BENIN CITY, NIGERIA. April 29, 2021… The Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice, ANEEJ has called on the Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki to present the draft Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill recently prepared by Stakeholders as an executive Bill to the Edo State House of Assembly for consideration and passage.
Executive Director of ANEEJ, the Rev David Ugolor, made the call yesterday at a news conference held in Benin City to round off activities under its Civil Society Advocacy to Support Anti-corruption and Rule of Law in Nigeria (CASARN) project implemented by the organization in collaboration with the State Government, other Civil Society Organisations and Stakeholders in the state.
Represented by his deputy, Mr. Leo Atakpu, the ANEEJ helmsman said the organization has implemented a number of activities and has been involved in series of initiatives to advance governance and anti-corruption in Edo State and in Nigeria at large. “ANEEJ has trained CSOs and journalists on several issues including Open Government Partnership (OGP) and its commitments, open contracting, public procurement observation and contract monitoring in Edo State, FOI issues and advocacy, budgeting and budget/project monitoring.
The training on procurement and subsequent engagement with Edo State Public Procurement Agency has exposed CSOs to the reforms going on within the agency and how they can participate to monitor contracts and project through the use of open contracting portal and the monitor-me portal. A number of CSOs have now been registered to observe public procurement process across Ministries, Departments and Agencies in Edo State through the implementation of the project, and more applications from CSOs are still been considered for registration by the procurement agency.
He further noted that through the implementation of the CASARN project, “ANEEJ has evolved an innovative compliance ranking of federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies on the Nigeria Open Contracting Portal (NOCOPO), pointing that the ranking is first of its kind in Nigeria and has been acknowledged by the OGP national secretariat, open contracting partnership international, Bureau of Public Procurement, development partners and other key stakeholders. The purpose of the ranking is to encourage MDAs to comply with the use of NOCOPO by publishing procurement data for public access and use, thereby improving transparency and accountability in the procurement process.
“ANEEJ and other project partners also had fruitful engagement with government agencies including Edo State Public Procurement Agency, Bureau of Public Procurement, Federal Ministry of Justice and the Asset Recovery and Management Unit, Edo State Ministry of Budget and Economic Planning, Edo State Ministry of Justice and several other MDAs both in Edo State and at the national level, Ugolor said.
“ANEEJ has also worked with other stakeholders to develop an Integrity and Accountability Strategy for Edo State which has been validated by stakeholders. An implementation structure and implementation plan has equally been developed which reflects CSOs participation. To facilitate civil society organisation’s involvement in the implementation of the strategy, a CSO monitoring and evaluation framework has been designed. This will support an independent monitoring of the implementation of the framework. It is expected that when this strategy has been finally approved by the Edo State government, it will contribute significantly to anti-corruption drive and improve CSOs participation in the fight against corruption.
“During the last post-election OGP stakeholders meeting, ANEEJ provided the platform for CSOs to interface with Edo State Ministry of Budget and Economic Planning and it was a good opportunity for stakeholders to mobilise ahead of the stakeholders’ consultation on the 2021 budget, the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP). Beyond the CASARN project ANEEJ will continue to be a rallying point for CSOs working on budget issues.
“The CASARN project has opened up opportunities for CSOs to advance their work in a number of areas. Some of these areas include: research and publication around key governance and anti-corruption issues, procurement observation and reporting using open contracting portal and following up on bid openings by MDAs, budget monitoring using the Edo monitor-me portal, advocacy for the passage of freedom of information law in Edo State, monitoring the implementation of Edo State Integrity and Accountability Strategy, participation in the budget process. Opportunity is also there for CSOs to continue with the ranking of MDAs on the Nigeria Open Contracting portal. The list is endless. I encourage CSOs to consolidate on the gains of this project and sustain these issues,” Rev David Ugolor said
Ugolor remarked that the successes recorded could not have been possible without the cooperation of its project partners – FOI Counsel Nigeria, Justice Development and Peace Commission (JDPC), Benin, Conference of NGOs, Edo State and the New Apostolic Church Centre for Development, Benin City. We will continue to work together with these organisations and others to advance the common good of the society.
He thanked the ROLAC programme team led by the National Programme Manager, Mr. Danladi Plang, the component managers and the Benin office team adding that their cooperation during the implementation contributed greatly to the success of the project. He expressed profound gratitude to the European Union that provided funding for the project through the British Council.
Rev Ugolor assured that even as the project has come to an end, ANEEJ would sustain work on the issues.