Why Governments Should Open Up Their Data

Ani Nwachukwu Agwu January 31, 2019 0

Running 21st century governments by the “old rules” is reinforcing information asymmetry, inefficiency, inequality and ultimately poverty. In 2016, the eight richest people in the world had as much money as the bottom 50 per cent of humanity – that’s three-and-a-half billion people. And of those eight, six were infotech billionaires. The world can no longer feign indifference on the pricelessness of public data in this age. Like these infotech billionaires, governments are stewards of public data and money. Their responsibility is allocating same to priority sectors in the society for policy-making. If data is so priceless, why then is the unsustainable concentration of power and wealth (data) in the hands of few individuals and government?

A group of active citizens, prepared to engage with state authorities, in a meeting, Abuja

Technological advancement such as computer, internet and airplane has not only demystified global challenges (e.g. transportation) to the point that one could fly from New York to London in six hours or less; technology has made governance and public policy increasingly participatory and interactive. It is believed that such interaction will ultimately result in more democratization of decision-making and getting citizens more involved in the allocation of state resources for public good. Democracy requires transparent decisions; so that citizens are aware of what is decided and how much money is being spent on which purposes.

In developing economies, e.g. Nigeria, one phenomenon driving political instability and economic stagnation is corruption. Stakeholders are unanimous that the incidence of corruption is unacceptably high and that open government – opening up government data and public processes, is the antidote. The importance of data-driven transparency is indisputable in combating corruption because corruption thrives in atmospheres of opaqueness and secrecy. Incontestably, transparency counteracts corruption and sharp practices in government circles.

A fundamental concept for understanding open government is information asymmetry. Information asymmetry is a situation in which one party has more information than another, for instance, when a government has more information than its constituents. One of the reasons why governments open their data is to reduce information asymmetry, but completely overcoming this is often not realistic. Somebody who is inside the system on a daily basis will always have more knowledge than outsiders do. However, easy access and a clear presentation of information are often necessary. By that, citizens can see a clearer picture, but completely bridging the information asymmetry is virtually impossible.

The second point why we should open up government data is civic participation and engagement. Among other forms of centralized governments, one distinctive characteristic of democracy is citizens’ voice or civic participation. Citizens can never be able to properly engage their elected or public officials without data or information about what is happening inside government institutions. World over, a military dictator can always build roads; primary healthcare centres; potable water supply; etc., but at any instance, military dictators lack legitimacy because they rule by the barrel of a gun. Ruling by the barrel of a gun is a measure of primitiveness.

Article 21 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights reads that: “The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot or by equivalent free voting procedures.” Fundamentally, access to relevant public data inevitably guide electorates during elections, guaranteeing credible electoral outcomes among nations. Undoubtedly, under democracies where voices are present, human rights are best protected.

So there is relationship between open government, legitimacy of governments and trust. The importance of easy access to public data as a way of building trust is captured in open government ambitions. Commitments to open government should show that governments are not hiding anything from citizens. In the circumstance, the public can see how the government is functioning, and influence its working where necessary. For example, viewing how budget is spent and thereafter suggesting alternative ways of spending the budget better.

Challenging the status quo

No more Secrecy Act in Nigeria, it belongs to the past

For five decades (1962–2011), Nigeria operated a horrible law – Official Secret Act, which provided for the protection of official information from public interaction or scrutiny. The Act imposed restrictions upon public servants concerning disclosure of certain “privileged” information. Thus, for 50 years, Nigerian political environment was more or less a “black box” – citizens living in information blackout.

In the same year (2011) that Open Government Partnership (OGP) was launched, Nigerian government enacted a revolutionary law – Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), providing for free access of public information to citizens. The act also provides for the protection of personal privacy, protection of serving public officers from adverse consequences when they disclose certain kinds of official information without authorization. The Nigerian FOIA is considered a game-changer in the country’s long push for openness, transparency and accountability.

Global efforts at opening up government-controlled data for public participation and engagement birthed a multilateral initiative – OGP.  In September 2011, on the sidelines of a UN General Assembly meeting, Heads of State from 8 founding governments (Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, Philippines, South Africa, United Kingdom, and the United States) endorsed the Open Government Declaration. The OGP aims to secure concrete commitments from national and sub-national governments to open up government data and processes, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance among member states.

How civic organisations are disrupting service delivery using FOIA and OGP

For many years in Nigeria, corruption and cultures of opacity meant that resources meant for development were frittered away. According to a UN report, roughly $4.6bn is spent on bribes in Nigeria each year. Poor transparency and accountability have allowed corruption to flourish, but these civil society groups are trying to change the opaque environment.

Empowered by the provisions of OGP and FIOA, governments are under intense pressure to intensify fights against corruption; sharing more information about the way federal ministers or commissioners are managing public resources and increasing civil participation in public decision-making. A host of civic organisations: Follow The Money, Tracka, PPDC, SERAP etc are harnessing new technologies to strengthen governance especially at the grassroots. The activities of these above-named organisations are examples of how citizens (activists) can be part of the solution of nation building in a fragile or failing democracy. Therefore to increase civic participation, promote transparency, and strengthen accountability; governments must open up public data – hitherto administered in secrecy, for public perusal, consumption and ownership.

This article was originally published on Apolitical in December 2018.

