Abasifreke Effiong

The Niger Delta Open Government Observatory (NOGO), a cluster of civil society organisations, media and community-based groups working to encourage government open up public space for citizens’ participation has again called on Akwa Ibom State Government to sign on to the Open Government Partnership.

The cluster reiterated its call on the state government during her second quarter learning event series held in Uyo on Thursday 13th July.

OGP seeks to create mutual collaboration between the government and the governed to guarantee improved participation in government by the citizens’ with the aim of promoting transparency, accountability and inclusion.

The Open Government Partnership advocacy started in 2011 when government leaders and civil society advocates came together to create reforms to promote transparent, participatory, inclusive and accountable governance.

More than 75 countries have signed on to the OGP in the last 10 years plus. In Nigeria, 25 states have signed on to the partnership.

Within the Niger Delta, it’s Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa and Cross River are the only states yet to sign on to the partnership.

At its 2nd quarter learning series which sought to provide state and non-state actors opportunity to share experiences and lessons to improve the uptake and implementation of OGP at subnational levels in Niger Delta, the NOGO cluster expressed concerns over the unwillingness of Akwa Ibom state government to sign on to the OGP.

The Programme Manager for NOGO cluster, Mr. Koko Udo, said the essence of the meeting was to brainstorm and put in place strategies to engage state actors on OGP.

He said OGP seeks to create opportunity for citizens’ to make contributions on how the government should serve them.

“The idea of OGP is to ensure that while government is planning for the people, the people can make their contributions in that process of planning and the whole gamut of development, to ensure that the wealth of the state at the subnational level is well shared to citizens.”

“We are here to see what we can learn together so that we can go back to push, discuss and engage government on the issue of OGP”, he said.

In his presentation on “agenda setting for the new administration: The OGP perspective”, Executive Director, Greater Tomorrow Initiative, Mr. Ndifreke Patrick, called on Governor Umo Eno, to seek to broaden citizens’ inclusion and participatory in his administration by signing on the OGP, which he said offers a desirable template for effective partnership.

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“Umo Eno’s ARISE agenda should be Akwa Ibom agenda. People should be allowed to interrogate the agenda on the basis of what they need not what the Governor feels is good for the masses.”

“Government should allow citizens to engage, question the agenda they set and their opinions should be allowed to count.”

“Governor Umo Eno has a wonderful opportunity to sign up for OGP. His body language shows he is somebody that will do things differently. He needs policy framework that will guide him and OGP is what we are asking for”, Mr Patrick added.

Uchenna Arisukwu, a civil society adviser OGP national secretariat, Abuja said government should ask people what they want not what government feels the people need.

He described OGP as a vehicle that makes governance better.

“OGP wants citizens to participate in governance process from beginning to the end. Signing up to OGP is completely free.”

The one-day learning event series featured panel discussion, questions and answers session and presentation.

The open government partnership advocacy in the Niger Delta is implemented by Policy Alert, We the People and other CSOs with support from SCALE/Palladium with support from USAID.