CSO says citizens’ participation key to achieving accountability in governance

By Angela Atabo

“Say No Campaign’’, a Civil Society Organisation (CSO) on Friday said fighting corruption through citizens participation remained crucial to achieving accountability in governance.

Convener, Say No Campaign, Ezenwa Nwagwu said this at the Close-Out ceremony of the group’s Campaign Project in Abuja.

Nwagwu, said the Say No Campaign-Nigeria project presented an opportunity for its networks at the state level to intensify the anti-corruption movement in the country.

He said that this was because individuals at the local levels were most relevant in driving community development and good governance in their communities.

He, however, said that while communities were complaining about unaccountable leadership, the personal responsibility needed to hold leaders accountable was being ignored by citizens.

This he said was making some leaders to trample on their rights and privileges.

He said that in order to change the narrative, transform communities to enable government work for the people, his organisation designed an accountability movement to be driven by community members.

According to him, the aim is to influence budgets, monitor and score implementation of government projects.

“The way the programme is structured is to give it back to the people, we ensure that it is not just going to be our programme.

“This is because part of the challenge that we are facing is that people have outsourced the anti-corruption fight to be Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption fight and there is nothing like that.

“Even though the constitution has made it compelling for government to abolish corrupt practices, the people are the ones who suffer the brunt of the consequences of corruption.

“Across our country, you will find scattered all over the place abandoned projects in communities, we started thinking about what to do and the MacArthur Foundation gave us the support.’’

Nwagwu said that the group took the campaign to communities, trained people and engaged them to be able to by themselves begin to see how they could deal with the challenges they face on daily basis.

“We started doing this with traditional and religious leaders and went into communities, we engaged labour groups, we had lawyers network against corruption among others.’’

Mr James Ugochukwu, the Programme Manager, while sharing the reflection of the project said that the group’s resolve to engage community members to monitor projects paid off.

Ugochukwu said that by their participation in the process of governance, they identified and articulated their needs, engaged representatives and government institutions, tracked government responses and activities in the interest of accountability.

“Over the last four years, say No campaign prioritised deepening anti-corruption awareness, mobilising and harmonising citizens’ voices against corruption, building citizens’ capacity to effectively engage governance, and mobilising citizen’s oversight on government programmes and initiatives.

“Say No Campaign inaugurated various citizens groups at grassroots and elite levels in Akwa Ibom, Borno, Enugu, Lagos, Kano, Edo and the FCT.’’

A representative of MacArthur Foundation, Mr Dayo Olaide , Deputy Director of the Foundation commended Say No Campaign for the work done in the last four years in communities .

Oliade said that the project was a wakeup call to Nigerians who had normalised the problems they face in communities due to failure of leaders every day.

“We have become dead to the sensitivity of the issues and that is something that is playing out in our subconscious that we cannot do anything and so the approach that Say No Campaign has done is to counter that logic.

“They demonstrated that indeed we can change the situation whether normalised or not, we can change it and create a new normal, what Say No Campaign has done is a project.

“It is not a project that will defeat corruption in Nigeria, it is citizens’ movement that will defeat corruption in Nigeria and so what Say No Campaign has done is to sow a seed for that movement.’’

Olaide urged a stop of “it does not concern me’’ approach to life or the “if it does not affect me it does not concern me’’ way of life to begin to show more interest and be more active in changing bad situations around them.

Alhaji Abu Garba ,a traditional leader from  Rimba Ebagi, Abaji, thanked Say No Campaign for the imitative, adding that it had availed participants knowledge of how to demand accountability from government .

“Say No Campaign taught me how to monitor projects, so we followed the Rimba, Ebagi road project across river Gurara that was awarded because our people could not cross the river.

“The contract was given for more than eight to nine years and even though all the money was paid, nothing was being done on the roads except when Say No Campaign came.

Garba called on the government to assist the community in connecting to mobile network as well as the fencing of the community’s primary healthcare centre and their primary and secondary schools. (NAN)