Decades of corruption have held Nigeria back — it’s time for change

Ani Nwachukwu Agwu January 21, 2019 0

Picture credit: Flickr/Fasasi Abbas

Nigeria has had a checkered political and economic history Like many other African countries, it won its independence in 1960, and went on to install a parliamentary democracy akin to Britain’s. This era, known as the first republic, lasted from 1960 to 1966 and was marked by ethnic tensions, poor governance and corruption.

Plotters used corruption as a reason to justify military coups in 1966 and 1967, whose aftermath threw the country into a civil war. Both the coups and the war paved way for almost three decades of military rule, interrupted only briefly from 1979 to 1983 when General Olusegun Obasanjo returned the country to civilian rule. Shortly after, the 1983 coup of General Muhammadu Buhari ensured that the military stayed in control of political power until 1999, when democracy returned to Nigeria.

The years of military rule were politically and economically disastrous for Nigeria. Corruption, already swelling under the early politicians, became entrenched under military rule, and a class of anti-intellectual politicians came into being. The impression is that military era squandered every amount of fiscal responsibility left by the British colonialists at the wake of independence in 1960.

One of the widely referenced international scale on the “purity” of countries is the yearly corruption perception index (CPI) published by Transparency International. Over a 18-year record, Nigeria hasn’t performed well. From this, it would be either self-serving or narcissistic to deny the claim by the former Prime minister of United Kingdom, David Cameron that: Nigeria is fantastically corrupt. Though harsh, the evidence is consistent that Nigeria is convincingly corrupt. So, who will bell the cat?

A table, detailing Nigeria’s ratings in the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) by Amnesty International

By the 2017 estimations of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC): after the high cost of living and unemployment, Nigerians consider corruption to be the third most important problem facing their country, well ahead of the state of the country’s infrastructure and health service. As Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala showed in her recent work, billions of dollars have gone missing under several administrations since as far back as 1978. What an iniquitous record of corruption!

Does corruption impede development?

Not only in developing nations, the extent to which corrupt practices affect markets and governments is difficult to ascertain. Nonetheless, the consequences of corrupt practices cannot be overemphasised. Corruption skews public investment away from service delivery and social amenities toward “lucrative areas” such as gigantic construction projects — dams, road construction, etc. It is an open secret that perceptions of rampant corruption contribute to public disillusionment and undermine both the legitimacy and effectiveness of governments. Corruption further degrades democratic values of accountability, justice and fairness.

The task of cleaning up the stench of corruption in Nigeria is monumental


A new report by the World Poverty Clock shows Nigeria as the capital of extreme poverty in the world. The failure to lift citizens out of poverty is an indictment on successive Nigerian governments which have mismanaged the country’s vast oil riches through incompetence and corruption. The 86.9 million Nigerians now living in extreme poverty represent nearly 50% of the entire population. In a related development, Nigeria also doubles as the country with the highest number of out-of-school children in the world — a ticking time bomb waiting to explode.

It is outrageous that Nigeria, a member of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the fifteenth-largest oil producer in 2016, with the world’s eleventh-largest oil reserves and the ninth-largest natural gas reserves, is one of the most difficult places to support shared prosperity.

Will Nigeria survive the corruption hurricane?

Nigeria’s natural resource wealth has not delivered the dividends of democracy because key institutions remain weak or non-existent. It is believed that kleptocratic politicians are hell-bent on exploiting institutional vacuums.

Drawing from abundance of diagnostics, for Nigeria to fight corruption successfully, concerted efforts must be made to build institutions, systems and processes that enhance transparency and make corrupt practices more difficult in the first place. It must block revenue leakages while adopting appropriate budget processes and mechanisms that permit transparency and inclusiveness. Political will must be seen and mobilized against pervasive corruption and lawlessness before the country slips permanently into irreversible coma or anarchy. The task of cleaning up the stench of corruption in Nigeria is monumental, not unlike the challenge of Hercules cleaning the Augean stables.

Due to size and economic importance, Nigeria matters, not just for West Africa or even Africa, but the world. This is why good political and economic governance is essential and why the world must lend its support to ensure that Nigeria moves onto the right development path. Domestically, Nigeria must pursue its unfinished economic reforms and, thereafter, commit to investments in critical infrastructure and human capital development. There must also be investor-friendly policies that will attract foreign direct investment, add value to primary products for export and drive economic diversification. These and many others are prerequisites for sustained growth and economic development.

To successfully overcome corruption in Nigeria and Africa at large, it requires the careful, determined, civic-minded and collective action of many members of the community.

*This article was originally published on Apolitical. Apolitical is a global network for government, helping public servants find the ideas, people and partners they need to solve the hardest challenges facing our societies.

How vital is the National Orientation Agency’s collaboration with CSOs

Lucy Abagi February 6, 2018 0

National Orientation Agency is a Nigerian government agency created in 2005 and tasked with communicating government policy, staying abreast of public opinion and promoting patriotism, national unity, and development of Nigerian society.

Do Nigerians have faith in NOA to build a communication bridge for citizens to interact with the government? Is citizens’ inclusion and engagement in demanding transparency and accountability encouraged? Or should we go ahead and advocate for ourselves liaising with civil societies in ensuring that our voices are heard and sideline this agency and all it stands for because of constant interferences of political bureaucracies in decision making and activities of NOA.

Am a little bit indecisive on what to think about NOA, but not entirely conclusive because of recent development by this agency to partner with civil society organisations in Nigeria. NOA gave an open call for collaboration with CSOs on the 31st of October 2017 at Ibeto Hotel, Abuja where a good number of representatives from different NGOs were in attendance.

