The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is an international framework designed to advance government transparency, accountability, and responsiveness to citizens, “with the ultimate goal of improving the quality of governance and services that citizens receive.” Through the framework, government and civil society actors are committed to co-designing, implementing, and evaluating benchmarks for government transparency and accountability reforms.
Nigeria became the 70th country to join this initiative in 2016, and as of July 2022, twenty-three (23) states and FCT-Abuja have subsequently signed on to or expressed interest in the partnership. These states include Abia, Adamawa, Anambra Cross-River, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Enugu, FCT-Abuja, Gombe, Imo, Jigawa, Kano, Kaduna, Kebbi, Kogi, Nasarawa, Niger, Ondo, Plateau, Sokoto, Taraba, and Zamfara. This has been a collective work of CSOs in Nigeria whose work centres on accountability and transparency, which the OGP captures through its thematic areas such as Fiscal Transparency, Access to Information, Citizens’ Participation, Anti-corruption etc.
The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) supported the Open Alliance through BudgIT to strengthen civil society’s capacity to promote government transparency and accountability at the federal and state levels. In one of the activities, Open Alliance coordinated civil society’s engagement in the OGP at federal and state levels. The Open Alliance also facilitated the validation and harmonisation of Ekiti state’s Action Plan (SAP), which required the presence of both state and non-state actors, who co-created the SAP with the support of the OGP secretariat. The Open Alliance and the OGP secretariat are also monitoring the implementation phase of the OGP in the state. The OGP recorded many successes, but this post will focus on the learning outcomes. Some of them are highlighted below:
What is the media’s role?
We observed that the media’s involvement in using the GovSpend portal contributed to the increase in the number of visits and use of the website. The media used the information on disbursement to contractors to run advocacy on project implementation. Though the information on the Open Treasury portal has not been consistent due to the technical issues reported by the government, CSOs and media see the GovSpend website as useful for tracking project disbursements.
AMAC joining the OGP changed the game.
Abuja Municipal Area Council’s commitment to the OGP should be applauded and emulated. With this act, they became one of the OGP Locals and the first “LGA” to join the OGP initiative. This has led to active citizen participation with the FCT. Other LGAs are beginning to see the importance of OGP due to the local and international attention and accolades AMAC receives.
Signing up for the OGP initiative as a municipality shows the administration’s commitment to transparency and accountability issues. The Municipal developed its action plan and began participatory budgeting to effectively implement the council’s OGP commitment, improving citizens’ engagement and participation in the budget process. The implementation of AMAC’s action plan commenced with developing and disseminating its 2022 budget calendar for public awareness and participation in the budget process. The participatory budgeting exercise has improved the citizens’ engagement in the municipality, which is one of the merits of democracy.
Citizen’s Engagement on Political Integrity and Accountability
From the #SayNoToVoteBuying campaign to the election in Osun State, it was observed that citizens have a better understanding of the implications of vote trading, which showed in the less reportage on issues of vote trading during the Osun Elections when compared to other elections before them. Despite the knowledge, not enough publicity was given to the issue.
Although the clause of co-creation was a key point in developing the commitments and implementation, not much collaboration was happening during the development and implementation phase. Civil society found it difficult to work with state actors who were not as involved in the process or accessible. However, it may be worthy of time investment to identify and encourage a symbiotic relationship between lead CSOs and lead agencies. This will make co-creation and implementation smoother. To this end, state actors will be required to commit and guarantee that these commitments are fulfilled personally.
Does the awareness of OGP reforms still revolve around a few government officials and CSOs?
The goal is for the OGP to create enough visibility and be viewed as a reform mechanism by Nigerians. However, six years after signing up for the OGP principles, the awareness still revolves around a few government officials and CSOs. A complete understanding of what the OGP represents to citizens and how they may participate in the conversation is needed. One of such way is to leverage channels, such as new media, that can be used to harness citizens’ voices outside of civil society, simplify terminologies, and generate interest in the OGP.
The impact and success of this project were due to the willingness and dedication of both state and non-state actors. It is important to note that the remaining 13 states yet to join the OGP principles can be supported by CSOs who understand the OGP concept. This support would come in the form of advocacy or capacity building for the local CSOs, who in turn use the skills to advocate for their state governments to sign up for the OGP. The development partners with transparency and accountability portfolios can assist these CSOs in achieving the expansion of the OGP to the sub-national level.
Lastly, the next phase for these sub-nationals is to track and monitor the implementation progress and measure the initiative’s successes. The OGP secretariat has developed a monitoring framework for tracking action plans at the national and state levels. The Open Alliance is ready to take up this task to ensure that more states in Nigeria are recognised globally for good governance.