Adopt Open Government policy – CSOs urge Governor Eno

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By Lovina Anthony

Civil society organisations have encouraged Akwa Ibom State governor, Pastor Umo Eno, to adopt Open Government Partnership (OGP) in his programmes to ensure transparent, inclusive, and participatory government.

The call was made at a Learning Event Series organised by the Niger Delta Open Government Observatory (NOGO) in Uyo, themed “Agenda Setting for the New Administration: The OGP Perspective.”

Speaking at the event, Uchenna Arisukwu, Civil Society Adviser at the OGP National Secretariat, Abuja, said OGP is not just a global mechanism aimed at achieving good governance but an invaluable mechanism that also draws international support and partnership to the states that signed on to it.

Noting that 25 states, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), have so far signed onto OGP, he urged the Akwa Ibom government to follow suit to engender good governance and reduce restiveness.

According to him: “OGP helps the government articulate its activities and most often gets international support. When a state supports the OGP, we are sending a message to the international partners that such a state is transparent and safe, so they can come and invest. OGP grants international exposure. For instance, a state like Kaduna has so many donor projects because it signed onto the OGP.

Secondly, OGP brings the government and the people closer, it bridges mutual distrust because the government has a better relationship with the people. Citizens can now be part of the governance process as everything is laid bare. The citizens would be the ones monitoring government projects in every location because they have become government’s eyes and ears.”

Also speaking, the Executive Director, Greater Tomorrow Initiative, Ndifreke Patrick, said Governor Umo Eno should maximise the opportunity to key into the process to gain the citizens’ trust from the start and reduce corruption.

He urged the government to unveil the action plan in its priority areas and ensure its implementation.

Patrick said fiscal transparency should be encouraged in the state and regretted that the previous administration failed to adopt the policy despite repeated calls from civil society organisations.

His words: “We know that within the last eight years of Udom Emmanuel’s administration, about N2.3 trillion was accrued to the state. Within the context of public money that is spent on behalf of the public, vis-à-vis the development initiative, impact, and effect received in society, will we say that there was judicious use of the public funds in terms of fulfilling the agenda?

“The way governance is run in Nigeria, there is this opacity in how citizens are engaged. Sometime last year, civil society took an opposing stand against the state government’s frequent invitations to public engagement activities. They kept calling us to engage in public policy programmes, but at the end of the day, we will not see our recommendations and inputs reflected in the final output and the implementation.

“The clarion call is that the administration is very young. Why not set that precedent or framework for your government to ensure that the way and manner in which you are going to run your programmes and administration will be transparent, inclusive, and participatory so that the mighty hydra-headed thing called corruption will be tackled? It will die a natural death.”

He said further: “The first thing this administration should do is make Umo Eno’s ARISE agenda Akwa Ibom State’s agenda. The way to achieve that is to allow the people to interrogate and engage in the process of that agenda and to know their priorities and what they want. Within the Niger Delta subregion, government should allow citizens to engage and participate in whatever they come up with and ensure their opinions count.”

On his part, the Executive Director of Policy Alert, Mr Tijah Bolton Akpan, called on the states that have signed onto the OGP to firm it up with implementation.

He noted that five states in the Niger Delta have so far signed on, stressing that if the remaining four would follow suit, the Niger Delta would be more developed than it is presently.

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