‘Social media as the ombudsman’
The Director General of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms, (BPSR) Dr Joe Abah has said that with the Freedom of Information Act and social media platforms, the citizens would make governments accountable as well as make the jobs of public servants a lot easier.
Abah said this in Lagos yesterday as a member of a two-man panel during the ‘Citizens, Government and Technology’ session at the on-going Social Media Week, hosted by EiE and Strengthening Advocacy and Civic Engagement (SACE). The two senators and the Governor of Kaduna State that ought to be on the panel did not show up.
Abah said that his Bureau was set up principally to make government function better for the citizens. According to him, social media is giving more people access to governance though it is not yet fully translating into better service delivery for the people especially in terms of citizens-government relationship. He also felt that the present government benefit from social media in riding into power, so he expected that the same government will not restrict its use.
On his part, Head, Complaint Response Unit, Nigeria Police, CSP Abayomi Shogunle, disclosed that the need to make the Police more accountable and address complaints from Police-Citizens interaction gave birth to the Nigeria Police Complaint response unit. According to him, the focus of the Unit and that of the IGP is about giving Nigerians a Police force, the people can trust and call their friends. He said that social media platforms were being greatly deployed in executing that mandate as the Unit is being manned 24-7. He listed some of the social media platforms being deployed to execute its mandate to include Whatsapp, twitter and facebook.
Abah also talked on how his organisation is using social media to drive public service. He also disclosed how he declared his assets, salaries and allowance as a public servant and that of his staff using twitter handle.
Shogunle assured that the Complaint Response Unit which celebrated its first 100 days last Sunday would continue to serve the people even after the present Inspector General of Police leaves office.
He said that the IGP gave the Unit a free hand to operate because when the Unit was being set up and the personnel were being trained, it was agreed that to make the Unit work and achieve its set out goals, the Unit must detached itself from the Nigeria Police and not be the spoke-person for the Police but working for the good of all. This, he said, is why complaints are treated urgently including punishing officers who misbehaved. He also talked about how different trainings being received by personnel in the Nigeria Police is helping to build a better Police Force including doing better policing job compared to the past.
On the issue of mental health state of Policemen in the country, he said that he had mooted that idea of having counselling for members of the Police Force, after two of his men were fell by armed robbers in 2008 and he had to contend with the psychological imbalance of that action for almost three months. He said that with the new directive from the IGP that Policemen should go through mental health test, he hopes that the issue of mental health among Policemen would be taken more serious because many officers go through horror experiences and needed some psychological counselling to get balanced and be in the right frame of mind again. For him, when a Policeman sees his colleagues get gun down by armed robbers, it has some psychological implication which needs counselling in order not to later transfer that aggression to the citizens. Shogunle implored Nigerians to continue to engage with the Police as the Police Force under the IGP Solomon Arase is ready to take suggestions.
On the bill aimed at regulating social media, Abah said, “The highest law of the land is the constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech and nobody can take that away.”
Speaking on why his hosted the session, Chief of Party, USAID Civil Society Project, Charles Abani, said that SACE does a few things, one is supporting specific partners and organisations to develop their capacities to begin to engage issues. He said there is another project supporting ideas promote citizens engaging with government, using social media. According to him, one of the programme is the 2.0 Mindset Series, aimed at showing practitioners and activists who have succeeded in bringing about change.
“And the Mindset Series is on a road show around the country, identifying and highlighting the successes and challenges of different activists across different parts of the country. We have had sessions in Abuja, Lagos, Owerri; we are moving to Uyo, Kano in other to continue to showcase successful advocates who are making change to happen.”