Nigeria: OGP CEO leads delegation as National Action Plan is drafted

For the first time in the history of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) initiative, a high-powered delegation came to oversee the developmental stages of Nigeria’s National Action Plan. This momentous occasion occurred on October 23, when OGP CEO Sanjay Pradhan led his team to a roundtable with civil society organisations (CSOs) and individuals from the private sector. The event was to enable stakeholders to review a draft of the National Action Plan put forward by the Open Alliance Nigeria, discuss best strategies to engage with government, and delineate their roles in the run-up to Nigeria’s official joining of the Open Government Partnership.

Mr. Pradhan discussed OGP’s phenomenal growth in the last half-decade with the audience, highlighting examples of specific commitments that have brought about unprecedented change in other countries, and noting the opportunities that lie ahead for Nigeria in the fight against corruption. While praising Open Alliance Nigeria for the work done so far, he reminded participants that the months ahead require greater dedication, and reiterated the need for CSOs to work together and speak with coherence and clarity of purpose in its impending interactions with government. Participants emphasized the need to expand the membership of the alliance, ensuring a wider geographical spread and more importantly, sought the inclusion of community-based organisations (CBOs).

In the planning stages of this exceptional event, OGP’s Regional Civil Society Coordinator for Africa and the Middle East, Maureen Kariuki, enthusiastically shared our wish to make the meeting a learning opportunity for CSOs. Aidan Eyakuze, who is Executive Director of Twaweza East Africa and a member of OGP’s Steering Committee, delivered invaluable insights on managing the Action Plan process with favourable outcomes. He spoke on geniality and mutual respect; when to let go and how to come out with a chance at the table, as opposed to one standing across the street and shouting.

What has been the impact of OGP Commitments? What has succeeded and failed? What lessons can Nigeria learn? Deputy CEO of OGP Joe Powell, along with Ms. Kariuki, discussed the elements that contribute to a sound National Action Plan and how CSOs can best utilise the opportunity. Both advised that best practices include finding true reformers within government and explore how best to work with them. They also noted that these reformers are human; not always perfect, as exemplified in Kenya, but nevertheless likely to present an opportunity that helps both sides achieve their aim, ultimately moving Nigeria forward.

The final discussion covered an evaluation of the draft National Action Plan developed by the Open Alliance in March 2016 during its campaign for Nigeria to join OGP.  This document targets 5 broad areas - Open Budget, Open Contracting, Citizen Access to Information, Open Legislature and Extractive Industry Transparency.

As expected, participants were extremely vocal about the document, their passion understandably sustained by ongoing allegations of corruption in Nigeria. Overwhelmingly, the consensus expressed was a need to change how commitments are framed, and a call to include measurable activities within the Plan. During the engaging and lively session, it was noted that a commitment tackled grand corruption, but not service delivery. Some attendees cited possible redundancy when three commitments related to the extractives industry were discussed. Others contended that a specific commitment centered on open legislature did not include a sub-commitment to put lawmakers’ budgets in the public domain.

Mr. Pradhan remained an active participant throughout the proceedings, encouraging participants, especially all Steering Committee members, to be “ambitious” with the commitments they agree to with government, given they are speaking on behalf of millions of citizens. This worthy sentiment and call to action wrapped up what was a day of frank talk, learning and activism for CSOs in Africa’s most populous nation. Nigeria is expected to present its National Action Plan in Paris at the OGP Global Summit in December, where President Buhari will be hosted by his French counterpart Francois Hollande. After that, full implementation of its commitments will begin in-country, augmented with monitoring and evaluation by civil society organisations.

Authors: Stanley Achonu
Filed Under: OGP News