How CODE Grew to Become a Voice for Local Communities

codepress April 20, 2016 0

This post was written by Tyo Faeren Jennifer, a Mass Communication Student of the Benue State University, during her Student Industrial Work Experience Scheme (SIWES) with CODE  

Connected Development [CODE] a non-governmental organization [NGO], headquartered in Abuja and formed in 2010, has empowered 9 local communities in Africa through its Transparency and Accountability initiative. And has mobilized 30 million Nigerians and 1 million citizens in 7 other West African countries to take action around Environmental Sustainability in Nigeria.

Through its Follow The Money project that advocates, visualize and track funds meant for local communities, it has helped in providing water to the 15, 000 inhabitants in Kadandani, Kano; Bachaka, Kebbi; and Jeke in Jigawa by tracking and advocating for the 10 billion Naira meant for the Great Green Wall project [GGW].

Follow The Money came to limelight by providing access to healthcare for 1,500 lead poisoned children, and providing hostel for 440 pupils, and providing an overhead tank for 200 pupils in government school in Zamfara State, communities.

At one of its traditional stakeholders meeting on making sure water is provided in three villages – Kadandani, Jeke and Bachaka, the representative from the Federal Ministry of Water Resources, Mr. S.M.Babarinde said, “Follow The Money is the most objective transparency and accountability initiative I have followed over 2 years now on radio, TV and their online platforms.”

The World Wide Fund [WWF] ‘s Earth Hour , now coordinated by Connected Development [CODE] and the Young Volunteers for Environment, since 2010 has united the people of Nigeria and other Seven countries in West Africa by mobilizing millions of individuals, organizations and government to take action for the environment.  

It’s OpenDataParty [ODP] makes and spread open data. The ODP is where participants from every part of the country come together to learn and share data skills. It’s ODP has taught 430 Nigerians with hands on workshops, which included-Data Analysis using Google Spreadsheet and Microsoft Excel; Data Scraping using Tabula and Import.io; Visualizing data using Maps with CartoDB and Open Street Maps; Visualizing data using Info.gram

“I have learnt where to get budget for environment especially ones related to my state, and how I can analyze it using Excel, I never knew this before coming” said Erdoo Anango of Kwasedoo Foundation International from Benue state.

It’s Sustainaware  project,  an initiative that aims to improve Youth Knowledge, Interest and Leadership on Environmental Health, Green Economy and Social-Environmental Entrepreneurship), initiated by CODE’s European partners in 2014 was  and supported by the European Union connects eight partner countries (Nigeria, U.S.A, India, Slovenia, Argentina, Hungary, Croatia, and Liechtenstein), and now added Zambia and Somalia, as implementing countries of Sustainaware in 2016

CODE seeks global partners committed to a sustainable future and to empowering marginalized communities to make a difference by creating the missing feedback loop between the government and the people by amplifying the voice of these lurked away. Of course, these feat would not have been achieved if not for support from Indigo Trust, Omidyar Network, Heinrich Boell Foundation, Open Knowledge Foundation, Code For Africa, European Union and the thousands of followers on Twitter and Facebook.

The #OpenDataParty : Enhancing Data Literacy in Nigeria

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“I felt excited like a child learning new stuffs I never knew before. It was hands on learning. Great experience. I’ll attend open data events over in the future.” – Oluwaseyi Akinrotimi, Scientific Officer, Ondo State Ministry of Health

“This was quite a revealing session as  I have had some table data which is in PDF format that I can now extract as Excel spreadsheets, I was used to typing the data out into Excel, this data scraping session is really helpful for me” – Mamman Umar

“I never knew all these characters could be used in depicting data in 10 minutes, that is what I just learnt, and that has made my day” exclaimed Desmond Chieshe of ISPHS Abuja

“This event was very interactive and educative in terms of knowledge acquisition on tools for data journalism. I have started using some of the tools taught.” – Jamiu Akangbe, African Resourceful Leaders Foundation, Team Leader

 

[View the 646 Photos and 15 Videos from this event here]

Connected Development [CODE]’s last event of every year is always a bar camp tagged “the Open Data Party (ODP) where participants from every part of the country come together to learn and share data skills. This year, the ODP was taken to the ancient Benin City, led by our School of Data Fellow and the team lead at Sabi Hub – Nkechi Okwuone, and Friday, December 11 and Saturday, December 12 in 2015 welcomed 117 social workers, civil servants, journalists, academics and other data enthusiast to the Law Lecture Theater Annexe of the Post Graduate School of the Benson Idahosa University in Edo State, with support from the Heinrich Boll FoundationIndigo Trust, Open Knowledge Foundation, and Code for Africa. As at the time of writing this 61.1% of the participants rated the different aspect of the event as excellent, while 33% responded that it was good; 38.9% rated our facilitators as good, 38.9% rated them as excellent.

