Stallion Times Trains Journalists, CSOs on Tracking Constituency Projects

Isiyaku Ahmed
Editor-in-Chief, Stallion Times Media Service

Stallion Times Media Services has trained about 40 journalists and representatives of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) on how to track constituency projects in Kogi State.

The two-day workshop which took place on October 18 and 19 in Lokoja, the Kogi State capital was part of efforts to enhance accountability on duty bearers in the area of constituency projects both at state and federal levels. It was conducted on the participatory governance and media literacy project tagged “Get Involve, Dialogue and Improve (G-DIP).

The workshop was also conducted to build the capacity of journalists and CSO representatives on budget processes and procedures and to improve journalists’ capacity on writing investigative stories on constituency projects in Kogi state. Participants were drawn from CSOs working in the area of People with Disability, Women, Children and Vulnerable people, Human Rights, Advocacy, Civic Education, and the Media.

Project Coordinator and Editor-in-Chief, Stallion Times Media Service, Isiyaku Ahmed in his opening remarks stressed the need for journalists and CSOs to have a platform or mechanism for engaging the budget processes, and procedures and tracking constituency projects in the state.

He urged participants to advocate for the proper utilization of E-procurement and project monitoring bureaus in the state to check the excesses of contracts. He encouraged CSOs to ensure projects are assigned to appropriate MDAs which have the mandate of overseeing them.

Ahmed said the inability of many MDAs to effectively supervise project implementation has led to the poor execution of many projects thereby wasting taxpayers’ money.

Delivering his presentation on sensitization and media advocacy, Ahmed defined sensitization as the attempt to create awareness of an idea, event, situation or phenomenon with the aim of causing a response while he explained media advocacy to mean a way of influencing decision-makers on problems to fix, solution to implement, an idea/person to celebrate or challenging an opposing force, through all media outlets that matter.

He encouraged CSOs to collaborate with the media, share ideas, and track constituency projects for the common good of the state.

The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Kogi State Council Chairman, Adeiza Momoh-Jimoh, represented by Ibrahim Obansa, commended Stallion Times Media Services for the constant support in training members of the union and other journalists in the state. He described the training as key for journalists and CSOs.

He said “This training will indeed empower more journalists to track not just constituency projects, but any other project that is contained in the state’s budget.”

He then urged the participants to hit the ground running and track abandoned projects in various constituencies for public interest.

Ambassador Idris Ozovehe Muraina, Chairman, Kogi Non-governmental Organization Network (KONGONET), represented by the Secretary, Ben Joshua said with this capacity building training CSOs skills have been improved to hold government accountable. He thanked Stallion Times for the initiative.

“As a civil society advocate, this training has immensely added value to my job because my organizations’ major thematic area is good governance.”

“Some NGOs do not know they can also track abandoned project by studying the budget and asking relevant stakeholders involved, but now, we know,” he added.

Henry Omokhaye, the Budget Consultant from BudgIT Foundation, took the participants through the basics of budget impact analysis and tracking constituency projects. He described tracking constituency project as the act of monitoring the progress of nominated projects by legislators to ascertain the actual progress of work done.

Delving of the benefits of budget tracking, Henry said it helps to ensure that projects that are scheduled within the budget meet and maintain certain standard that are required for improved service delivery; helps to enhance accountability, assess performance of projects and programs set by governments; and helps government institutions to make informed decisions on funds allocations during the budget development process.

Omokhaye noted that the major aim of the constituency projects includes to improve rural economy, standard of living, alleviate citizens from poverty, create employment and redistribute national resources to the communities.

He emphasized the need for journalists and CSOs to know the steps involve in tracking constituency projects.

The steps, according to him, include developing activity plan, goal, tasks, timelines, resources needed and indicators.

He added that it was necessary to identify critical stakeholders like the legislator, media, CSOs; Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), citizens and traditional rulers.

He encouraged participants to get budget document and extract constituency projects, visit sites and organize town-hall meetings to sensitize the citizens on their mission.

He also asked participants to prepare a tracking report and engage the legislators with their findings.

Abigail Oyenibi , a journalists with Radio Kogi said the training has answered the many questions in the minds of journalists in areas of abandoned projects.

“With this training we now know the documents for tracking a project to a logical conclusion.

“Before now I have never engaged in an in-depth investigation to write a report, but now I will definitely go beyond surface reporting,” she added.

Stallion Times Media Service organized the workshop as part of the Collaborative Media Engagement for Development Inclusivity and Accountability (CMEDIA) Project, with support from the MacArthur Foundation through Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ).