The Buhari Administration, Nigeria And Open Government Partnership
By admin On 7 Jun, 2016 At 02:53 AM | Categorized As Opinion | With 0 Comments

Open Government PartnershipNigeria has been faced with the challenge of effectively utilising its resources to support equitable economic growth, effective service delivery and social cohesion. One of the major driving forces for the development blockade is lack of openness, transparency and accountability in governance. Therefore, if government and citizens embrace open government principles in a tailored stakeholder engagement, then the blockades will be dealt with and reform will take place that will lead ultimately to effective policy, effective budget and effective implementation. This is why the Open Government Partnership signed by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration in May, 2016 is a commendable move.

OPEN GOVERNMENT PARTNERSHIP

The Open Government Partnership was launched on 20th September, 2011 to provide an international platform for domestic reformers to make their governments more open, accountable and responsive to citizens. The partnership is governed by four key principles. The first principle is requiring that information on government activities and decisions is open, comprehensive, timely and freely available to the public, and meets basic open data standards. The second principle is accountability to ensure that rules, regulations, and mechanisms are in place that call upon government actors to justify their actions, act upon criticisms or requirements made of them and accept responsibility for failure to perform. The third principle is requiring governments to seek to mobilize citizens to engage in public debate, provide input, and make contributions that lead to more responsive and effective governance. The fourth principle is technology           and      Innovation making it an obligation for governments to embrace the importance of new technologies in driving innovation, providing citizens with open access to technology, and increasing their capacity to use technology.

The Open Government Partnership (OGP) was launched by eight founding governments of Brazil, Indonesia, Philippines, Mexico, Norway, South Africa, United Kingdom and United States when they formally adopted the Open Government Declaration and announced their national action plans.  Since the formal launching, the number of countries that have joined the partnership has grown to 69 representing more than a third of the world’s population.

For any country to join the partnership, it must meet the eligibility criteria, embrace open government declaration and develop a national action plan with concrete open government reform commitments developed with public consultation and commitment to independent reporting on progress.  The minimum eligibility criteria is that the government must exhibit a demonstrated commitment to open government in four key areas, as measured by objective indicators and validated by independent experts. The four areas are fiscal transparency; access to information; income and asset disclosure and citizen engagement.  In terms of fiscal transparency, there should be timely publication of essential budget documents. There should be an access to information law that guarantees the public’s right to information. In addition, there should be rules that require public disclosure of income and assets for elected and senior public officials. Finally, there should be basic protections for civil liberties and an openness to citizen engagement and participation in policymaking and governance.

Every government that joins the partnership is expected to prepare a national action plan. The national action plan is expected to be created by government and civil society by identifying commitments that are most important to the context of the country. The preparation of the national action plan should be through a multi-stakeholder process, with active engagement of citizens and the civil society. National Action Plans are at the very heart of OGP. It is therefore important that the national action plans are ambitious, effective and relevant to open government.  All governments who subscribe to Open Government Partnership are expected to prepare an annual self-assessment report every year.

The Open Government Partnership is overseen by an international steering committee of nine governments and nine leading civil society representatives. The OGP support unit connects countries with the resources they need to develop innovative and effective open government initiatives.

OGP has also positioned itself as one of the main implementing partners of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The 2015 OGP report indicated that countries are using different initiatives to operationalize open government including accountability hearings (at all levels of government); engaging citizens; using data visualisations and applications to educate citizens and raise awareness; using social media; using traditional methods such as town criers and citizen journalism.

Several mechanisms have been developed to support open government and promote government reforms including exchange programmes to improve peer learning and collaboration; thematic working groups sharing expertise in important open government policy areas; and multilateral partners supporting action plan development and implementation. The next OGP global summit will hold in Paris from 7th -9thDecember, 2016,

NIGERIA AND OPEN GOVERNMENT PARTNERSHIP

At the conference on tackling corruption organised at the Marlborough house in the UK on 11th May, 2016, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari announced that Nigeria is joining the OGP. Nigeria will be the 70th member and the 12th African nation to join the partnership. The government committed itself to open contracting, an approach whereby transparency frameworks are applied to procurement systems in obligated countries.

A group of CSOs under the platform of Open Alliance have been campaigning for transparency in governance and public finance in Nigeria. The organisations that make up Open Alliance include BudgIT Nigeria, Private Public Development Centre, Enough is Enough (EiE) Nigeria, Connected Development, Partners for Democratic Change, CLEEN Foundation, WANGONeT, CISLAC, ONE, Natural Resource Governance Institute and Omidyar Network. There are many other platforms pushing for open government in Nigeria including the Nigeria Resource Governance Group led by the African Centre for Leadership, Strategy & Development, Citizens Wealth Platform led by CSJ, Catalyst for Peace and Justice Initiative (CPJ) and Open Budget Advocacy Group led by CIRDDOC.

NIGERIA, OGP AND ENGAGED CITIZENS

One of the principles of Open Government is engagement of citizens. Any government that joins Open Government Partnership must seek to mobilise citizens to the involved in the governance process. This means that the Buhari administration must change its approach to governance as a member of the Open Governance Partnership. In the first year of his administration, citizens and civil society did not participate actively in the governance process. Up till this moment, the President has no adviser on Civil Society. The government announced that there is a committee preparing medium term and long term development strategy but there is no civil society or private sector participation. The economic team has no civil society or private sector participation. The Police Service Commission has no civil society representation. The President has not held any meeting with civil society since he assumed office. All of these are against the principles of Open Government Partnership. The government need to quickly correct all of these as a member of Open Government Partnership. In addition, information on government activities is not proactively made available to citizens. The amount recovered from looters has just been made public without information on who returned them. Some members of the administration appear to be hostile to criticism against the spirit of Open Government Partnership. There is no consistent policy and approach to utilise technology to eliminate discretion. In most countries of the world today, payment at airports and other public places is done with technology.

Citizens and civil society have great roles to play in Open Government Partnership. Civil Society Organisations need to advocate and campaign for adherence to the principles of Open Government Partnership that the government has voluntarily signed. There is the need to facilitate multi-stakeholder platform of engagement on Open Government Partnership. In line with the principles of Open Government, the citizens and civil society are expected to participate actively in crafting the national action plan for Nigeria. Having signed the declaration, Nigeria need to start the process immediately.

CONCLUSION

Nigeria has taken the commendable step of joining the Open Government Partnership. There is the need to immediately start the process of producing a national action plan with active involvement of citizens and civil society organisations. Nigeria should follow the international practice by setting up a steering committee made up of equal number of government and civil society representatives. This should not be another declaration without implementation. Even before the production of the national action plan, the government should begin to align the governing processes to the principles of accountability, technology and innovation, citizen participation and transparency as outlined on the Open Government Partnership.

 

Dr. Otive Igbuzor is a Pharmacist, Human Rights Activist, Policy Analyst, Development Expert and Strategist. He holds a doctorate degree in Public Administration.

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