Connected Development (CODE), a non governmental organisation, has made it one of its primary duties, to rebuild trust among the citizens and the Nigerian government.
According to a press statement, signed by Kevwe Oghide, CODE’S Communications Lead and made available to LEADERSHIP on Tuesday, and which reads in part, “CODE is bridging the information gap between citizens and the government by providing information on government budgets, tackling financial leakages and bringing governance closer to the people at the grassroots. We do this by empowering citizens with the knowledge, skills and capacity to demand for the provision of quality public services in their communities.
“Consequently, essential development projects, previously abandoned or which otherwise would not have been implemented, are being restarted and completed, accelerating social development in these regions, fighting inequality and promoting inclusive development. One of the projects that CODE’S ‘Follow The Money’ (FTM) initiative has been able to focus on so far is the $3.5 million budgeted for projects in 2019.
“Understanding that citizens’ apathy was increasing and the government continued to fall short of expectations, CODE’s overall objective in year 2019 was to make a significant difference in increasing citizens and government’s consciousness towards rebuilding trust.
“Over the past seven years, CODE has showcased consistency and doggedness in amplifying the voices of the marginalized. In 2019 specifically, our team deployed innovative strategies and global best practices in empowering citizens, especially the grassroots dwellers to demand for improved services in healthcare, water, education and development infrastructures. On the other hand, we petitioned the government to provide these services so that citizens’ faith in governance can be regained.
“Our campaigns enabled platforms for informed debate between public institutions and citizens and also advocated for more government agencies to leverage digital communications tools to foster trust, increase transparency and ensure better accountability. CODE’s advocacy influenced government policies for the acceleration of socio-economic development.
“In 2019, Follow The Money tracked NGN 1,277,500,000 (USD 3.5 million) budgeted for projects in 69 grassroots communities—calling for improved first-mile health infrastructure and services, demanding that a state of emergency be declared on education because of the alarming increase in the number of out-of-school children and campaigning for communities to access safe clean water, we impacted over 2 million lives.
“We further saved the Nigerian people and the government the sum of N477million by blocking financial leakages in funded rural community projects. Our work gained global recognition when Follow The Money emerged winner of the 2019 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Mobilizer Award and also won the Council of Europe’s Democracy Innovation Award as the initiative advancing the cause of democracy.
“CODE further petitioned anti-graft agencies to investigate oil industries that abuse human rights, partake in illicit financial flows and exploit the fragility of oil producing communities in Nigeria. More engagements and advocacies urged policy makers, stakeholders and beneficiaries, to review and effect policies that promote gender inclusion in Community Development Councils.
“Recurring challenges that our team continue to face are threats for exposing misappropriation of funds, poor access to data to enable tracking of government funds, security issues in North-East of Nigeria, and limited funds in reaching more grassroots communities.
“We, however, remain dogged in promoting a sustainable FTM model to ensure that true democracy is achieved—where citizens are empowered in every sense and their collective voices are heard. In hindsight, it can be said that CODE experienced yet another year of growth and influence.
“CODE would like to make its position known on a few areas of great significance.
“One of such areas is the signing of the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) 2020, the comprehensive review of the recently signed CAMA 2020 is commendable, considering that it took 30 years before the act was repealed and replaced.
“More importantly, the emphasis on the disclosure of beneficial interest spells doom for perpetrators of corruption, fraud, and criminality in businesses. People can no longer hide under the guise of nondisclosure to carry out financial crimes. The principles of the Open Government Partnership Nigeria signed up is quite evident in the new CAMA 2020.
“Another area of importance is the Federal Audit Bill. The Auditor-General reveals that over 200 MDAs have failed to submit their audited report in over 4 years. This is unfortunate for a country that claims to fight financial leakages. We call on the National House of Assembly to name and shame this agency. Also, the Senate must begin the process to pass the Audit bill that will strengthen the office of the AuGF to sanction these agencies for defaulting.
“With the MDAs’ failure to submit their audited reports to the OAuGF, it is crystal clear that the Auditor-General’s Office—the Supreme Audit Institution of Nigeria— currently lacks the oversight powers to enforce its mandate and sadly, there are no sanction measures against these MDAs which are defaulting, nor agencies responsible for prosecuting defaulters— an act that can totally lead to gross financial recklessness and public fund embezzlement, thereby depriving the Nigerian government and people of money needed for development, in sectors such as Education, Health as well as others.
“Concerning the palliatives distributed, It’s been about six months since the first COVID19 case was detected in Nigeria and the array of intervention funds donated, yet the Accountant General and the Minister of Finance have failed to aggregate this fund or provide a breakdown of contracts awarded under COVID19 and how money has been spent.
“In an age where Citizens’ apathy is increasing and government’s opacity continues to fuel distrust, denying people the dividends of democracy by not being transparent is detrimental to the progress of the nation. President Buhari signing the Open Government Partnership and not practicing it is the height of hypocrisy.
“The Federal government, through the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, headed by Sadiya Umar Farouk, distributed palliatives to some unknown Nigerians which she noted was supposedly given in the forms of cash payments, cash transfers, food distribution and other reliefs during the lockdown in Abuja, Lagos and Ogun states but the names of these mysterious beneficiaries were however not made public and the source used to generate the data still questionable. Our Government needs to do better.”
CODE is a non-governmental organisation, which mission is to improve citizen’s access to credible information and empower local communities in Africa.
Its ‘Follow The Money’ initiative advocates and tracks government/international aid spending in health, WASH, and education across grassroots rural communities to ensure and promote open government and service delivery.