Connected Development Open Data Party in Benin City

70% of registered participants for this year were male while 30% were female (a 70% increase from last year female participants). 48% were civil society representative; 29.4% were entrepreneurs; 20% were student; 12.5% were media professional (a 40% decrease to last year); 28% were designers and data wranglers (an 40% decrease); 16.3% were academics; 6.9% were government official (a 40% decrease); 82.5% of Participants say they want to learn more about Understanding Data Pipelines, Using Data Analysis, Data Reporting and Visualization. Only 45% of the participants were good at presenting data, 66% of the participants were not good at collecting data and 41.3% of the participants were good at Data Analysis.

“So far, outside the United States and a few other major Western democracies, we have really seen open data being something happening at the national level. When we try to solve problems for citizens, problems are local. People need data to know about what is happening to them locally and often that is managed by sub-national governments” – These were the words of Katelyn Rogers of the Open Knowledge Foundation while giving opening remarks at the event. One important session introduced at this years ODP was the ideation session which allows participants to proffer solutions to a pressing waste management challenge in Benin City, a session that was introduced through the Code for Africa partnership.

Connected Development Open Data Party in Benin City

Adam Talsman of Reboot training participants on how to use FormHub for surveys

The introduction to Data Pipelines that always opened sessions at the Open Data Party was immediately followed by three ignite talks to ignite participants on how organizations are using the data pipelines in working around data. The Open Data Companion (ODC) was presented by Osahon Okungbowa showing how they have compiled all open data portals around the world into one platform. Abdul Ganiyu Rufai from the Center for Information, Technology and Development (CITAD) explained how they aggregated hate speech for the just concluded general elections in Nigeria, while Blaise Aboh from Orodata shared how they are visualizing available government data, and creating simple information products that citizens can understand, in order to hold the government accountable.

Connected Development Open Data Party in Benin City

Blaise Aboh training participants on how to create infographics from data sets

As a follow up to the maiden Open Data Party in Abuja, and owing to feedback’s from last year event , this year’s event had nine hours of hands – on – training (skill share) embedded in the two days event. The hands – on workshops included Data Analysis using Google Spreadsheet and Microsoft Excel; Data Scraping using Tabula and import.io; Ground Truthing using Mobile apps such as FormHub and Textit; Visualizing data using maps with CartoDB and Open Street Maps; Visualizing data using infographics with specifics on infogr.am; and writing effective Freedom of information (FOI) letter. “The Data Analysis session is one of the most educative sessions I have attended amongst the sessions. “I have learnt where to get budget for environment especially ones related to my state, and how I can analyze it using Excel, I never knew this before coming” said Erdoo Anango of Kwasedoo Foundation International from Benue state.

Connected Development Open Data Party in Benin City

Oluwamayowa Oshindero training participants on Google Drive collaboration tools

Because the Open Data Party was meant for participants, and we really want them to participate, and make decisions on what they would like to teach, three hours was dedicated to an un – conference session on the second day which included a Follow The Money session where participants were exposed to how they can track funds meant for their local communities, and an opportunity for them as well to engage Follow The Money Nigeria as a state monitor. “We are aware of the Great Green Wall project, however it remains unclear how the funds budgeted for this have been spent, and we think we should be part of this team to track the funds in Yobe” explained Mohammed Garba Musa. Another intersesting session was the Funding your projects/Ideas and using Google Drive for Collaboration and Web Analytics.

Connected Development Open Data Party in Benin City

From left: Hamzat Lawal of CODE, Nanso Jideofor of Reboot, Temi Adeoye of Code For Nigeria, Katelyn rogers of open knowledge, and Destiny Frederick of EcoFuture during a Panel Discussions on Open Data, Waste Management and Internet Governance

The Open Data Party was concluded by ideation session which had 14 participants presenting their ideas on how they can help to reduce waste in Benin City. The ideation participants presented ideas ranging from advocacy strategies, development of applications to help create situation awareness,development of applications that waste managers can also use in tracking waste in municipalities.Abdul Ganiyu Rufai who presented an idea of creating a platform for the Waste Management Board in Kano that can help them track where new dump-site are located, and also create awareness by sending SMS to Kano citizens was paired with Emmanuel Odianosen who presented the prototype of an app called Clyn that can be used in sending messages to Waste Managers, letting them know of waste available to pick up. They both won the ideation sessions, and will be supported by Connected Development [CODE] and Sabi Hub to develop their idea to reduce waste and improve waste management in Kano and Edo state.

