The need for dialogue and collaboration between the government and the citizens to improve governance and service delivery in Nigeria formed the nexus of the 2024 Joinbodi Cohort’s recent report presentation and exhibition, spearheaded by the Budgit Foundation.
Held at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre in Abuja on Tuesday, January 30, the event brought together stakeholders from public, private, and civil society sectors to discuss the theme “Reforming Governance to Enhance Social Accountability – Cultivating People’s Power.”
Hadiza Bala Usman, the Special Adviser to President Bola Tinubu on Policy Coordination who was the special guest of honour, lamented the erosion of sustainable governance in the country. She stated that there were disconnects such as “distrust and mistrust that must be fixed quickly” to save the nation.
“More than ever before, our country needs conversation around good governance, accountability, and transparency. This is a clear link between the people and their government” she said.
Usman decried the long-standing threat posed by the capture of state apparatus by a select few individuals who have seemingly institutionalised the use of public office for personal gain.
Speaking further, she said “Over the years, sustainable governance in Nigeria has been threatened by clientelism and the capture of state apparatus by a few. These few have made the use of public office for private gain a state policy.
“This has undermined the foundation of our public structures and has created a fractured society where the rule of law and established processes are subjected to the interplay of conspiratorial manipulations.
The dire consequences of this distortion on public service delivery processes have reached a tipping point, needing urgent and resolute action. Usman called for a concerted effort to enhance effective service delivery and performance.
She stated that over time, public finance “seemed to be misappropriated and manipulated for certain gains,” citing the petroleum subsidy and foreign exchange scheme, which she said were instituted to provide comfort for citizens but had been subjected to selfish mismanagement by a privileged few.
“How do we attain a new face of social accountability where citizens-led actions play valuable roles in holding public office and service providers accountable for the usage of national resources?” she quizzed.
Usman acknowledged the role of civil society organisations in leading mass actions from the 1980s in which they have confronted anti-people economic measures. She said that the CSOs have further contributed to the delivery of public service.
She listed some of the significant victories of the CSOs, such as the Freedom of Information Act 2001, which redefined the concept of access to information by Nigerian citizens and disarmed the public sector from hiding behind opacity.
The guest speaker also noted the advocacy led to the adoption of the federal procurement framework supervised by the Bureau of Public Procurement at the national and sub-national levels, as well as the constant reform and review of the Electoral Act, which guided the operations of the Independent National Electoral Commission.
Observing other areas where the intervention of CSOs has brought positive action in the past two decades, she listed the reform of the criminal justice system, the fight against corruption, and the promotion of human rights and environmental development.
However, she admitted, in line with the Joinbodi Cohort’s research report that “much still needed to be done about improving transparency at the legislature and sub-national levels.”
“But it is safe to conclude that the CSOs have done a good job of facilitating citizenship and enhancing free speech,” she stated.
The Joinbodi Cohort is a cohort of civil society organisations working to deepen transparency and accountability in governance. Led by Budgit Foundation, their efforts have focused on open governance and budget reforms at both national and sub-national levels through stakeholder and institutional engagements, collaborations, partnerships, civic-tech innovation, and active citizen mobilisation.
Budgit also publishes in-depth reports, analyses, datasets, infographics, and publications on various aspects of the Nigerian budget and public finance, making them accessible to the general public to aid participatory governance and equitable society. Other members of the JoinBodi Cohort include CHRICED, Yar’Adua Foundation, HEDA Resource Centre, CLP, CODE, CISLAC, WRAPA, AGORA Policy among others.
The JoinBodi Cohort report presentation and CSO fair was also attended by Director Africa Office of the MacArthur Foundation, Dr. Kole Shettima and Minister for Budget and National Planning, Atiku Bagudu.