Odeh Friday is Accountability Lab Nigeria’s Country Director and brought a wealth of experience to the Lab’s global family when he led the establishment of a network lab in Nigeria. After earning a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics Degree from the University of Abuja, Odeh was placed at the National Space and Research Development Agency for his one-year service in the National Youth Service Corps.
“In that period I discovered and joined an organization called All Nigerian United Nations Students Association which promotes the ideals and principles of the UN like, no discrimination based on sex and religion, so it was exposing students to social injustice,” says Odeh. “That eventually led me to establish the United Nations Youth Association of Nigeria chapter at my alma-mater the University of Abuja.”
The aim of the United Nations Youth Association of Nigeria was to expose students to social justice issues as well as the ideals and principles of the United Nations. With the support of a team of volunteers, Odeh was able to coordinate this association throughout the country for three years until it had chapters at five universities around Nigeria.
“My first full-time job was as the Monitoring and Evaluation Officer at the Association of Positive Youths Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria,” says Odeh. “I worked with them in eight states around the country trying to build the capacity of young people to protect themselves from contracting HIV/AIDS through the ABC prevention model. The Organization had support from Oxfam and I was with them for two years.”
After that, Odeh moved on to Save The Children (SCI) as an Intern with the Monitoring and Evaluation, Accountability and Learning Department, supporting development programs in the north and south in terms of data quality assurance, developing M&E tools. After six months of that, Odeh was hired by SCI’s Nutrition Department for the position of Records Management Consultant supporting the nutrition programs.
“After six months working on nutrition, I moved to a position within the same organization working with the Humanitarian team as the Child Protection Information Management System Officer,” explains Odeh. “For me it was more around my background of M&E – supporting their response efforts. I ended up supporting UNICEF as well and managed the child protection database for SCI and the child protection working group across Nigeria.”
Odeh was among the people who established the Child Protection Information System (CPIMS) database in Nigeria and supported all NGOs (including the Ministry of Women Affairs) implementing the CPIMS database across the country for four years. During this time he managed over 15 CPIMS assistants and also trained over 500 child protection officers, case workers and ministry of women affairs case management officers, and CPIMS officers.
Establishing Accountability Lab Nigeria
“In the process of doing all this work I realised that some of the most significant gaps in the humanitarian response efforts in the northern states of Nigeria had to do with accountability,” explains Odeh. “So I began thinking about and researching efforts to strengthen accountability and I discovered Accountability Lab so I approached the Executive Director Blair Glencorse about establishing a network lab in Nigeria.”
Accountability Lab Nigeria was officially established in 2017 and in the same year the first edition of Integrity Icon Nigeria was run with the support of the Ford Foundation. Odeh maintained his position at SCI while leading the establishment of AL Nigeria for the first year but in 2018, Odeh left his job to focus on building the Lab. The team managed to get a grant and used that to start building systems and recruiting people to put systems in place.
“2018 was a big year for us because we rolled out three more of our campaigns,” explains Odeh. “We ran the first edition of Voice2Rep with the support of the Netherlands Government, we ran our first cohort of the Accountability Incubator with the support of the MacArthur Foundation and we also established the SDG16 Innovation Challenge with support from the Canadian Government. This was all in the same year we ran our second edition of Integrity Icon Nigeria with the support of the Ford and MacArthur Foundations.”
Four years since the establishment of AL Nigeria, Odeh says he’s most proud of the team they’ve been able to build, growing from just four volunteers to 12 full-time staff members and eight volunteers. He credits the team’s hard work for growing their donor base significantly to gain the support of more organizations such as Voice, Luminate, NED and the UNDP. They’ve also been able to introduce more programs including the Civic Action Teams (CivActs) and the Peace and Social Cohesion Innovation Challenge.
“I’m really excited about the growth of the programs,” says Odeh. “Growth means more opportunities to make an impact with our work but there are still limits in terms of the resources we have to reach out to young people to participate in our programs. It has been challenging but now we have a clear direction and a strong Board of Directors and now we’re also trying to build an Advisory Council for the Board. The mission of AL is to ensure that governance works for citizens. My hope for the future is for Accountability Lab Nigeria to play a significant role in the communities in which we operate.”