Imagine Nigeria was a hospital patient. The doctor’s analysis might read something like the following:
Patient’s Name: Nigeria
Diagnosis: Long-term and possibly fatal corruption.
Cause: Long-term lack of accountability across government, business, civil society and the media; with complicit international business and financial institutions.
Contributory factor: Lack of citizen engagement among 180+ million citizens.
Medication: Strict regime of open governance with continual doses of transparency, citizen empowerment, anti-corruption measures and freedom of information.
Nigeria has begun to take its medicine. After series of consultations and meetings between Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and civil society groups, Nigeria created it’s 1st Open Government Partnership (OGP) National Action Plan (NAP) in 2016- with a view to addressing these ailments. The patient has seen significant areas of improvement of the condition since then. For example:
- The National Budget Office published the 2017 Executive Budget proposal and a citizen’s guide to this proposal on its website for the 1st The Budget Office also improved on the 2017 budget process by submitting the 2018 Executive Budget proposal in early November 2017 (the earliest for 5 years) allowing for timely publication of the budget documents. The Budget Office also adopted a simple technology-based feedback mechanism, called iMonitor, to monitor government projects at the community level.
- Civil Society Organisations continued to raise public awareness about open contracting and the important role of citizens in public procurement. For example, the Public and Private Development Company (PPDC) developed a weekly radio programme called Budeshi Radio, listened to by over 100,000 people a week. PPDC have also developed a toll-free number for citizens to call to ask questions and report on contract implementation within their communities – at 0800BUDESHI or 08002833744. So far over 100 people have directly contacted the number, with 80 actions taken to fix problems they identified.
- The Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) has published and submitted the 2015 Oil and Gas Audit Report to the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation, the National Assembly and relevant MDAs. NEITI also launched a new dashboard that provides access to relevant data in downloadable form- on everything from revenue by state to budget contributions by commodity.
- The OGP coalition also pushed for amendment of the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) to compel corporate entities to disclose beneficial ownership information. The CAMA has been passed by the Senate and is now awaiting consideration by the House. Meanwhile, the Corporate Affairs Commission of Nigeria has redesigned its Annual Returns Forms to enable disclosure of information of beneficial owners.
- With encouragement from the OGP coalition, Nigeria moved up 24 points in the World Bank’s Doing Business Index as a result of actions taken by the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) with support from the Nigeria Economic Summit Group. In terms of access to credit, Nigeria is now ranked 6th in the world, ahead of most European countries.
- Nigerian CSOs are leading the process of monitoring the use of recovered revenue. This is in line with the agreement reached between the Nigerian and Swiss governments with the World Bank on the return of money stolen by the former dictator Sani Abacha. The historic agreement- which for the first time included a monitoring role for civil society organisations- is now used as a standard for other return of assets agreements.
- The Freedom of Information (FOI) Unit in the Ministry of Justice successfully set up an FOI Desk, with officers nominated by respective institutions in 106 MDAs and contact information for the FOI Desk Officers listed on the website of the Federal Ministry of Justice.
- A number of sub-national entities have signed up to the OGP process, including Kaduna State, which is using its “Eyes and Ears” app to engage citizens in governance processes. This has dramatically improved some service delivery outcomes- for example, home-births have declined from 70% to 48% in two years.
The patient is showing signs of recovery, therefore, but there are still some difficult symptoms. For example, very few citizens are aware of these OGP reforms in Nigeria and the process is not as inclusive as it could be. There are still challenges of trust between citizens and government that proposed legislation like the Social Media and Anti-NGO Bills do nothing to assuage. It has taken persistent pressure from civil society to maintain civic space; and with focus on the 2019 elections, citizens are worried about the sustainability of the OGP Nigeria and the ways it might be affected by the electoral process and results.
To recover full health, Nigeria needs an additional dose of medication- greater inclusion of young people, women and excluded groups (ethnic minorities, individuals with physical disabilities and geographically or culturally distant peoples) would help; as would commitments around service delivery that would truly show the impact of the OGP process for citizens. Given the challenges within the Nigerian Assembly recently, efforts to open up the parliament would also be a salve. Finally, with the continued dominance of the natural resource sector in the Nigerian economy, continued vigilance of the contracting and revenue collection process will prove essential.
Nigeria is slowly moving out of the emergency room- but has much to do to work itself back to full health. A large dose of the OGP is exactly what it needs.