How an NGO is taking on Nigeria’s fight against corruption at the grassroots

 How an NGO is taking on Nigeria’s fight against corruption at the grassroots

Corruption has remained one of Nigeria’s greatest challenges for years. At the local government level — which is the closest to the people — the scourge has continued unabated due to a deeply-rooted secrecy in the management of government’s finances.

But DEAN Initiative, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), is taking on the fight to change the status quo and promote a more transparent, accountable structure at the local government level.

On Thursday, the group launched ‘Local Government Accountability Award’ — an initiative with the aim of fixing the rot in governance at the grassroots.

In a statement issued during the virtual event, Semiye Michael, founder of the group, said the initiative was introduced to further support ongoing calls for a vibrant local government, which constitutes the bedrock of other tiers of government.

The group decried the continued attempts by both federal and state governments to stiffle efforts targeted at granting autonomy to the local government.

The statement read: “It is important
to note that the fundamental principle of democracy can only be attained when citizens have the right to
demand accountability and public officials are held accountable.

“As it stands today, the worst form of corruption take place at the Local Government and this is made so
simply because they have remained unchecked. 774 LGAs in Nigeria, this is probably one of the highest
in Africa with so much structural abilities to transform local development in an unusual speed.

“Local Government Accountability Award is part of DEAN’s strategic short term plan to promote transparency, accountability, citizen participation and responsiveness to citizens among the Local Government level of governance in Nigeria.”

According to the group, the six Area Councils in FCT would be used as a pilot scheme for the initiative.

The statement added: “Why we are using The six (6) Area Councils in FCT to pilot this initiative; against the popular argument that LGAs will be accountable and corruption free if given autonomy and receiving their funds without intermediary; the 6 Area Councils in FCT serves as perfect examples. They are all autonomous and receive their allocations directly. They also conduct all their elections as at when due. Whatever happens with governance at local level in FCT is what can happen if all the LGAs across the country enjoys autonomy.”

It added that the criteria to win the award include “local Government with functional website, social media platforms, FOI Desk and proof of FOI responses to the citizens.”

Others are “LGA with current year’s budget on their website and other public domain, LGA with IGR public disclosure, LGA with proof of engagement and feedback provision on social media platforms, LGA with routine town hall meeting schedules to engage with citizens, LGA that engages citizens on budget formation and implementation plan and LGA whose administrators are accessible by phone or social media handles for citizen

On the stages involved in the award process, the group said: “Participation forms and information kits will be sent to each Area Council in FCT with official letter of notification from July 5th, 2020 and all carefully filled forms must return to us on or before July 30th, 2020. Citizens across the FCT will also have the chance to nominate any Area Council of their choice for the award between August 1st and 15th, 2020. Judges will work between August 16th to 28th, 2020 to review entries and decide the winner. The winner will be announced on the 3rd of September, 2020. The award activities will start on the 1st of July, 2020 and the Award ceremony will hold September 8th 2020.

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