The Director-General @GarbaAbari represented by The Director, Planning, research and strategy Dr Bonat J. Tagwai gave a brief review of NOAs five years strategy plans and their ongoing projects was made available to all participants, and full involvement of CSOs in the implementation of this program welcomed.

Some highlight of their activities includes

  • A well-structured agency and adequately staffed across the country comprising of National Headquarters, 36 States Directorate, FCT 774 Local Government Offices and  3000 volunteer Corp.
  • NOA has visited about 120 LGA and  communities to update them on their activities
  • They have interpreted the Freedom of Information Act into 20 languages to ease understanding of the Act and drive citizen mobilization and participation in demanding accountability and transparency from their government.
  • Has started a survey of 130 MDAs to engage public institutions
  • And have launched NOA FM Radio 97.7 though still test running and ideas will be welcomed on how to utilize this station efficiently.

Civil Societies present participated in group work to explore opportunities for partnerships with Short presentations of each group to highlight areas of collaborations with NOA.

A Cross-Section Of CSOs During The Group work

A Cross-Section Of CSOs During The Group work

The benefit for CSOs to collaborate with NOA was further stressed that based on their staff’s strengths and 3000 volunteers scattered around the country. Ease of carrying out campaigns using this volunteer will be efficient because instead of looking for new hands or travelling to places you don’t know, NOA could provide:

The contacts of their volunteers who are always on the ground in all the state.

Location and addresses of their state offices to assist in working in new terrains.

These, in particular, will assist connected development in further driving their campaigns and growing networks.

A Cross-Section Of CSOs During The Group work

To encourage full involvement and authentic evidence of collaborations, interested Civil Societies should send official letters to the Director-General making reference of this event.

This event was viewed and broadcast on PTV News. 

Hon. Emmanuel Njoku and DG Political, Civic, Ethics and Values Dept. Mrs Ngozi Ekeoba

Connected development as started utilizing this partnership opportunity with NOA as our Program Manager for democracy and governance Hon. Emmanuel Njoku plans on working with NOA in his campaign Engaging Emerging Voters for young people below 18 years in senior secondary two and three respectively.

A little brief of the objective of the campaign by Emmanuel Njoku is to increase voter education among eligible secondary school student. The project hopes to create clubs in secondary school for sustainability across the country and provision of short training on democratic values for members

We anticipate NOA full support in achieving this campaign and ensuring that the younger generation will understand the requirement of leadership and the importance of voting to reach a better outcome in the 2019 elections.

 

 

 

REVIEW OF CONSTITUENCIES DEVELOPMENT CATALYST FUND BILL

Ijeoma February 9, 2017 0

A one day public hearing on Constituencies Development Catalyst Fund  Bill, which was sponsored by Senator Buhari Abdulfatai  was organized by Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC) in collaboration with the Senate Committee on Poverty Alleviation. The objective of the public hearing was to provide a platform for public discussions on Constituency Development Funds (CDFs) through a proposition of  a legal framework that seeks to address concerns that the CDF is a tool for the embezzlement of funds rather than an intended vehicle for development. The Bill attempts to address the democratic-deficit in citizen participation in governance by encouraging economic development and participation at the grassroots and also create a legal framework for Constituencies Development Funds.

In the public hearing, Senator Buhari, remarked that there was an urgent need for the bill to be adopted as it will help bring about transparency and accountability thereby ensuring that the constituents get a feeling of the commonwealth. He stated that Zambia has been operating it since 1995 while it is also being implemented in Ghana.

The CDF bill tends to apply to all Federal Constituencies in Nigeria. The Clause 4 establishes a Constituency Project Development Board to administer the funds allocated for Constituencies. Charges and expenditure from the fund shall be made in accordance with financial regulations, the Public Procurement Act as well as other provision in the bill. The Minister of Finance –Under clause 17(1) of the bill, the Council Planning Officer is to submit annual returns to the minister of Finance no later than 60 days after the end of every financial year. Allowable projects under the bill were not specifically indicated or listed, but the bill provides that they should be community based development projects with benefits that would be available to a wide section of inhabitants of the area in question.

It was such a rich and engaging deliberation as  fundamental observation and questions were raised which includes that the objectives of the Bill does not explicitly state the percentage of the annual budget that will be allocated to the Constituency Development Catalyst  Fund and merely refers to a portion of the Federal Annual Budget.  Also the composition of the Constituency Development Catalyst Committee in clause 10(c ) mandates that one of the councilors in the committee should be a woman. What happens where no woman has been elected as a counselor in the relevant Constituency? There is also no indication in the Bill on how all of the bureaucracy created by it will be funded. Lastly the currency for the fine in clause 28 (1) should be changed from shillings to Naira.

It is also imperative  to know that there is a similar Constituency Projects (Budgetary) Provisions Bill, 2016 sponsored by Sen. Stella Oduah that passed second reading on 8th December, 2016 and also a Constituency Development Fund Bill Sponsored by Sen. Ali Ndume that has passed first reading on 9th November, 2016. Similarly, in the House of Representatives such Bill exists which has apparently passed second reading and I ask “can’t these Bills be consolidated to have one Bill”?
I sincerely hope that the questions and recommendations made during the public hearing would be considered, as the Bill if enforced, its mechanism is likely to enhance citizen participation in the administration, management, monitoring and evaluation of funds that could bring about socio-economic development, empowerment, transparency and accountability in the constituencies.

