By Edu Abade, Business Editor
As the 2023 general elections draw nearer, civil society organisations (CSOs) have stressed the need to strengthen the anti-corruption fight to engender public accountability, transparency and sustainable service delivery in the country.
To successfully achieve the goal, the Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ) in collaboration with other civil society groups and stakeholders, organised a one-day inception summit in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, to brief stakeholders on ANEEJ Strengthening Civil Advocacy and Local Engagement (SCALE) project to spell out clear roles and communicate project goals to all stakeholders.
Prior to the meeting, ANEEJ revealed that it was responsible for anchoring the anti-corruption cluster under the SCALE project with eight cluster organisations in six states of Abia, Edo, Delta, Imo, Ondo, Rivers and the FCT, Abuja.
It explained that the project covers a five-year period from October 8, 2020 to October 7, 2025, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and being implemented by Palladium in collaboration with Nigerian resource partners, The Trumpet gathered.
In his opening remarks titled: Enhancing Anti-Corruption and Social Inclusive Reform Initiatives In Nigeria, Executive Director of ANEEJ, Reverend David Ugolor, explained that the meeting was aimed at strengthening the financial, management and advocacy capacity of local civil society organisations to create a more accountable, transparent, peaceful and democratic Nigeria with more effective and efficient public service delivery.
“We consider this project is an important one that seeks to promote and engage in anti-corruption policy reforms at both the national and sub-national levels. The SCALE project is a five-year project being implemented by Palladium and its resource partners with funds from USAID. It is designed to enhance local civil society organizations’ ability to be positive and responsible change agents in Nigeria.
“It is designed following the anchor cluster model adopted by Palladium to promote and engage in anti-corruption policy reforms. ANEEJ is the anchor for the Anti-Corruption cluster under the SCALE project working with eight cluster organisations in Abia, Edo, Delta, Imo, Ondo, Rivers and the FCT, Abuja,” he stated.
He also explained that the cluster organisations are 21st Century Community Empowerment for youth and Women Initiative, Abuja; Community Empowerment and Development Initiative (CEDI), Warri, Delta State; Community Heritage Watch for Development Initiative (KAI) Akure, Ondo State and Christian Fellowship and Care Foundation (CFCF), Owerri, Imo State.
Others are Foundation for Environmental Rights, Advocacy and Development (FENRAD), Aba, Abia State; Gender and Development Action (GADA) Port Harcourt, Rivers State; Joint Association of Persons With Disability (JONAPWD), Edo State Chapter and New Apostolic Church Centre for Development (NCD), Benin City, Edo State.
Ugolor added that besides the anti-corruption component, the SCALE project was also designed to address reforms, as well as issues of transparency and accountability in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and six oil and gas producing states of Abia, Delta, Edo, Imo, Rivers and Ondo.
“This explains why we have invited officials from these institutions to the meeting, as important stakeholders of the project. Interventions will include advocacy for passage of pending Anti-Corruption Bills, the NDDC Act Amendment Bill, among others currently before the National Assembly.
“The project will also support oversight and implementation of the Nigeria’s International anti-corruption and asset recovery commitments; Oil and Gas Producing Areas Development Commissions (PADECS) among others. Our cluster will also advocate for the mainstreaming of anti-corruption issues into the country upcoming 2023 general elections discourse,” he said.
He charged all presidential and gubernatorial aspirants in the 2023 general elections to tell Nigerians how they plan to tackle corruption, ensure transparency and accountability in governance if they win their respective political position.
Ugolor also urged political parties to tell Nigerians their plans toward anti-corruption reforms as they campaign around the country seeking the support of Nigerians ahead of the polls.
The inception meeting was facilitated by Deputy Executive Director of ANEEJ, Leo Atakpu with assistance from the Assistant Director, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Mrs. Ebi Ake, who represented the Acting Managing Director; representative of the Chairman, Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC), Bawo Yalaju; Executive Director, Community Empowerment and Development Initiative (CEDI), Mrs. Onose Martha.
