African Center for Leadership Strategy and Development (LSD), Mac Arthur Foundation, Social Action, in partnership with Akwa Ibom state chapter of National Orientation Agency and other Civil Society Organizations in south-South held a sensitization/ campaign rally in Uyo the capital of Akwa Ibom State to sensitize the south-south governments and citizens to sign up for the Open Government Partnership (OGP) as a way of ensuring citizens’ inclusiveness in governance.
Speaking to newsmen, Uchenna Arisukwu, the national program coordinator, African Center for Leadership Strategy and Development and the Lead of Open Government Partnership, said that the Open Government Partnership (OGP) is about making governance open, transparent, accountable and responsive to citizens.
Continuing, Mr Uchenna said OGP seeks to open up government processes to reduce the trendings of corruption where opacity and secrecy strives.
“OGP is a global partnership of about eighty (80) countries and the present administration of President Mohammadu Buhari signed up to the OGP in the OGP global summit that was held in London in June 2016.
Mr Uchenna said that so far, about nine sates in the country have signed up to the OGP, and the states are: Kaduna state, Kano state, Niger state, Jigawa state, Anambra state, Enugu state, Abia state, Ebonyi state and Edo state.
He said that apart from Edo state, all other south-south states are yet to sign up to the OGP.
He explained that the rally is to sensitize the populace in the south-south region of the country to sign up to the OGP.
He reiterated the fact that “if all of the states in the country sign up for the OGP, government will be responsible, accountable and transparent in governance as such will lead to development. Citizens will participate in the budgeting processes of their individual states, and citizens will also participate in projects contracting and procurement processes.
“OGP, when it is implemented brings about rapid development in the society, and the citizens’ confidence in government will increase because they can hold government to account”
Mr Uchenna used the medium to call on citizens of the region to participate fully in the implementation of the OGP and also get their PVCs to ensure they all vote in credible candidates that will govern them in the next four years.
He also advised youths in the region to eschew election malpractices and violence in this year’s election”.
Mr Uchenna said anybody in south-south that does not vote in this year’s election is the problem of the country.
On his part, Tarite Iboko, the Bayelsa State coordinator of Open Alliance and the Bayelsa OGP project lead said that with the implementation of OGP in all of the states in the south-south, citizens are fully involved in governance.
He explained that with the implementation of the OGP, citizens will understand the plans and programs of the government for the people which will in turn enable a peaceful and a united society.
Also, Eno Wiyo, the state director of National Orientation Agency Akwa Ibom State said that with the implementation of the OGP, projects will no longer be abandoned because citizens will be involved from the inception of a projects to its conclusion, because OGP demands that citizens be given information concerning every project based on the Freedom of Information Act.
Also he said that with the implementation of the OGP, both national and state budgets will be open to everybody to see, so that in the process of implementing the budgets, citizens will know exactly how the budgets are being implemented.
On his part, Tijab Bolton Akpan, the executive director of Policy Alert, an Akwa Ibom state based civil society organization and also the state coordinator of Open Alliance, an umbrella of civil society organization who are working to promote the adoption and implementation of the OGP in the country said that OGP is a multilateral initiative, and that it is an open government processes which involves the government, citizens, civil society, businesses and international development partners.
He said the four pillars of the OGP are transparency, accountability, citizens’ participation, innovation and technology. He said: “Now if you take each of these pillars, you find out when government is open, citizens tend to benefit more from government. When citizens are included in governance, then there will be accountability and transparency in government”.
Continuing, Mr Bolton Akpan said the OGP enables citizens to know exactly what is in the budget, and are also involved in determining what gets into the budget and how the money is being spent. He said that the OGP also enables citizens to be involved in tracking government revenue expenditures, that is at the level of transparency and accountability. Also, citizens are involved in policy and decision making at the legislations.
He said, the OGP creates a leveling ground for the government and it’s citizens where the fault mode between citizens and government is totally abolished, “OGP creates a leveling ground where government and the citizens both have a co creation/ co equal partners to formulate ideas and their implementations”.
“we are asking through this rally for Akwa Ibom state government to sign up for the OGP, because Akwa Ibom state is the highest oil revenue earner in the south-south states. It’s indeed a travesty if Akwa Ibom state do not sign up the OGP”.
“Signing up to the OGP will mean commitment to transparency, commitment to accountability, commitment to citizens’ participation to a new way of doing government business”.
On his part, Mr Prince Ekpere, the Program Officer of Social Action, a Rivers State based Civil Society Organization, said OGP is a platform created for government and citizens to have equal space where they can sit down and discuss how development should be.
He said the OGP is centered around transparency and accountability “and these are the two major keys when you talk about governance”
He said without transparency and accountability, “You find out that the resources that are being used for development is from the people and the people need to understand that it is part of their incomes that form government’s income and as such citizens should be interested on how their money is being spent”.
“So OGP is about creating awareness, about engagement, about sensitization of the people to see how they can engage their government in the development of their society. If the government is open, there will be accountability, transparency, their will be security, citizens will be involved in the building and the development of their communities”.
Mr Ekpere also used the medium to call on all southerners to have a peaceful, non-violent and credible elections. He urged the youths, women and men in south-south to guard their PVCs and vote wisely and never to be lured to sell their votes, because their votes are their power. He also urged Niger Deltans to vote in credible candidates that will bring development to all of the states in the Niger Delta.