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

Oludotun Babayemi October 24, 2016 0

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!

 

Democracy for the Fishes: A Tale of the Nigerian Legislative Arm!

Oludotun Babayemi December 31, 2015 0

Would it not be “okay” if the Nigeria National Assembly have 36 members in the upper and lower house, while it coordinates with the State house of Assembly members? and if you are still wondering where Nigeria stands amongst the league of democratic government, the #presidentialmediachat that President Muhammadu Buhari kickstarted on Wednesday, December 30, 2015, just a day before the end of the year, sums it all up, and not just that, it gave directions on the functions of the pillars of democracy. The 2 hours chat left me imagining the number of sacrifices the citizens will have to make before the 170 million Nigerians can achieve the USD 82,763 GDP (Purchasing Power Parity) that Singapore currently enjoys.

 

So if citizens are ready to sacrifice, what sacrifice will the legislative arm make? With 115 billion Naira appropriated for the legislative arm in 2016, and in it, was a purported 4.7 billion Naira car purchase that was justified by the Senate Leader, Senator Ali Ndume! Might be ridiculous, I guess?Certainly, we would not need a prophet to tell us Nigeria doesn’t need this expensive legislative arm, however it has been argued that the Nigerian legislative arm enjoys the least salary and allowances amongst the league of countries like Tanzania, Kenya, Philippines and Singapore.This argument would have been justified if the Human Development Index of Nigeria is well better than these countries.

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Truth be told, we cannot measure up to them, and our GDP (Purchasing Power Parity) cannot substantiate such argument, so why would it not be right that we should run a part -time legislative arm and use the amount saved to invest in teacher training, or provide befitting living environment for health attendants that has turned ghost workers in Northern Nigeria health facilities, and we can look at more alternatives as described by Premium Times here.

 

When an agent of the state foot drags to become open, just like the National Assembly of Nigeria has been doing, even with at BudgIT’s campaign around #OpenNASS, it is indeed shying away from being democratically accountable. So what can or should happen? Ngozi Anyaegbulam of Media Watch International asked the President, if the Budget of the legislative arm passed through his table, and if he approved it after seeing the lump sum of 115 billion Naira (USD 577 million). His response was not convincing, and he clearly stated that you can only use the judiciary to actualize a reversal, and that it is still feasible to revisit the budget with the legislators. But there is the other pillar of democracy – the civil societies that needs to intervene and help the president.

 

As 2015 rolls by, we have seen #OpenNASS keeping the legislatures on their toes to make – not only their budget open, but also open how they spend Nigeria tax payers money, likewise the #SayNoToSocialMediaBill which hopes to put a halt to the Bill (To prohibit frivolous petitions, and other matters therewith) that is about to gag free speech via radio, text messages, and the social media. 2016 kicks in with more challenges for the citizen, just as fishes feeds under the seas, so also the legislative arm will continue to do, except organizations like BudgIT, Premium Times, CODEEnough Is Enough, Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC), Policy and Legacy Advocacy Center (PLAC) strengthen their collaboration, seek judicial implications for starting a campaign like #StopSenatorsCar to stop the exegesis of the legislatures, initiate civic – legislative engagements and demand responsiveness from the government, then – we can say we have #SackedtheSenate. Sack who? Yes, and the 35 state house of representatives that seem elusive. As we connect in 2016, like Phyno’s connect that am listening to right now – We might #NeverSettle until that fish seller (on the featured image) at Utako Market enjoys the real “dividends of democracy”