 

 

The Border Town, Casted Away in the Sahara Desert – Jeke!

codepress November 24, 2015 0

Have you wondered how communities in the Sahara get water? to use for personal purposes, and their livestock? To be candid, it can be a whole tussle, and frustration. But with recent innovations in Wind and Solar Energy, it should be a thing of the pass, but in Jeke, a border town with Niger Republic (On your cell-phone, an Airtel Subscriber will be switched to the One-Airtel roaming plan on receiving a welcome message from Airtel Niger), it is still the case, as the estimated 7,000 that inhabits Jeke wait every 3 days to have access to Water.

IMAG0972

Inhabitants of Jeke lining up their Jerrycan while in search of Water

 

Jeke located in Sule Tankarkar LGA of Jigawa has 14 shelter belts, and most are predominantly farmers involved in dry crops.”You can get those big water melons here for 20 Naira, and when you get back to Abuja, maybe you will buy it for 600 Naira” explained Husseini, the Motor Bicycle Rider that took us through the sandy path that took us to Jeke. This community reminds me of Bagega in Zamfara State, with a wind propeller that powers the water points lightening up the village, and embedded within the orchard and nursery set out for the village to use in sustaining their tree plantations.

 

“This wind powered water tank provides water 3 times in a week only when the wind speed is high, but when it is not we cannot get water, and this could have been an alternative to the MDG solar powered tank we have in the community, which cannot serve all of us.The MDG powered solar tank constructed 2 years ago only gives water between 9am and 2pm, that’s why you see so many people carrying kegs around” explained Yakubu Magaji, a spokesperson for Jeke

The wind powered water tank in Jeke that supplies water to the orchard - The tank gets filled up only at high wind speed

The wind powered water tank in Jeke that supplies water to the orchard – The tank gets filled up only at high wind speed

 

Jeke alone, due to its border line with Niger enjoins most of the shelter belt line that the GGW initiated, but the continuation and sustainability of the project still lives many inhabitants of Jeke in the dark. “As you must have seen, the shelter belts are only growing on their own, without nurturing, and some are already getting dried up, as their are no forest guards around, we only took up the initiative in the hope that their will be continual support from the government” said Muhammad Hussaini the leader of the Men’s Development Association who also went for a training in Kano on sustaining the GGW project.

 

A noteworthy plan for the GGW was the cash transfer system which will allow these association or cooperatives of farmers to have direct access to cash in their bank accounts to use in sustaining and localizing the GGW but the beneficiaries haven’t seen the plan grow into implementation. “We have submitted our bank accounts to the government since this started a year ago, but no amount has been transferred to the account, and so how do we trust the government if all this promises are failing” lamented Hussaini as he explained further.

Muhammad Husseini sharing his experiences on the GGW  with the FTM team

                                  Muhammad Husseini sharing his experiences on the GGW with the FTM team

 

While one wonders what will happen to the 5 – 20 hectares of land that was used for this project, the locals claimed it was their land, and that although the government paid tokens for some of the land used, it still has some pending cases of land acquisition for this project in Jeke to be settled. “Aside the issue of Water which remains pertinent for our people to survive, it should be noted that there are three people in our community that have not been duly compensated for their farmlands that was used for the orchard, it will be pleasing for the government to fulfill their promises”. Adiu Hassan exclaimed

 

When the Follow The Money team embarks on community outreaches like this, we endeavour to meet with policy makers as well to get insights into some of this projects, but at times, you get some shocking response, just like in Jigawa state.”We will not be able to entertain any question fro your team, as we do not have directives from the Federal Ministry of Environment to talk to you, and also we advise you do not visit the communities, as you might be instigating them” cautioned Hilary Ammani, Director, Desertification and Forestry for the Federal Ministry of Environment. But as much as we get disturbing responses like this, so also do we have comforting ones “We have attached a representative who will take you around the shelter belts in Gumel and Jeke, but we can inform you that the GGW has made its little progress in that it is only a year old, and for some months now, there has not been follow up, because of the change in government, but we assure you of our cooperation” Hamisu Ahmed representing the State Forestry Services Department.

The FTM Team with the Forestry Department Representative at the Shelter Belt in Jeke. Trees here include Neem, Senegal Acacia, and the Doum Palm

The FTM Team with the Forestry Department Representative at the Shelter Belt in Jeke. Trees here include Neem, Senegal Acacia, and the Doum Palm

 

Many times, we intend to create the missing feedback loop between the government and the people, while amplifying the voice of this lurked away communities like Jeke. As the following months will pass by, we will be engaging the people and its government on how to break these barriers that stand between empowering this communities. No doubt, more can still be done on the side of the government to make water available in Jeke!