Ijeoma Oforka is a Program Officer at Connected Development, with a background in Public Health. She is passionate about advocating for the plights and issues surrounding women and girls health and education. She tweets via @ijoforka

 

Press Release: Government Should Scale-Up Primary Health Care Service Delivery Nationwide

Hamzat Lawal November 16, 2016 0

A leading NGO Connected development [CODE] has called on government at all level to take up one of its responsibilities by ensuring proper facilities are put in place in various primary health care centers in Nigeria.

Following the release of $1.5million dollars from World Bank to the 36 states respectively including the Federal Capital Territory as part of the World Bank supported “Save One million Lives” the Follow the Money team of CODE visited 6 states respectively to assess the state of the PHCs to track the implementation of these funds. These states are Akwa Ibom, Enugu, Kano, Kogi, Osun and Yobe.

Findings from the field visit to each of the states are appalling as most of the Primary Health Centres are facing several reprehensible and elementary challenges. Generically, most of them have no improved water supply, electricity, security, quarters for hospital staffers; there is no stationed doctor, and the toilet facilities are in a mess. Furthermore, because of these challenges, the PHCs do not operate 24/7, cannot admit or treat sick people and lack sufficient tables & chairs.

Some key Findings:

In Kano

Follow The money team visited Kantudu in Makoda LGA of Kano State. They found out that the PHC serves 2,500 people, all coming from 13 surrounding villages. The PHC was built 5-6 years ago as a senatorial project in Makoda LGA. The PHC has one male and female ward, which are not presently functioning. There are only three staffers with one community health worker who are not certified health professionals.

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During the interactive section with the head of community Alhaji Muhammad Musa, and the community association said that they have reached out to the government of Kano twice on the state of the health centre in Kantudu, but there was no response. “We hope this campaign with ONE and CODE will make the government of Kano look at the plight of our health center so that our people can start using it” says Malam Ali, the medical head at the PHC.

In Yobe State

We were in Lantenwa, Yobe where a Primary Health Care is in a messy situation. The PHC in Lantenwa is in Lantewa village, Lantewa ward, Tarmuwa LGA. It serves a population of 13,400 under 5 yrs; 10-15 patients daily, 70-105 weekly. Speaking to the head community ,AuduLantewa, mentioned that the dispensary has been dilapidated for more than 7 years, he added that dispensary situation is critical and he personally reported the issue to local authorities several times. He further lamented that “Lantewa is the gathering centre of four neighbouring with approximately 7,000 registered voters, as such, we should get better things from the government” he said

In Kogi State

We went to the PHC to find out if the implementation of the fund is ongoing as well as to track the implementation of the N10.5 million earmarked by the National Primary Health care Development Agency for the rehabilitation of the PHC. On reaching there, there was no such intervention taking place. The Officer in Charge (OIC) said it was the first time she was hearing of such. The village head whom we paid a courtesy visit to also said he has never heard of such. We then went to the Operational Base of the NsitIbom LGA’s Health Centres and the Director of the base told us that she has never heard of such fund for the PHC’s rehabilitation30817372226_364e4ee1b1_n

In Osun State

Our team went on ground to track the $1.5m earmarked by the World Bank and the Federal Government of Nigeria for the Saving One Million Lives Initiative and all we could see while on the field is nothing to write home about. From our findings, the facility is meant to serve 11 villages which are: Gboore, Alajue-Logun, Asunmo, Ayegbami, Agbopa, Jagun-Odomu, Olodan, Aladie, Amosun, Seesa, Akiribiti amongst others. In total, the target population which the facility is meant to serve is 12,498. 498 of the population are children less than one year, the Primary Health Care Centre has a monthly target of 42 patients, but it ends up serving more than 400 on an average.

Consequently, a Freedom of Information letters was sent to the concerned government institutions and offices for a breakdown of the funds usage, implementation window and respective contractors, especially the governmental institutions concerned, to instantaneously start the implementation of these funds, ensure transparency & accountability in the funds’ implementation, and make government data open in line with the Open Government Partnership.

Follow The Money is a growing movement currently in 32 states of the country, held community outreaches to 10 primary health facilities in Kano, Yobe, Osun, and found out that all were in a state of dysfunction, even with the funds that have been released to the states to upgrade the primary health care “Most of the Clinic at the PHC in the 5 states that our community reporters visited were in an abandoned state, lacks basic healthcare amenities and needs urgent attention to serve people at local communities.” affirmed Hamzat Lawal, CODE’s Chief Executive & Co-Founder, Follow The Money.   

He stressed that annually, over 70,000 children below age 5 in Nigeria die due to poor access to healthcare and sanitation-related illnesses (UNICEF). Lawal urged government actions to serve the people by improving better service delivery while ensuring transparency and accountability.

More pictures can be found here https://flic.kr/s/aHskNiNznP

 

CSOs Seek Collaboration with National Assembly on Budget Matters.‎ By Olusegun Olagunju

Hamzat Lawal November 11, 2016 0

In a bid to safeguard transparency and accountability around several themes concerning the Budget, the Committee on Diaspora and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) of the Nigerian Senate in collaboration with Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC) and UK‎ Department for International Development (DFID) on Wednesday, November 3rd, 2016 hosted an Interactive Session. The Session was between the Senate Committee on Diaspora and Non-Governmental Organisations and Civil Society Organisations on Nigeria’s Budgeting System with a Focus on 2016 Budget Performance and 2017 Budget.

