… Insists Niger Delta living in poverty amidst plenty
Policy Alert, a civil society organization working to promote fiscal transparency and accountability in the Niger Delta has stated that the Open Government Partnership (OGP) is beyond a necessity to the people due to its importance and the fact that the welfare of the people depend on how open the government can be.
This assertion was made through the Executive Director of Policy Alert, Mr Tijah Bolton-Akpan on Thursday, December 15, 2022 in Uyo during the alliance building and strategy session for Non-state actors on Niger Delta Open Government Observatory (NOGO) project focused on Open Government Partnership in the Niger Delta.
Mr Bolton-Akpan described OGP as not just a necessity but an “existential prerequisite” because the Niger Delta has some of the lowest human development indicators one can find in the country, ranging from poverty index, unemployment and poor environmental indices. The Executive Director noted that Niger Delta being rated below the national average in many areas actually calls for concern considering the amount of resources that comes into the region.
He stated that such indicators were pointers to the paradox of poverty amidst plenty that is currently being experienced in the Niger Delta, a region although being so blessed is also at the same time deeply deprived of the social goods and services to the people.
The Policy Alert helmsman cited lack of transparency, accountability, and government being run in a non- participatory manner where citizens cannot have a voice and express their priorities as a touchstone to such happenings in the region.
Bolton added that the issue of OGP was not just another reform mantra to be chanted by development partners but a call to come up with clear-cut strategies in ensuring that government was not just ticking the boxes when they sign onto the OGP rather to ensure they are committed to the implementation that would see to a more transparent, accountable and participatory government in the Niger Delta.
He called on cluster members to build on opportunities to form better alliances bearing in mind that “Partnership does pay”.
Also speaking, State Team Lead (STL) of USAID State2State Activity, Mr. Borve Paago-Imabel while appreciating Policy Alert over what he described as the “beautiful works done”, also acknowledged the partnership from the media for the objectivity in reportage in recent times especially in Akwa Ibom State, identifying the presence of phenomenal apathy from citizens and Civic Society Organisations (CSOs) responsible for them being laid back and not speaking up as expected.
Borve also added that CSOs needed more collaborations with the media in addressing the issue of apathy, and low capacity of CSOs in pushing for the OGP.
He urged the CSOs to be more professional in their approach especially in partnering with one another to achieve a common goal rather than acting alone in an attempt to look better than others who are in pursuit of the same goals.
Uchenna Arisukwu from the OGP secretariat while taking participants on OGP Implementation in Nigeria: Key concepts, issues and State of play, emphasised that implementation remains the key issue in the OGP process. He noted that many states have signed on to the OGP but were not showing much commitments towards implementation that would lead towards ‘Co-creation’ ; a process where government and society actors have equal ownership, participation and control of the entire OGP process from start to finish.
Arisukwu pointed out that although the OGP is voluntary, without any punitive measure for non-participation, there were consequences for not joining.
Mr Koko Udo from Policy Alert while giving background on the OGP, revealed that 24 states and Abuja Municipal Area Council ( AMAC) have so far signed on to the OGP with four states in the country also at the finish line of signing up.
He expressed worry that among the four states getting ready to join, none was from the south-south of Nigeria, adding that Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa and Rivers from the Niger Delta states were yet to show serious signs of commitments of joining the OGP.
Experience sharing from Mr Harry Udo, alliance building , developing a draft guidance note/framework for OGP implementation in the Niger Delta were done by participants, while goodwill messages came from , State CSOs forum, State Team Lead, USAID State2State Activity, Multilateral and Development Cooperation, Akwa Ibom State.