#Kadandani – Thriving on the heels of economical trees, threatened by unfulfilled promises!

codepress November 21, 2015 0

How does doing a community outreach in a state where a suicide bomber just killed so many lives sounds like? Yes we were in Kano, when the tragedy struck, but many times this would not distract us like someone said during our radio engagement “I think the Follow The Money team are a group of Nigerians that are never shaken, even in the light of insecurity in the North”.Maybe the next conversation, might be – “How do you manage it?”

 

We are typical Nigerians that follows not only money for good, but our passion pushes us, and so same passion took us to Kadandani in Makoda Local Government of Kano State. Estimated to have a population of 6,000 with one primary and secondary school each, only one source of water that  thrives on an alternative power – the AC generator;and a clinic that has only one midwife attending to patients.

The Shelter Belt initiated by the Kano State Government two decades ago

                                            The Shelter Belt initiated by the Kano State Government two decades ago

 

Kadandani has a long stretch of shelterbelts, which made us think the community might be thriving on economical trees “Each woman in the community has four Date trees she nurtures, hoping that in future years, we will reap from each Date fruit”  affirmed Hajiya Mari the head of the women association in Kadandani who recently attended a 2 days seminar on the importance of the Great Green Wall project and they were directed to submit their registration and bank account details which they did. She mentioned that same project was initiated by the Kano State government and has been in existence 4 years ago. “The huge shelter belts surrounding our community is an initiative of the state government, it started decades ago, but what we hope for now is that the government can now provide processing machines for peanuts harvested by our women, as such we can make kuli-kuli in large scale” explained Mari

 

The Great Green Wall (GGW) project in Kadandani has lived to its expectation with awareness, trainings and shortcomings in unfulfilled promises of water and social projects. “The Kadandani inhabitants are much aware about the benefit of planting trees, owing to awareness and training programmes by the government, but it has had its own challenges, at the beginning of the GGW, we were promised water, an important amenity to us and our livestocks, but looking back, this is not the case if you visit the proposed site for this amenities” explained Adamu Abdullahi, community head of Kadandani

The FTM team with key groups in the community - from top left is Hajiya Mari

                                           The FTM team with key groups in the community – from top left is Hajiya Mari

 

100m away from the fences of their mud – thatched roofs, is located a “drying up” orchard  with a solar powered tank, which was meant to generate 10 water points for the community, and  a livestock water storage trough. “6 months after this was installed, it stopped working, and since then we have written to the federal government, but there has not been any response and the nurseries and orchards are getting dried up” – says Adamu. But one would have thought that the community would have invested or carry on the burden of sustaining the project, “When there was no response, I had to start using sprinklers and trying to raise new orchards, and I encouraged other community members to do as well, but we can only do a little” Shehu Ibrahim, the owner of one of the 5 hectares of land which the community offered to the federal government for this project.

 

Speaking with the Director, Forestry Department of the State Ministry of Environment, he clearly affirmed the situation in not only Kadandani “although we are trying to restore this water source for the plants, livestock and the people, its been challenging getting the contractors to fix the water tanks properly, and this is not peculiar to Kadandani, we have 5 shelter belts in other 3 other communities in Makoda, and we need to provide water at each communities for the GGW  to survive” explained Danusa Ibrahim, Director, Forestry Department.

The orchard and nursery site in Kadandani, just behind is the non-functional 10 water points

                           The orchard and nursery site in Kadandani, just behind is the non-functional 10 water points

 

Little wonders, why laudable social projects in local communities gets abandoned at the height of hysteria, perhaps, no thinks about its sustainability, or projects are initiated to gain political integrity. “Although as a lead, I have been more enlightened about the benefits of projects like GGW, as we have seen in Zinder, Niger during one of our field trips, it is more important to consult the local communities first before starting social projects like this, also I will advise stakeholders such as lawmakers from these communities should take the lead in some of these consultations, this can help in the sustainability of the project” Miyaki said
So what happens to Kadandani afterwards? As these kind of stories interests us at FTM, we will be looking at every opportunity to get water to the 5,000 people that inhabits Kadandani; and not just to forget their livestocks and flora that exist in their community. If you are in Kano, and you think you want to join in tracking the 70 million Naira that was meant for Kadandani which might lead to getting back water to the 5,000 inhabitants, join us now!