The President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki was available to declare open the Interactive Session. He stated, “The implementation of the 2016 Budget is still ongoing” and added that, “Non-oil revenues are also falling out of projection, affecting the Budget implementation.”

img_0393-editThe Chairman, Senate Committee on Diaspora and Non-Governmental Organisations, Senator Rose Oko gave her opening remarks and extensively gave commended the efforts of the NGOs and CSOs partnership that has yielded a whole lot of benefits over the past years.

She said, “At the first session held at Transcorp Hilton on 8th of February 2016, a consensus was reached that a Memorandum of Cooperation be developed.”
According to her, “On the 10th February 2016, another session was held in the Senate Conference room and was attended by the Senate President. A Major outcome of the meeting was the strong position canvassed by the CSOs seeking to be involved in the budgetary process in the National Assembly. The Senate believes that the involvement of CSOs would add value to the budgetary process of the National Assembly.”

She went further to say, “Senate reasoned that their involvement would also help to improve service delivery as government would feel pressured to perform better based on the CSOs budget analysis, general oversight role and information dissemination.”

“Senate therefore considered that the participation of CSOs could strengthen the legislators’ functions on budgetary matters by way of delivering research-based evidence and advice to members of the National Assembly”.

Senator Rose Oko reiterated further that the Senate, “Will use this forum to develop a functional framework that will enable us to achieve enhanced results in the budget system. Fundamentally, this meeting will offer us a crucial window to preview and endorse our Memorandum of Cooperation with a view to affirming the direction of our partnership. This development would enable us to commence without further delay, mutual activities and joint actions beneficial to our Nation”.

She congratulated us all and welcomed us to this new bond of a working relationship between the CSOs and Legislature.

img_0384-editThe Chairman of PLAC, Mr. Clement Nwankwo was in attendance and also gave insightful tips on how the Senate can gain the CSOs trust.

He said, “We want to see the figures reeled out as to what has been achieved”. He expressed further that, “The executives should explain to the masses what has happened to the 2016 budget.”

To bring his remarks to a close, he said, “CSOs have questions to ask” and that, “We hope the partnership between CSOs and the Senate will bring good results.”

In attendance also was Dr. Otive Igbuzor, the Executive Director, African Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development. He gave a detailed speech tailored towards ensuring mutual harmony of the CSOs and Legislature, he was, however very brave to point at the hollow points in the designing strategies of the budget and gave a broader overview.

In his remarks he said, “In Nigeria, there are a lot of blockages to effective budgeting. First and foremost, the budgetary process is not participatory. Citizens and communities do not participate in formulating policies and agreeing on projects that go into the budget. Meanwhile, It has been documented that wherever participatory budget is implemented. It has expanded citizenship, empowered excluded groups, redeemed rights, deepened democracy and stimulated civil society.”

He said, “The budgetary process is not open. Corruption in any country starts from the budgetary process. In very corrupt countries, the budget is done in secrecy. Releases are done without the knowledge of citizens. Procurement information is not made available to Citizens and corruption is guarded and protected.”

He went further, “A budget is regarded as open if Citizens have access to the key budget documents; have high level of involvement in the budgetary process and have access to procurement information.”

Still on citizens participation in the budgetary process, Dr Otive said, “As a matter of fact, democracy will be meaningless if the citizens do not participate in how government raise and spend money. This is why the tool – Open Budget Survey Tracker – developed by the International Budget Partnership is a very useful instrument.”

What he said concerning the budget not being in accordance with the development challenges of the country is that, “There is no synergy between plans, policy and budget. We have always argued that there is the need for better public finance management across the world because of increasing inequality and non-inclusive growth. The past five decades have witnessed monumental changes in the world. Global economic wealth has increased sevenfold and average incomes have tripled.”

He said there are frivolous expenditures in the budget that will not stand any reasoning and logic. “For instance, the Centre for Social Justice documented N668.8 billion frivolous expenditure in the 2016 budget. They include N3.91 billion allocated annual reporting maintenance of villa facilities; N322.4 million for linking of cable to drivers rest room at the villa; N213.8 million for linking cable from guest house to generator house etc.”

He was quick to point at the institutions and mechanisms for oversight of the budgetary process as being weak. He said, “In any modern democracy, the legislature, civil society and media are expected to play oversight functions in addition to the internal control system in place by the executive.”

According to him, there were many lessons learnt from the 2016 budget implementation, some of which are: the Engagement by Citizens and citizens’ groups produced some positive reports in terms of reduction of frivolous expenditure. For instance, CSJ documented a total saving of N71,954,532,546.00 from the 2016.

img_0377“Delay in passage of budget continued in 2016. This has the potential to affect budget performance negatively. There was low capacity in understanding the new budgetary approach of zero base budgeting on the part of public servant and civil society,” he asserted.

He also made a deep dive into how Civic Education, Social, Economic and political resilience, budget literacy, comparative analysis of best practice in budgeting are the issues that formulate emerging consensus among civil society that needs to be addressed going forward.

According to Dr. Igbuzor, there are three ways we could measure the impact level performance of the 2016 budget, they are: Input Level, which is how much of the budgeted amount was released and used in the implementation.

Process, how the activities were carried out. Procurement process asks if the activities are carried out as and at when due.

