At the end of 2019, Nigeria’s parliament passed a record 10.59 trillion Naira ($35bn) budget for 2020. The goal was to fully shake the country out of the impact of a four-year recession. This did not go as planned. In 2020, the world was hit by a coronavirus pandemic upsetting social, economic, and political activities globally. Oil prices fell drastically. In consequence, beyond responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, the monolith budget had no significant effect on development across the country.
Prior to the pandemic, all Nigerian statistical data was absurd for a country not at war. At least 300 people die every hour in Nigeria. Malaria alone killed 250 people every day in 2019. Two people die every four hours on Nigerian roads. On the security front, the country has been fighting against an Islamist insurgency for over ten years, with over 6,000 people dead and millions of people displaced. Even though Nigeria also has one of the highest youth populations in the world (80million), half of this number are without jobs.
A connecting factor to this increasing data of doom and system failure is corruption. However, corruption alone did not sustain over 50 years of failure. Corruption is driven by an opaque system without efficient accountability measures. With a system ravaged by corruption, the lack of public and private sector accountability at all levels of government is further amplified. A problem that organizations such as the Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC) are working to address.
Introducing bottom-to-top accountability
Anti-corruption campaigns are as old as Nigeria itself. A series of reforms have been attempted by previous administrations with no tangible effects. These reforms have taken a top to bottom approach - targeting high profile corrupt officials, political scandals, and big institutions. A look at the reason why this has not worked will reveal that the more evident problems are at a lower level: the mismanagement of healthcare services, schools, roads, markets, and public institutions spread around over 774 local governments across Nigeria.
PPDC is changing the playing field. Through its array of programs, the organization is activating citizens with knowledge, techniques, tools, and approaches to demand the type of governance they deserve. The approach here is simple. The bulk of the people who go out every four years to vote in a new administration are largely artisans, labourers, market men/women, and small business owners. When corrupt practices occur at government departments, even at the Federal level, it is the life of these citizens that are being affected the most.
It is within these vital and sensitive areas that the PPDC has been operating - helping ordinary citizens understand how governance works. Beyond ordinary citizens the organization is equally aiding journalists to organize information, guiding CSO’s with tools for focused advocacy, and supporting existing government departments with new ways to become more transparent and accountable.
In 2018, through the support of the MacArthur Foundation, PPDC organized a series of training geared to equip Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), professional bodies, and media practitioners with standard open contracting knowledge and practices. These efforts quickly translated into tremendous results. By the end of 2020, more than ten subnational governments had implemented the OCDS under their Open Government Partnership’s commitment and fiscal reform initiatives, with seven of these states supported by the PPDC.
Leveraging tech towards accountability
Governance is improved by the active citizenry. Every day, the average cosmopolitan Nigerian uses technology: An app for buying electricity from Disco’s, Uber for moving around the city, WhatsApp, and Facebook for connecting with friends and family, Twitter for breaking news, and Google Maps for locating places. There has been limited availability of technology that helps citizens regularly connect with their government. Budeshi is leading the way.
In Hausa, the word Budeshi loosely translates to ‘Open It’. PPDC is using this term to describe an online platform that links budget and procurement data to various public services using the Open Contracting Data
Standards (OCDS). With Budeshi, the organization is supporting citizens and civil society organisations to monitor the award of contracts and their implementation more adequately. This means incomplete schools, hospitals with pending improvements, dilapidated government projects or the progress on harmful and dangerous roads can be monitored. This translates to ensuring that individuals and institutions tasked with development responsibilities can be better held accountable.
Through each of its approaches, PPDC is striking at the heart of the problem. Transparency at the heart of public and private institutions will guard against the mismanagement of critical infrastructure. Also, citizen participation within governance structures, amplified by transparency in public procurement is a pivotal tool in the fight for good governance.