 

Where the Dry Crops Won’t Grow: A Too – Familiar Story of #Bachaka

codepress November 18, 2015 0

In Kebbi State, nothing must have mattered to them , other than their dry season crop planting, but there is a community that is doubting how much they can make, off the planting season – Bachaka, with an estimated population of 5,000 with 1 health center, a primary and secondary school, and the community thrives on four water hand pumps.

The FTM Team engages the Deputy Head of Community at Bachaka on prospects and challenges of the GGW

The FTM Team engages the Deputy Head of Community at Bachaka on prospects and challenges of the GGW

 

In November 2014, Bachaka became the first of 200 communities that would benefit from the Great Green Wall (GGW) project. A project that hopes to provide 1,500km of shelter belt from Kebbi to Borno State; provide water and social projects in 200 beneficiary communities. Lurked away from the city center of Kebbi, Birnin Kebbi, and just 40km away from the Republic of Niger in Arewa Local Government Area, there seems to have been an appreciable progress in Bachaka , since the inception of the GGW, a year ago.

 

“We have two representatives from our community that was sent on trainings and site visits to Zinder, Niger; there has been several awareness programmes as well, especially in making an income from planting economic trees, likewise there is a Ministry of Environment representative who visit here monthly” highlighted Abubakar Maiyaki (Mai Yakin Bachaka), Deputy Head of Community in Bachaka

 

The 1km shelterbelt in Bachaka is thriving, and has had its forest guards and security guards in place watching over it, but there are challenges as well. “Since we started about 4 months ago, we have not been paid our salaries and that has been frustrating for us and our families, as such we urge the government to come to our plight.” complained one of the security guards.

In the background is the spoilt solar and wind powered water tank

                                                  In the background is the spoilt solar and wind powered water tank

 

Shelter belts projects cannot survive without the provision of orchards and nurseries, so that other trees can be planted by the community, but their is a setback for this in Bachaka.” We have written the Federal Ministry of Environment times without number, to come and fix the solar wind powered tank since it stopped working , as all the nurseries and orchards are getting dried up.

 

In Bachaka, two solar powered tanks were installed: One that provides water source to the shelter belt, and another one that provide water for the orchard and nursery.The latter was at first a wind powered water tank which broke down some days after it was installed, it was then replaced by a solar source which also stopped working just 3 months ago, because the pump for the water was stolen! “Farmers that rely on the broken down water source cannot plant this dry season, as their crops get dried up, just like the orchards are already drying up, the tank should be fixed as soon as possible” said Ashiru Mohammed, one of the security men in charge of the orchards.

The nursery for the Acacia, Doum Palm and the Date Palm already drying up in Bachaka

                                    The nursery for the Acacia, Doum Palm and the Date Palm already drying up in Bachaka

 

Ashiru Mohammed was not only the security in charge of the orchards, surprisingly, he doubled as the owner of the land, and pleaded with the government to pay him is compensation for acquiring his land. Ashiru made us understand that he was only looking after the place because of the passion after one of the sensitization programme in Bachaka. Umar Musa, the Director of forestry at the Kebbi State Government affirmed some of the plights of other shelter belts in Kebbi, and was really skeptical about the success of the GGW, if their is not a new direction for the laudable project.
So why, who and how was the pump for the solar powered tank stolen, perhaps there was no guard for the orchard before now, and many times we get cases of stolen pumps when solar powered tanks are installed in rural communities, Bachaka isn’t the first and might not be the last. Despite the progress since the GGW was flagged off in Bachaka, there are too many challenges of consolidating gains with local stakeholders, thus posing a challenge to the sustainability of the GGW in Kebbi State as a whole.In the next coming months, we will be catching up on stories from Bachaka, and how the water issues will be solved to allow farmers continue their dry crop farming.

Aftermath Poor Implementation of #WomenCookstoves Project: Stakeholders Urge New Minister of Environment to Support Local Markets for Alternative Energies

codepress November 17, 2015 0

Connected Development’s [CODE]  Follow The Money project, held its’ fifth stakeholders meeting on the 9.2 billion Naira allocated for the procurement of 750,000 Clean cookstoves and 18,000 wonderbags on 12th November, 2015 . The forum was strategized to share insights and knowledge gaps as the billion naira project did not get to the rural women it was meant for.

The event which took place at Reiz Continental Hotel Abuja, had in attendance, representatives of the Ministry of Finance and Ecological Fund Office, journalists and the civil society. Sharing the findings of its Follow The Money team, Monitoring and Evaluation expert, Oludotun Babayemi, said that the initiative found out that clean cookstoves that was exhibited by the former Ministry of Environment was not newly purchased, and that from findings, these were clean cookstoves that was meant for a project initiated two years ago.   