Output, Outcome and Impact levels concerns the immediate result of the activities. The effect of the budget activities or any change attributable to the budget actives and Change in people’s lives attributable to the budget respectively.

He lamented that, “For a very long time, Nigeria had no institutionalised monitoring and evaluation system where there is a regular production of monitoring information; regular production of monitoring findings; and monitoring and evaluation findings are used to improve government performance.”

In conclusion, he commended the National Assembly for the interactive session. He stated, “We need to go a step further by ensuring public hearing in the budget at all levels: Federal, State and Local Government. I undemanding that the leadership of the National Assembly has agreed on the need to subject the budget to Public hearing. The 2017 budget should be the beginning point.”

Positive reactions and  towards his remarks came from different sections of the room.

Critical observations and assessment of Citizens’ priorities in Budgeting Formulations was made by Barrister Eze Onyekpere of the Centre for Social Justice.

The representative of Department of International Development prayed ‎prayed that, “It will be helpful if you can ensure this becomes a norm and part and parcel of the legislation in terms of what concerns the citizens.”

The Chief Executive of Connected Development, Hamzat Lawal who was present at the Interactive Session raised the tempo of the hall when he greeted with the assertion that,‎ “There’s a World Bank intervention fund for PHCs across Nigeria, we just came back from Akwa Ibom, Kogi, Osun, Yobe, Enugu, Osun and Kano as we seat, nothing has been done.”

Senator Tejuosho, Chairman Senate Committee on Health also mildly acknowledged that, “Of course The Health Act is one of the declarations that I know we are violating”.‎

Senator Rose Oko, in her closing remarks said, “We need to work together, the CSOs and the Nation Assembly need to work together.”

“We will recommend a resolution of this interactive session to the Senate for approval”.‎

Lastly, she assured that, “We will make available to you the conclusion of this meeting.”

The Senate was reminded of their promise that, ‎”You made a promise to #OpenNASS, please open it up”‎ and this, to me was the highpoint of the Interactive Session.

My Internship Experience So Far In CODE by John Paul

Hamzat Lawal October 31, 2016 0

Life has been good so far, but not very good when one has not yet experienced the real world before now!

The reality of life somehow depends on the level of experience one has acquired. These and more were discussions I was having with my brother about my plan to get the real experience that I need and he told me not to worry as he will introduce me to an organisation that will help me realize my dreams, I was very happy with this response from him, I was told to send my  CV together with a cover letter to the CEO of CODE, which I did and, excitingly, I got an email after some days together with a phone call telling to resume on Monday by 8am, that was the turning point of my life, as I was filled with joy.

On that very Monday, the weather was not very friendly as it was raining heavily but I did not bother as I could not afford to miss the opportunity I have been looking for a very long time. When I got to the office on that day, I got many things playing football in my brain as I met with encouraging and vibrant young people as against my expectations of meeting with Chiefs and Alhajis.

The most surprising part was when the CEO of CODE came in and introduced himself as Mr. Hamzat Lawal AKA Hamzy!, I was like is this the almighty Hamzat? Honestly, his name sounds bigger than his appearance, he quickly introduced me to the team at CODE and I was warmly received by everyone and immediately I joined in the team’s meeting, and after I was assigned to work with Mr. Tunde on the Grenade team (Data Mining). Honestly, working with him has been amazing as he’s teaching me everything I need to know about data mining and all about CODE’s work. He has never failed to answer any of my numerous questions or put me through in any difficulty, and, has inspired me so well.

One of the things that CODE has automatically changed in my life is the use of E-MAIL as an important means of communication. I have had many email accounts but only use it when I have something that phone calls or SMS can’t do. Now, I have been able to use one email for a whole month which has never happened in my entire life as I always find myself in the past, each time I want to check my mail, it would have been blocked because I am not very friendly with it as I have always preferred text messages and phone calls as means of communication, I am very happy that CODE has installed the use of email in me.

imag0591At CODE, I have been taught the use of Google drive which seems to be a big deal before I got here because I use to hear it from friends, I can remember when a friend asked me to pay him so that he can teach me, I am more excited today because I have learnt more than what he could have taught me, within my first one month in CODE, I can say that I have been able to develop a good working relationship with the team as I have noticed that everyone is committed in bringing out the best in me.

While I still work as an Intern here, I expect to gain writing confidence as I know that I love to write but have always doubted my ability. I strongly believe within my short stay at CODE, I will gain the ability of putting out strong, positive and constructive write ups.

Being too friendly has also been a challenge to me as I am not a very social type, but the CODE family has been of great support and help to me. As I continue as an intern in this great organisation, I intend to learn more than I can as working with CODE has been my best experience in life and i thank the management and staff of CODE for the opportunity given to me and all their commitments and efforts put in place to ensure I become a better person.

Growing Insecurity In The State by Titus Tukurah

Hamzat Lawal September 20, 2016 0

“Train your mind to see the good in every situation”.

Background

The mortality rate (Death Rate) is very high to the extent that the population of the country is decreasing. People lost their lives and properties, some were displaced (IDPs), others are refugee while others are been malnourished yet the government takes no action. People are dying due to lack of food in the country especially in the north eastern part of the country.

