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Bringing open governance to Enugu

 

 

Enugu State government recently developed an action plan for full implementation of Open Government Partnership (OGP), an international multistakeholder governance platform that promotes citizens participation in policy formulation and good governance through accountability, transparency and innovations.

 

Kaduna, Anambra, Kano, Niger, Edo, Abia, Imo, Ebonyi, Enugu, Adamawa, Jigawa are states that have formally signed onto the OGP. Ekiti is the first of the six south-west states in Nigeria to declare intent to join this initiative. But since Enugu State signed into the programme in 2018, it was yet to begin implementation.

 

This is because there are processes and structures to be put on the ground for the smooth take off of the programme in any state. The State Commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning, Mr. David Ugwunta, recently confirmed that the state is now at the final stages for take-off of the programme in the state.

 

He spoke to journalists at the end of a three-day ‘Enugu State Open Government Partnership State Action Plan Development Workshop’ at Nike Lake Hotel, Enugu. Ugwunta stated that the state signed into the programme in 2018 but yet to begin implementation.

 

Ugwunta, who is the OGP Co-chairman, government side, said that with the formulation, harmonization and ratification of the state action plan, the document would now be sent to the national OGP office, Abuja, which will in turn transmit same to the international OGP office for final approval for implementation in the state.

 

“Just like the name implies, OGP is all about open government partnership, which has been there and Enugu state has signed up about two years ago but is yet to draw up its state action plan which will be a major phase into the implementation of the OGP principles in the state.

 

“Why the state joined is that Enugu state is at the forefront of making the government open, encouraging citizen’s participation in policy formulation and implementation among other things. Of course like when you talk about the budget.

 

“The major benefit to the people is that before now it seems as if the people are not carried along in the, not just implementation, but in creation of policies; so the major benefit is that now before government thinks of policies, before government thinks of activities, there is a co-creation whereby the citizens are part of it through civil society organizations; so that at the end of the day, you know that policies that are being designed have citizens’ input.

 

“Of course you know that when policies have citizen input they will be welcomed by everyone; everybody will grab such policy and see that implementation is achieved so that the gains of such policy are actually achieved.

 

“So, OGP is just about promoting good governance through transparency, accountability and citizen’s participation; engagement through innovation as well as the use of technology in driving government processes and activities,” he said.

 

Shedding more light on the programme, Dr. Kingsley Tochi Ude (Esq), the State Focal Person on OGP, who also serves as Special Adviser to the State Governor on Education, and Barr Crownwell Chibuzor, the Co-chairman of OGP, civil society side; expressed optimism that in a matter of two or three months the international office of OGP would have given the final approval to the state action plan so that implementation of OGP would begin in earnest.

 

They stated that part of the delay in the takeoff of the programme was the outbreak of novel coronavirus (Covid- 19) but stressed that with the harmonization and validation of the State Action Plan during the three-day workshop, the document would be presented to the State Executive Council through the State Governor, Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi for onward transmission to the national and internal offices of OGP for approval.

 

“One core principle of OGP is cocreation; that is that government is not regarded as the sole initiator of policies and practices, instead; government would work together with its citizens represented by these various citizen groups, working together to formulate policies, create initiatives, make commitments that on both sides they will be able to implement, monitor and assess performance,” Ude said.

 

He noted that since 2018 when the state government signed into the programme, it has been working to “operationalize OGP principles, set up OGP structures, part of which is my appointment as the State Focal Person; part of which is the establishments of the State Steering Committee, which is made up of equal numbers of government officials drawn from relevant ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), as well as representatives of civil society groups, representing the citizens; that would implement the commitments within OGP.”

 

Udeh further explained that Open Government Partnership was an international multi-stakeholder governance platform that brings together member government, country or state with their citizens represented by civil society, professional associations, religious bodies, the academia, organized private sector and other interest groups within the society or the community.

 

“All these are geared towards good governance, working together to agree on certain commitments for reforms; introducing initiatives to improve service delivery to the citizens using various means especially technology, law review and strengthening of institutions and best practices, making government responsive to their citizens.

 

“So one core principle of OGP is cocreation; that is that government is not regarded as the sole initiator of policies and practices, instead government would work together with its citizens represented by these various citizen groups to working together, formulate policies, create initiatives, make commitments that on both sides they will be able to implement, monitor and assess performance.”

 

For Crownwell Chibuzor, the harmonization and revalidation of the State’s Action Plan would enable the stakeholders to move into implementation as quickly as possible.

 

“By the way, Open Governance Partnership is a multi-lateral stakeholder reformers; countries and states that came together to bring on board governance reforms that will make service delivery in their state better, that will encourage citizens participation in line with the constitution that will enable people to also have confidence in government; and to be able to also push out corruption from governance in Nigeria. Corruption is also seen as the bane of the economy and survival of Nigeria and by extension Enugu state.

 

“So today we are happy that many stakeholders, the steering committee of Enugu state as well as participants from both the government, organized private sector, the professional bodies, the market unions and the regular civil society organizations are putting heads together because they are the principals, the co-creators, which means that the idea must be conceived amongst partners and they are also going to follow through after we must have come up with the action plan.

 

“The setting up of the plan is a procedural thing… separate groups have been able to work on thematic areas. By the way we have four thematic areas in Enugu state, from fiscal transparency, to access to information, anticorruption and citizens engagement.

 

So there are people who are interested in different areas and they have been crafting issues, reforms around these thematic areas and today we are doing harmonization and validation of the process.

 

“As soon as we are done, we are also going to make presentation to the exco who will look at the draft and see whether it meets the standard of what they want to do as a state and if there is a buy in they will sign on to it and send to the national secretariat that will also send it to the global secretariat.

 

And if they get the approval then the implementation will start,” he said.

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