CODE M & E expert,Oludotun Babayemi, discussing findings of Follow The Money initiative

He further hinted the stakeholders that the contractor – Integra Renewable Energy cannot be reached as they have vacated the building used as their office. Likewise, stating that after several meetings with the Ecological Fund Office officials, it could not be ascertained if the 4 billion remaining in the Ecological Funds for this project still remains in their coffers “It’s like a tracking platform where we track funds when they are being released to when it gets to the community itself” said Babayemi, as he further explained the involvement of Follow The Money in the allocated 9.2 billion Naira Clean cookstoves project.

The representative from the Ministry of Finance, Mrs. Yusuf, Kemi Ahmed, though unaware of the complete situation concerning the stoves said that options such as subsidizing the cost for local manufacturers would have been a better solution as it all boiled down to affordability and that the federal government should have gone for greater advocacy to sensitize rural women on the benefit of the clean cookstoves as they are main users of firewood.

Mr. Uwem Ujeh, from the Ecological Fund Office [EFO] also expressed his lack of thorough knowledge on the clean cookstoves project and said that the EFO does not initiate projects but rather projects are initiated by communities in need, civil society organisations or other ministries. He added that there was always an implementing agency in case of all projects funded by the office, and in the case of clean cookstoves, it was the ministry of environment, as such, projects are not necessarily funded by the EFO but money released by the ministry of finance into the ecological fund office’s account was used to fund projects.

Mr. Eluma, a deputy director from the Ecological Fund Office expressed dismay at the absence of any representative from the ministry of environment to further explain what went wrong or what progress was being made as regards the project.

While commenting on the issue, Mrs. Onuvae Precious, from Nigerian Alliance for Clean cookstoves noted that a one-page fact sheet stating an alternative use of the funds would be a better option than procuring and distributing the stoves for free which would undermine the market development goal of the Nigerian Alliance of Clean Cookstoves.

Mr. Tunde Salman, from the Good Governance Monitoring Group, noted the scarcity of resources in the country and that the government shouldn’t involved itself with buying stoves as this would support rent seeking and collection and at the end of the day the product would not reach the beneficiaries.

In his final address, Mr. Babayemi, noted that the next stakeholders meeting would be focusing on the great green wall project, which is a planned project to plant a wall of trees across Africa at the southern edge of the Sahara desert as a means to prevent desertification and to track funds that have been released by the Nigerian government.

CODE’S Follow The Money Receives Grant from Omidyar Network

codepress October 16, 2015 0

Follow The Money, a nonprofit initiative of Connected Development [CODE] has been awarded a one-year grant of US$100,000  ( NGN19, 894, 994 million) by Omidyar Network, mainly towards the cost of their projects in local communities which includes stakeholders meetings, focus group discussions, travel support, and visualization.

Founded in 2012 by Hamzat Lawal & Oludotun Babayemi, Follow The Money uses traditional offline engagement methods and technology tools to track government and aid spending at the local level. In 2012, the initiative was able to save the lives of about 1,500 children in Bagega, Zamfara state who needed  urgent medical attention for lead poisoning.   And after the 2012 flooding in Nigeria, the group was able to track 17 Billion NGN allocated for intervention and document the impact on affected rural communities. In 2015, the group’s activities convinced the federal government of Nigeria to change its controversial US$49.8 million (NGN 9.2 billion) clean cookstoves plan.

“Foreign aid and government spending should be grounded in in how spending affects local community realities.  Government programmes that track the impact of funds in local contexts are still remarkably rare,” said Hamzat Lawal, the chief executive of Connected Development.

Omidyar Network’s grant comes through the philanthropic investment firm’s Governance & Citizen Engagement initiative, which works to build stronger and more open societies by increasing government responsiveness and citizen participation.

In the past, Follow The Money had received grants from The Indigo Trust, Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), Heinrich Boell Foundation, and Open Knowledge Foundation and The European Union.

 

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

[In Abuja – Nigeria, for Connected Development/Follow The Money , Oludotun Babayemi +234 09 291 7545 0r/and oludotun@connecteddevelopment.org]

 

For more information about Follow The Money, please visit http://followthemoneyng.org

For more information about Omidyar Network , please visit https://omidyar.com

 

Editor’s Note:

Follow The Money is an initiative of Connected Development [CODE] that advocates, tracks, and visualize funds meant for local communities. The Team is made up of Researchers, Data Analysts, Campaigners, Journalists, Legal Practitioners, Activists, Information Managers, Students, and Academia & Development Consultants.

