The Organization for Community Civic Engagement’s Kaduna town-hall meeting was attended by diverse civil society, youth and citizens groups and featured passionate discussions about the Open Government Partnership (OGP) process
Shortly after Nigeria joined the Open Government Partnership (OGP) process in 2016, Kaduna state also joined the process making it the first Nigerian state to join the partnership and the 15th subnational government in the whole world to do so. The OGP process is an international platform for domestic reformers committed to making their governments more open, accountable, and responsive to citizens.
Actually, Kaduna state’s journey to the Open Government Partnership began sometime in the middle of 2015, when a public opinion poll was conducted by the then new administration of Governor Nasiru el-Rufai with the support of UK-Department for International Development (UKAid-DFID) the outcome of which showed that a large segment of the state’s populace were unhappy with the way the business of governance was conducted by successive administrations in the state.
This was what informed the state’s decision to join the OGP process with the key objectives of to promoting fiscal responsibility, access to information and citizens’ engagement, amongst others. Thus, Kaduna came up with its State Action Plan (SAP) for the OGP process which has a number of commitment areas around citizens’ participation in budget process, Open Contracting Index and establishment of public ownership register. Other key commitment areas are to do with compliance with the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act as well as ease of doing business.
“Civil society organisations are now involved in budget process from the formulation i.e release of budget call circular to implementation. We also came up with the Kaduna Citizens App which allows citizens the opportunity to assess the quality of projects being executed by the government,” said Phebe Yayi, Director, Development Aid Coordination, Kaduna State Planning and Budget Commission, during the town-hall meeting on Kaduna State OGP process organized by the Organization for Community Civic Engagement (OCCEN) last week.
OCCEN is a nonprofit organisation working to promote democracy, good governance, and peace-building across the northern Nigerian states of Kaduna, Kano, Jigawa, and Zamfara states and the town hall meeting was organized with the support of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the US nonprofit foundation dedicated to the growth and strengthening of democratic institutions around the world.
“By keying into the OGP process, the Kaduna State Government is exposing itself to the public’s scrutiny. OGP is about strengthening public institutions, promoting advocacy and reforms as well as opening up the governance space for civil society to influence government policies and programs,” said Abdulrazaq Alkali, Executive Director of the Organization for Community Civic Engagement (OCCEN) while delivering welcome remarks at the event.
“OGP is about co-creation which means equal partnership between government and civil society; as someone said, OGP is the most beautiful thing that has ever happened to the civil society. The idea for this town-hall meeting is for the government and citizens to rub minds about the journey of OGP in Kaduna state so far and also come up with a way forward,” he said.
Also speaking at the event, Shehu Dalhatu, a professor of political science at Bayero University, Kano, who was also the moderator for the Kaduna town-hall meeting said democracy was about the participation of all citizens in governance processes including policymaking and implementation of government policies.
“Transparency and accountability cannot be achieved without citizens’ participation in governance; greater involvement of citizens in state affairs. Therefore, the civil society must be more committed to engage with government and do so with a sense of fairness, impartiality and non-partisanship. They must commend the government where it has done well and scold it where it has erred; the weakness of civil society also contributes to poor governance,” said Dalhatu.
Mustapha Jumare is the civil society co-chair of the OGP process in Kaduna state who said the civil society in the state were making efforts aimed at ensuring effective budget implementation as well as monitoring the government to ensure its policies were of benefit to the citizens and that the policies were duly implemented. He also spoke about a community service charter introduced across all the local government areas (LGAs) of the state which he said had also given citizens the opportunity to make inputs to the state’s budget.
In closing remarks at the event, Abel Adejor, Kaduna State Team Leader, Engaged Citizens Pillar of the Partnership to Engage, Reform and Learn (ECP-PERL) programme urged the citizens of Kaduna to more actively engage with the process adding that the state’s performance would be reviewed after 2 years. PERL is a governance reform programme funded by the UK-Department for International Development (UKAid-DFID) and has been supporting the OGP process at both states and federal level in Nigeria, from inception.
The OCCEN town-hall meeting was attended by diverse civil society, youth and citizens groups and featured passionate discussions about the Open Government Partnership (OGP) process leaving the participants well informed about the OGP process and thus ready to key into the opportunities it provides in making governance more open, transparent and accountable.