Benin City, March 14, 2018. The attention of the Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice has been drawn to an uninformed press release by EDOCSO relating to the awards conferred on the Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, his Chief of Staff, Comrade Taiwo Akerele and the State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Prof. Yinka Omorogbe for their immeasurable role in getting the State government to join the Open Government Partnership, OGP. By this feat, Edo State, became the first in the South –South region to sign on to the global initiative. ANEEJ conferred the Open Government Champions Award to the trio as part of events marking 2019 OGP week.
We would want to put on record that ANEEJ does not require the permission of EDOCSO to express an opinion based on our conviction and to state categorically that the Open Government awards are meant to incentivize the Governor and his team as well as spur other states in the region which have not signed on to the global initiative to follow-suit.
As opposed to the claims of EDOCSO concerning not getting information from the government, ANEEJ has sought and obtained information severally from the Edo State Government to advance our governance work around the World.
It is on record in Edo State that ANEEJ has led several initiatives that resulted in the entrenchment of good governance in the state. At the moment, ANEEJ is spear-heading advocacy for the enactment of Public Defender Law in the state to provide for the establishment of an agency to defend vulnerable citizens of the state, including human right defenders and activists. On all of these, we are getting the desired cooperation from Edo State government.
The OGP initiative is revolutionary and the goal is to secure concrete commitments from governments to their citizenry intended to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption and harness new technologies to strengthen governance.
We are glad that our advocacy for State governments across the country to join the OGP has yielded result in Edo State and in the next few months, government and non-State Actors in Edo State including CSOs will meet and agree on concrete commitments to advance open government.
We are optimistic that Edo State under the Open Government Partnership will enact the Freedom of Information Law as our major target, share more information with the public beyond what is currently obtainable. What EDOCSO seeks through the courts, ANEEJ secures such information through intellectual struggle and strategic engagement with the government. So, our approach is strategic and distinct from the approach by EDOCSO.
We, and several other CSOs in Edo State therefore, stand by the award we have rightly and deservedly conferred on the Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, the Chief of Staff, Mr. Taiwo Akerele and the Honourable Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Prof (Mrs) Yinka Omorogbe. We urge them to continue to provide leadership in the advancement of Open Governance not only in Edo State and South-South Nigeria, but the country at large.