The country is lacking Potential Security which will definitely lead to the breakdown of the country economic. We need adequate and equipped security in the country which will lead to the success of the nation. Insurgency is all over the places, herdsmen have rampage everywhere yet the government take no action.

titus

Problem:
Notwithstanding the sacrifice of the ill-equipped members of the armed forces the Boko Haram sect appears to have gained upper hand in the war on terror. Large towns like Bama, Gwoza, Mubi and Michika and hundreds of villages have been captured by the terrorists. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced while not less than 13,000 have been killed by the criminal gang. Not less than 16 local governments in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States have been annexed while the combined landmass of the occupied areas is said to be 21,545 square kilometers of territory.

Solution:
Apparently, peoples are raising good points but I still see those solution as something we must all come together to achieve irrespective of tribe, party and affiliation etc.
Northerners has to go back to drawing board and sort out so many issues. Many Yorubas and Igbos and other tribes engage themselves in one handwork or the other in other to make ends meet that if their parents are not buoyant enough to send them to school.
But, up North, the reverse is the case. A gate man that makes 10k in one month ends up having four wives with minimum of 20 children with of them as Almajiris. I still believe that this boko boys are product of Almajiri. North should find a way to abolish that system.North should find a way to abolish that system but course their political class use their acclaimed for their political purposes. Now the population of untrained children with no home training and lack of respect for elders has ended up hurting and hunting the North.

Way forward:
As far as the ongoing war against Boko Haram is concerned, there is no other news that could be cheering news to Nigerians and the international community as the release of the more than 200 schoolgirls, who were abducted from their dormitory in Chibok, Borno State, in April last upper year. Having waited for more than sixteen months, the world seems to have grown impatient, as everyone appears to be waiting with baited breath to receive the news about the girls’ return from the ‘Valley of the shadow of death.’ Even if the military and allied forces spring a surprise, experts believe that there is still a high hurdle to scale before Nigeria and its neighbours can be rid of terrorism.

Goodwill Message at the National SDGs Stakeholders’ Retreat Presented on Behalf of the Civil Society Community by – Hamzat Lawal, Chief Executive, Connected Development [CODE]

Hamzat Lawal August 30, 2016 0

On behalf of the participating CSOs at this very important retreat, we wish to acknowledge and respectfully appreciate the invitation of the CSOs to be part of this very important retreat on SDGs as it is coming at a no better time than now in line with the spirit of goal 17 on “Partnerships” and in the inclusivity of “Leave No One behind”.

Your Excellences, the Civil Society in Nigeria had been active players in the formulation and designing of the SDGs right from Rio +20 to the Open Working Groups (OWG) and have held key positions why playing very important and sensitive roles all through the negotiations leading to the adoption and signing of the SDGs.

Just as this promising African nation called Nigeria is clothed in rich historical apparel, signifying the process through which it evolved its democratic experience, the stellar role played by civil society in guiding both the needle and the fabric cannot be overemphasized.

The Third Sector, as some would like to call the Civil Society, is a potent molding tool with which Nigeria nurtures its conscience at every given moment.

As a testimony to the central role played by this sector in birthing a new Nigeria, it is instructive to note that some of our present leaders like Mrs. Amina. J. Mohammed, (Minister of Environment and former SA to the President on the MDGs) and Dr. Kayode Fayemi, (former Governor of Ekiti State, and present Minister of Mines and Solid Minerals), are products of the country’s vibrant civil society community.

At the dawn of the twenty first century, our dear country was privileged to receive the cooperation it needed in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). While we met few, we backslide on some and many were unmet.  However, the lessons learnt are useful as we set out our implementation of the SDGs.

Therefore, as a sector we are convinced that today, and specifically, this distinguished forum, presents a great opportunity for the CSO community to candidly communicate our expectations, share our experience and hear fromgovernment and other critical stakeholders, on how we can jointly lay out the needed robust implementation plan forattaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Nigeria.

As we all know, following the progress made under the MDGs which drove global development efforts from 2000 to 2015, the world determined that the SDGs for the period 2016 to 2030 would continue to fight against extreme poverty,achieve gender equality and empower all women and girlswould add the challenges of ensuring more equitable development and environment sustainability.

Hence, we must emphasize the need for Nigeria to follow the global trend by upscaling its capacity and sharpening its strategies for international best practices and norms. This basically means that we deploy lessons learnt from the MDGs for the implementation of the SDGs. But more importantly, it recommends a new paradigm shift in the partnership between CSOs, private sector and the government.

Civil society plays a fundamental role at the national and sub-national domestication and implementation of all international protocols and conventions. The trainings, outreaches, data mining, and various interventions of the civil society have helped immensely in ensuring that both national and international agendas are brought closer to the ordinary Nigerians. And in this way, we as a sector along with our stakeholders, the international community and our development partners are able to monitor the impacts of our interventions.

With the SDGs, there is a new, exciting challenge before us all. With our capacity as a sector and using our networks of citizens and citizen organizations, we have started popularizing the SDGs, 17 goals and 169 targets. And, of course, it is our duty to reticulate their impacts. It is also collective responsibility as participants at this forum to ensure that transparency and accountability remain the key words for all SDGs actors, the more reason why we ‘Follow TheMoney’.

The Nigerian civil society has already made some remarkable achievements right from the process of designing the SDGs. For instance, we were part of several consultations that led to the development of the SDGs from 2012 to 2015. We consulted with citizens all over the world through the ‘’my world survey’’ and brought citizens voices to bear on the design and negotiations that led to the development and adoption of the SGDs. We were well represented as active stakeholder’s at all high level events and intergovernmental processes including leading the African Women Major Groups at the UN processes and at the African Regional Consultative Meeting on the SDGs. It might also interest you to know that one of the outcomes of that forum, which was to vigorously utilize data collection, is already being implemented in Nigeria.