 

CODE is a non-government organization whose mission is to improve access to information and empower local communities in Africa. We strengthen local communities by creating platforms for dialogue, enabling informed debate, and building capacities of marginalized communities which ensure social and economic progress while promoting transparency and accountability.

[PRESS RELEASE] Why Buhari Should Probe the NGN 9.2 billion Clean Cookstove Scheme

codepress October 16, 2015 0

(28 September 2015), After over six months of frequent engagement with stakeholders both in private and public sector on the implementation of the N9.2 Billion National Clean Cookstove Scheme (NCCS), we are today calling on the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari to probe the disagreement between the Federal Ministry of Environment and Integra Renewable Energy Services Limited, the official contractor handling the project in order to reinforce the objective of the scheme.  

The Federal Executive Council (FEC) in November, 2014 under the reign of former President Goodluck Jonathan approved the above sum of (N9.2B) as an intervention fund to procure 750,000 clean cookstoves and 18,000 Wonderbags to mitigate the environmental as well as health hazards caused by the use of wood to generate energy for cooking food which according to World Health Organization accounts for the death of over 95,000 women annually in Nigeria. This is the third highest killer after Malaria and HIV.

The Chief Executive of CODE, Hamzat Lawal stated that ‘Our latest assessment report on the execution of the exercise titled – “When State Agents Becomes Kleptocratic Women Are Deprived of Alternatives!,” vehemently oppose the intrigues that led to the contractor institutionalising a court case against the ministry to protest plots to terminate the contract’.      

The 15 page document urges President Buhari to find out exactly where the money is, and how it was spent.  

“It’s already over 256 days since this announcement, and 120 days after some of the funds were released to the Federal Ministry of Environment, the fate of 750,000 rural households that were supposed to enjoy from the benefit of this project still remains hanging,” our report revealed, Lawal Stressed.    

Lawal who is also the Co-Founder of Follow The Money noted that the Ministry of Environment confirmed receiving the sum of N5 billion after series of campaigns on the importance of the scheme in curbing the incessant felling of trees to generate fire for cooking and also reduce the quantity of smoke that poisons food as well as pollutes the atmosphere.     

‘While responding to our Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) letter, the contractor confirmed that it received 1.2 billion Naira from the Ministry of Environment to procure clean cookstoves, although the clean cookstoves exhibited were not newly procured from our findings, 3.7 billion Naira was confirmed by the Permanent Secretary, Fatima Mede to be in the account of the Ministry of Environment, while we could not ascertain how the  Ecological Funds Office has utilized the remaining 4 billion Naira’.

It is noteworthy to state at this point that the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), Nigeria’s agent of horizontal accountability has been an ally since we started monitoring the execution of this programme, and they have every bit of information concerning it.

While kicking the status quo from its point of equilibrium using various strategies to ensure that this initiative doesn’t toe the part of others, we are still hoping that the ICPC will take pro-active steps after being part of the processes we have initiated to address the uncertainties beclouding the successful implementation of this exercise.    

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

For more information or any clarification, kindly contact:

In Abuja, for CODE, Oludotun Babayemi (English)  or oludotun@followthemoneyng.org

In Abuja, for CODE, Ojonwa Miachi (English)  ojonwa@followthemoneyng.org

or Call – +234-09-291-7545

Editor’s Note:

 

Follow The Money is an initiative of Connected Development [CODE] that advocates, tracks, and visualize funds meant for local communities. The Team is made up of Researchers, Data Analysts, Campaigners, Journalists, Legal Practitioners, Activists, Information Managers, Students, and Academia & Development Consultants.

 

Connected Development [CODE] is a non-governmental organization whose mission is to improve access to information and empower local communities in Africa. We strengthen local communities by creating platforms for dialogue, enabling informed debate, and building capacities of marginalized communities which ensure social and economic progress while promoting transparency and accountability.

When Agents of State become Kleptocratic, Women are denied of Alternatives!

codepress September 18, 2015 0

An extract from the foreward of our new Follow The Money report on the activation – #WomenCookstoves

“Even the most well intended and well thought out policies may not have an impact if they are not implemented properly. Unfortunately, the gap between intention and implementation can be quite wide. The many failings of government are often given as the reason good policies cannot really be made to work” as suggested by Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo in Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of Way to Fight Global Poverty.

In the same vein, we quite agree that government inadequacy is greatly affecting the impact of foreign aid in a developing country like Nigeria. In November 26, 2014, the federal government of Nigeria announced the approval of NGN 9.2 Billion Naira (NGN 9,287,250,000) for the procurement and distribution of 750,000 clean cookstoves and 18,000 Wonderbags, as part of the National Clean Cooking Scheme (NCCS) to rural women in order to reduce deaths emanating from indoor air pollution, reduce tree felling, and desertification. One would have thought this is a right step, in the right direction, and at the right time when the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, is strengthening key stakeholders in providing alternative energies for their countries.