In his presentation, Atakpu cited the theory of change, which illustrates that: “If CSOs build capacity and work collaboratively and if they effectively engage government institutions to advocate reforms and there is enabling environment and government is receptive to CSOs, using the Multi-Stakeholder Platform of OGP, CSOs can influence government in key anti-corruption reforms, which will improve transparency, accountability and service delivery.’’
He also highlighted the key strategies and approach as well as activities to achieve the project’s goals and objectives.
Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) Officer for the project, Sandra Eguagie, in her presentation, highlighted the plan for the project cycle, which she said, include indicators and units of measurement of the indicators and success.
She concluded by stating the social value of the project, which is the number of persons lifted from poverty through anti-corruption activities, infrastructure development and social inclusion as a result of interventions emanating from the project.
“Clear roles and project goals and objectives were communicated to key stakeholders. Stakeholders now have clearer understanding of the ANEEJ-SCALE Enhancing Anti-corruption and Social Inclusive Reforms Initiatives in Nigeria project. They expressed interest in working with ANEEJ at all levels to deliver on this project and fight corruption, as it has killed the country,” she added.
National Coordinator of Publish What You Pay Campaign (PWYP) in Nigeria, Comrade Taiwo Otitelaye, Dr. Palterson Ogon of the NDDC, representatives of Civil Society Organisations, government officials, journalists and People Living With Disabilities (PLWDs).
In their good will messages, Ake appreciated ANEEJ for the invitation to the event saying that the NDDC was disposed and inclined to the project, which focuses on social inclusive reforms in the Niger Delta States as it aligns with the commission’s objectives to positively impact members of the communities and bring development to the region.
She stated that the commission will identify with anything that will bring succor and a sense of responsibility to the people of the region assuring that the constitutional review of the NDDC Act would ensure internal best services for service delivery and expressed readiness to work with ANEEJ to actualize this.
Also, representative of DESOPADEC, Yalaju thanked ANEEJ for convening the event, saying that as an interventionist agency, it was concerned about infrastructure development and also as a grassroots agency, partnering with ANEEJ was a welcome development. He stated that he will relate the outcome of the meeting to the Chairman for appropriate action.
On her part, Executive Director of CEDI, Mrs. Martha Onose, who spoke on behalf of the cluster members, commended ANEEJ for the project, adding that working with ANEEJ on the SCALE Project remained a big plus for the organisation.
Executive Secretary of the Administration of Criminal Justice Monitoring Committee (ACJMC), Sulaiyman Dawuda, who was represented by Joshua Dada, expressed delight to be invited to the meeting pointing out that the ACJA supervises criminal justice in Nigeria and was also interested in anti-corruption crusade.
He further stated that the ACJA has been making reforms in the legislature through advocacy for the amendment of various bills and that progress is being made with continued advocacy since advocacy never ends.
Participants recommended that traditional rulers should be considered during advocacy visits because they represent various oil communities, while youth demography should be actively engaged in the implementation of the project in the communities since they constitute over 60 per cent of the population.
They also canvassed inclusion of People Living With Disabilities (PLWDs) should be invited and trained and involved during advocacy and partnership at all levels should be encouraged so that people can raise flag when and where necessary.
“Linking anti-corruption to the 2023 election is important, especially assets declaration by candidates. Politicians should declare their assets before and after their tenure and there should be increased public awareness in OGP NAP 2 as well as in NOCOPO, more so, government portal should be accessible to the citizens.
“NDDC projects should reflect the needs assessments of the communities and not that of the National Assembly. There is need for Nigerians to hold their representatives accountable, especially with respect to the projects they execute in their communities to know if those projects are based on needs assessment of the communities or whether they have been replaced by their representatives,” they said.
They also advocated the inclusion of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) as a tool to track anti-corruption, while compliance with the provisions of the electoral act should be a component of the indicators of success in the anti-corruption fight.