We were present as a sector in September 2015 in New York when world leaders including our President Muhammadu Buhari made history by adopting the 2030 agenda. The SDGs, it was agreed, presents a “key window of opportunity to improve the existing, haphazard approach to data collection and reporting”. It was also decided that civil society, private sector and citizens should collaborate with the government to evolve better strategies for strengthening statistical systems that can measure and incentivize progress across the goals.

We are glad to announce to you that Nigerian CSOs are already implementing this strategy in conjunction with the government, as agreed by the international community (Women Environmental Programme in conjunction with the National Bureau of Statistics just finished the first phase of their data collectors training for Nigerian youths).

However, we strongly believe that there are many more things to do for effective implementation of the SDGs, and many other strategies to adopt in order to ensure Nigeria performs better than it did under the MDGs.

Excellences,

Firstly, the government needs to exhibit more willingness to cross the line from average to perfection by creating the enabling environment for optimal multi-stakeholder participation in the framing, development and implementation of national, state and local government plans of action on the attainment of the SDGs. We anticipate a domestication of the SDGs within our national and states development plan.

We recommend seamless coordination between local, states and the federal government; and also between the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) including synergies with the private sector and civil society sector which of course includes the media and the academia.

Secondly, we recommend a planned upgrade of institutional capacity in order to ensure service delivery and effective project implementation.

Thirdly, a coherent national data management system would be effective in mainstreaming the efforts and interventions of civil society, private sector and development partners while enabling all actors within the development space to carry out their task unencumbered. Strategically, capacity building on the Open Data concept targeted at those who will be implementing the SDGs is a major first step in realizing that at the review and progress of the implementation of the SDGs can only be measured through presentation of data.

We are confident that if collectively we remain positive, focused and determined, our country can achieve the SDGs goals before 2030 and other developmental aspirations we have.

On behalf of the CSOs, I urge our government to see us as allies and partners to achieving the Nigeria we want, with the SDGs, particularly around data at the grassroots to inform policy and decision making, leveraging on innovative technologies.

Thank you for listening and for this opportunity!!! God Bless You All and God Bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

CODE :The Future We See through Follow The Money Newsroom.

Hamzat Lawal July 19, 2016 2

A non-governmental organisation Follow The Money, an initiative of Connected Development (CODE)Connected Development (CODE) is set to launch “Virtual Newsroom.

The products from the Virtual Newsroom is set to further engage and empower more marginalized people in rural communities to enhance their livelihoods.

DOTUNSpeaking at an In-house training organised by CODE, the monitoring and Evaluation Officer, Oludotun Babayemi said Follow The Money is planning  a virtual newsroom that will run 24 hours – several times in a month with the objective of strengthening the voice of 95 million Nigerians leaving in rural communities in Nigeria, while increasing their participation in governance.

He said it’s important to have a participatory kind of discussion on how the newsroom is meant to look like, who’s doing what and create a larger workflow other than the one we have been using.

“We are talking about a newsroom that has over 60 reporters reporting into it from remote places. This means we need a robust, scalable and efficient framework other than the one we were using before. We thought it will be good to have a meeting to deliberate, discuss, make comments and suggestions about how the newsroom is meant to look like and also decide on the future of Follow The money,”he said.

The Monitoring and Evaluation officer, said Follow the Money is always motivated by stories from rural communities, which never gets into the mainstream media, adding that  every time there is a visit , they hear about new stories, not just for the success alone but of  failures of communities that are still ailing other than the ones that  are focused on.

He added that it is always motivating  that the group  can do more and  can have more people to do more.

“We are looking at the massive strength in the young people that we have, we can engage more of them and we can also have more communities that will be proactively vigilant in ensuring transparency and accountability of funds meant for their communities as well. These are the motivation for Follow The Money,” he said.

Speaking on the challenges, Babayemi said the challenges the movement  might face is keeping that of  retaining human resources and availability of financial resources
GROUP 3

“Some people might leave at some point  because  we can’t bring in 60-75 people and expect them to only be focused on our mission and goal. Some people would think of something else such as thinking of another movement from there. Both are the critical challenges we are looking forward to as we move on.,”he said

He further called on the general public to be on the lookout for new radio programs that will come up especially Follow the Money radio, adding that radio is what people in the rural communities rely on to get information.

Mr. Babayemi explained that Follow the Money radio will be used in increasing rural community participation on governance as it concerns implementation of funds meant for capital projects in their communities l.

“ They should look out for some of our bulletins and prints that we would want to share with them on the money we are following and money for the community and also on what the government is saying about such money should be something interesting the communities should be looking forward to,”he said.

Well in the next 15  years, the vision will be to see the present 95 million Nigerians living in rural communities listening and engaging their leaders through the Follow the Money Radio, likewise, seeing 50%  of that population sending in feedback to Follow the Money via SMS and our various online portal. Mr Babayemi noted

He said these target audience  could also be able to read about  Follow the Money In  online and offline bulletins or magazines.

“In essence, seeing  Follow the Money as a community mechanism where they can also read about their own community, and get their voices amplified is the future we see through Follow the Money and I hope that we will be able to achieve that,” he said.