The Executive Director of Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Mr. Edetaen Ojo, has called on civil society organizations operating in states in the north-central geo-political zone of Nigeria to fully engage the Open Government Partnership (OGP) process as the country begins the implementation of its second National Action Plan (NAP), which will run from 2020 to 2021.
Speaking in Abuja at a Townhall engagement on the OGP process for the North Central zone, organized by Open Alliance Nigeria, Mr. Ojo, who is the Chair of the Steering Committee of civil society network and a former Co-Chair of OGP Nigeria, told representatives of civil society organizations at the event that “The OGP is not a spectator sport and our involvement in the OGP process should not be for the purpose of being spectators. Please engage the process fully because you will share equally in any credit for its success and in any blame for its failure. But let us be determined to succeed and be engaged accordingly.”
The Townhall engagement was sponsored by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), through a grant to BudgIT, which hosts the Secretariat of the Open Alliance.
Open Alliance is a group of civil society organisations engaged in the OGP process in Nigeria and seeking to promote good governance in Nigeria by ensuring that Nigeria derives maximum benefits from openness and transparency needed for inclusive development and efficient service delivery.
According to Mr. Ojo, Nigeria is entering a new phase in the OGP process following the unanimous approval by the National Steering Committee (NSC)of OGP Nigeria in September 2019 of the country’s second National Action Plan following a co-creation process as well as stakeholder and public consultations that spanned a period of about eight months, adding that the plan was thereafter endorsed on January 9, 2020 by President Muhammadu Buhari in a letter to the OGP Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Sanjay Pradhan.
Besides, he said, a new NSC was inaugurated on December 17, 2019 with the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN) and himself, as co-chairs, handing over the leadership of OGP Nigeria to Prince Clem Agba, the Minister of State for Finance, Budget and National Planning and Dr. Tayo Aduloju, the Chief Operations Officer of the Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG).
He described as “heartening” the significant participation by the various states in the OGP process, saying “At the moment, we have 14 states that have joined the OGP. These are: Abia, Adamawa, Anambra, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Enugu, Edo, Ekiti, Imo, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, and Niger States,” adding that Zamfara State has already sent in its Letter of Intent and would likely be joining soon.
Saying that “we have had a successful transition and are embarking on a fresh start”, he urged CSOs in the North Central zone to prepare themselves to fully engage the OGP process and as a first step, to take time to read and familiarize themselves with the second National Action Plan so that their engagement can be effective.
Mr. Ojo explained that the broad objective of the town hall engagement is to assist civil society partners in the North Central zone to deepen their understanding of the OGP process, identify issues and challenges ahead of them, which they need to address, and build their capacity to engage with governments, citizens, development partners and other stakeholders in order to improve their participation in the governance reform process in Nigeria.
He said the Open Alliance was keen to ensure that civil society and other non-state actors participating in the OGP process in this zone build and maintain a strong relationship among themselves; and that they have a clear understanding of their roles in the OGP process.
Mr. Ojo stressed that the Open Alliance hopes to ensure that non-state actors understand that besides co-creating the National Action Plan and various State Action Plans, “they must also be involved in implementing the activities identified in the plans as well as in monitoring and evaluating the Action Plans.”
He said the Open Alliance was therefore constantly seeking ways of providing support to non-state actors to ensure that they have the capacity to effectively play their roles in the process and to take ownership of the initiative.