By Sandra Eguagie
Nigeria signed on to the Open Government Partnership (OGP) as the 7oth member in July 2016 with the commitment to deepen institutional and policy reforms. Access to information and citizen engagement are two of the four thematic areas of focus, these thematic areas speak directly to the basis and growth of transparency and accountability in government and public institutions in the management of resources. This is a signal to open partnership between government and citizens; it is a shift from the system of withholding information by public institutions to an era of transparency and participation.
The beauty of the OGP is that it is a co-creation of government and Civil Society and it aims at carrying everyone along in the business of governance to achieve agreed development goals and targets. It actually holds out high hopes for a country like Nigeria where there are several development challenges arising from a huge gulf between government and citizens.
When citizens are able to get regular updates of the activities of public institutions without difficulty either through physical contact with the offices or through an online platform as well as the institution’s willingness to accept that responsibility to account for their activities, then one can say to some extent there is a measure of transparency and accountability in such institutions. Besides, it is the responsibility of every leadership to report and be answerable to the people they are serving.
Often times, we hear the word “my organization is transparent and we are accountable” from officeholders while citizens complain of lack of transparency. Objectively, it is sometimes difficult to take sides since there are no parameters to measure both claims. There ought to be some measures that allow for verification and public scrutiny in determining how transparent institutions or organizations are to a certain degree.
The Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice(ANEEJ) has embarked on the use of technology to rate the Niger Delta Institutions (NDIs) and have drafted some sets of indicators known as the Niger-Delta Transparency and Accountability Index, with the aim of promoting efficient, transparent and accountable Institutions in the region.
These set of indicators are found on the DYNTRA platform measuring the performance of the Niger-Delta Institutions which was launched December 15th, 2017. http://www.dyntra.org/en/transparency-indices/niger-delta-institutions/
The platform also allows citizens access to evaluate these institutions as it offers the Niger –Delta Institutions the opportunity to assess themselves, their activities and update their information.
It currently has 49 indicators grouped under five categories; such as Access to information and public disclosure,Synergy with other NDIs/Niger Delta development agencies and government agencies, Consultation with communities/other stakeholders and inclusion, Transparency in procurement process as well as Institutions’ integrity. It has seven institutions such as Abia State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (ASOPADEC), Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC),Edo State Oil Mineral and Gas Producing Areas Development Commission (EDSOGPADEC), Imo State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (ISOPADEC), the Federal Ministry of Niger Delta Affair (MNDA), Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and Ondo State Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission (OSOPADEC).
These institutions were set up to promote development in the region as a result of the underdevelopment and environmental degradation, the spillover effect from the exploration of crude oil despite the huge revenue it contributes to the country’s economy with a view to reversing the resource-curse phenomenon that has been the lot of the beleaguered people of the oil-rich Niger Delta.
The Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ) and Leadership Initiative for Transformation and Empowerment (LITE-Africa) while implementing the Strengthening Advocacy and Civic Engagement (SACE) project jointly carried out an assessment of these Niger-Delta institutions to get a deeper understanding of their mandates, policies and activities. Both organizations in collaboration with other CSO groups in the different states conducted a citizen’s report card survey on Niger-Delta institutions to get citizens perception on the activities of these institutions as well as allow the citizens to rate their performance. The assessment featured 96 focus group discussions and 44 key informant interviews (KIIs) with 845 community residents in 24 communities in 8 local government Areas and 4 Niger-Delta States of Cross Rivers, Edo Delta and Ondo.
The outcome of the research and CRC was condensed into policy papers and used to engage the respective NDIs. CSOs and communities were trained on budgeting, project monitoring and reporting as well as advocacy and engagement.
The Niger-Delta Transparency Index promotes the standard for institutions measurement and enables decision makers to become more transparent and provide first hand reliable data for government, researchers, media and members of the public at large.
The first evaluation and the first set of results will be out soonest, the aim is to promote healthy competition among these development institutions, increase citizens participation and knowledge of NDIs activities as well as set a standard of transparency and accountability for public institutions.
Engagement meetings had been held with the leadership of OSOPADEC and EDSOGPADEC, they have all accepted the standard of measurement through the indicators; efforts have been made to reach the other five institutions. The Niger-Delta Institution transparency index is an objective standard of measurement that gives room for improvement as it measures in real time the ongoing transparency and accountability prowess of each of the institution.
This intervention is made possible with support from Strengthening Advocacy and Civic Engagement (SACE) a project funded by USAID and Partnership initiative in the Niger-Delta (PIND). The SACE/USAID project has been supporting civil society organizations to influence the development in the Niger-Delta regions and other part of the country.
ANEEJ believes in improving the transparency and accountability mechanisms of Niger Delta Institutions through civic engagement and effective reporting of the agencies activities in Edo, Delta, Ondo, Abia, Imo, Rivers, Cross River States and other States such as Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom in the Niger-Delta region through NDDC and MNDA.
Sandra Eguagie, Program officer with Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ).