies.” Ilo further encouraged the Nigerian youths not to relent in their pursuits in getting #NotTooYoungToRun Bill passed into law.