Follow The Money #WomenCookstoves

It’s already 256 days after this announcement, and 120 days after some of the funds were released to the Federal Ministry of Environment [MOE] of Nigeria, the fate of the 750,000 rural households or women that were suppose to enjoy from the benefit of this project still remains hanging, with lots of controversy around the number of clean cookstoves that the contractor has already “brought” into the country, the court case filed by the contractor against the Ministry of Environment, and most importantly where did all the money go? or where is the money?

It is easy to get depressed by such findings like “the milk has been skimmed somewhere and somehow” 5 billion Naira finally got to the Ministry of Environment account, and 1.2 Billion Naira (NGN 1,253,778,750) out of it went to the contractor, although the MOE in a response to our FOIA letter confirmed NGN 1,393,087,000 is the total sum of the contract, while the remaining 4.2 Billion Naira (4, 287,250,000) is nowhere to be found, and we keep been asked on why we do what we do: “Why bother?” These are the “small” questions in that if perhaps, no one, decided to keep the story alive – with several request for information letters (using the FOIA), monthly stakeholders meetings, tweet – a – thons, and traditional media engagements – this would not have been in the front burner, as it has always been.

In this campaign, the agents of “horizontal accountability” in Nigeria – the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) have been an ally since we started tracking, and they had every bit of information around this activation. As pointed out in Andreas Schedler’s Restraining the State: Conflicts and Agents of Accountability that agencies of accountability do not develop as the result of solo brilliant performances but need requisite coalitions to come together, in this case we had to kick the status quo from its point of equilibrium, while still hoping that the ICPC will sprung into action after been part of the processes we have initiated.

Follow The Money is an initiative of Connected Development [CODE] that advocates, visualizes and tracks funds (government spending or international aid spending] that are meant for local communities, and this report is an output from our #WomenCookstoves activation in December 2014.

We Will Like to Follow your Money but…

codepress September 1, 2015 0

This might be a good read for you, if you are planning to “activate” or partner with  us!

In the last three years, since Follow The Money  (FTM) started, we have had questions around what kind of money do we “follow” or track, and how can we approach your team to initiate a campaign (We refer to this as activation, and some of the questions are – how can we partner with Follow The Money; You Follow The Money people will you follow the 500 million Naira grant just approved by the World Bank; Follow The Money, you should track the billions going to SURE – P; Follow The Money, there is a new government, please follow every dime going to government officials.

 

There is a simple answer to this: Connected Development’s [CODE] Follow The Money tracks funds that are meant for infrastructures or inputs in rural communities eg health, education, and other social incentives (In essence, capital projects which includes provision of drugs, health facilities, environmental inputs such as water boreholes, incineration equipment, education incentives such as libraries, books etc. We are sorry to conclude that FTM does not track funds that are concerned with staff salaries, employee or employer’s benefits etc.

The Kinds of funds we are interested in tracking

The kinds of funds we are interested in tracking at Follow The Money Nigeria

However, it should be noted that while the list above remains of top priority, there are other secondary considerations and priorities. The funds that FTM track must be in the area of Health, Education and Environment (HEE). At times, we can be interested in cross – cutting issues that emanated from any of these three. These three are most important for rural communities to exist and live sustainably.

 

Although, Follow The Money is a model of investigative journalism, it is not involved in funds that have already been disbursed, or should have worked in communities it was meant for. An example is a NGN 200 million that was announced by the government of Nigeria in 2013 to provide 10 boreholes in Adavi Local Government Area. Just because Two years has passed on that issue, FTM will not be interested in such, as it is already two years.Because, we hope to prevent corruption, we are interested in fresh fund releases, not more than one year from funds approval or release by either government or the aid agency.

 

When you have taught this through, you, your organization, your group can then send a mail to activations@followthemoneng.org; call our hotline at 09- 291-7545 or fill our activation form online at http://followthemoneyng.org/activations.html. We will notify you for further action after we have received your request for activation. It is not necessary that you should be able to provide resources for the project, but at times we have been activated by groups that are willing to provide resources, especially as in – kind contributions during the activation lifetime.

 

It’s then Way to Go! did you just read that some funds got approved to providing infrastructures or inputs in your rural community? reach out to us now, and we can quickly follow up! It might just be the little you can do for your local community. It might also interest you to know that the team are always involved in researching funds that have just been approved to local communities, as such we can dive into activation using our primary desk research and data mining results.