Abuja Municipal Council Wins Open Local Government Accountability Award

Allison Walsh
Chairman, Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC)

The Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) has won the Dean Initiative’s Open Local Government Accountability Award for being the council area in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) adjudged by the group to be the most accountable and transparent of all the six local government areas in the FCT.

DEAN Initiative an Abuja-based civil society organization said it started the Award to serve as a study tool on the relevance of the Open Governance System in promoting governance, accountability, and transparency at the local government level. As a starting point, it focused on the six Area Councils in FCT as start-ups, using the OGP local measurement, a surface-level assessment question adapted to mirror the public perception in judging the local government administration’s accessibility to describe the willingness of the local government administration to make its activities open for the citizens to engage with and to participate.

According to Dean Initiative, some questions contained in the questionnaire include:

  • Official website Address of the Area council
  • Official Email address of the area council
  • Official Email address of the Executive chairman
  • Official Phone Number for the Area council
  • Social media Handle
  • Official contact person for the area council
  • Do your area council have an FOI desk?
  • Do your area council have its current year Budget in the public domain?
  • Do your Area Council disclose its annual IGR to the public?
  • Number of community engagement and town hall meetings held in 2019
  • Presence of Area council’s chairman social media handles

The group disclosed that the responses from the Area Councils were extremely poor as only AMAC has a website and social media account that is active and engaging, the rest five Area Councils on the other hand, do not have website addresses; Bwari, Gwagwalada, Kuje, Kwali and Abaji Area Councils have Facebook accounts that are inactive. In other words, citizens do not have the opportunity of accessing the government whether through social media or have an idea of what they are doing in terms of activities on their websites.

AMAC, according to Dean Initiative, submitted a link of its budget publication, but its team discovered the link in fact led to an entirely different news material on other activities carried out by AMAC and not about the Council’s budget.

Again, only AMAC has active email address, the other 5 Area Councils do not have. All 6 Area Councils have contact persons and official phone numbers save Bwari, which does not have an official phone number.

Responses further showed that the FCT has a functional local government system, yet over these years, they have failed to adopt digital governance to deliver 21st-century leadership that supports accountability, transparency, and public participation in governance. AMAC has an FOI desk and showed copies of FOI requests received as well as some copies of responses sent. Bwari and Gwagwalada have FOI desks and contact persons, but Kuje, Kwali and Abaji do not have FOI desks. The assessment also showed that none of the Area Councils have a published Internally Generated Revenue (IGR). On Town Hall Meetings, only AMAC is recorded to have carried out Town Hall Meetings.

Dean Initiative said AMAC scored more highly than other area councils because it is the only local government in the FCT that has signed into the OGP Local, has adopted the OGP structure and mainstreamed the mechanism in the daily running of the governance system at the grassroots level.

The assessment carried out by Dean Initiative as the criteria for the Open LGA Accountability Award reveals the state of our local government administration, how far apart the local government areas are from the people at the grassroots, and how the government systems have been operating without public participation. It also shows that the gains provided through the OGP local, if accepted and signed into by the local government areas, will be provided with technical support to mainstream digital governance, adopt an open, transparent and accountable system of governance. The AMAC story shows that OGP mechanisms and structures support democracy and the rule of law, which is important at any level of government, especially at the local level where the government is expected to be closest to the people.