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CSOs urged to hold government accountable, drive transparency

By Ijeoma Thomas-Odia
31 March 2022   |   3:58 pm
To identify gaps responding to COVID-19 pandemic and provide better recommendations to tackle national emergencies, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have been urged to arm themselves with effective knowledge to hold government accountable and seek transparency. This was the resolution at a one-day interface meeting organised by the Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC) with…

To identify gaps responding to COVID-19 pandemic and provide better recommendations to tackle national emergencies, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have been urged to arm themselves with effective knowledge to hold government accountable and seek transparency.

This was the resolution at a one-day interface meeting organised by the Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC) with government agencies and policy makers in Lagos state on findings from COVID-19 response report, held at Sheraton, Ikeja.

While findings from the COVID-19 reports collated from Lagos and Ogun had mostly indigent as respondents, it showed the insufficiency of COVID-19 relief materials getting to those who truly deserved to have them. Hence the need for CSOs to collaborate, develop capacity and the needed knowledge to skillfully demand accountability that will further improve access to relief materials when the need arises.

Executive Director WARDC, Dr. Abiola Afolabi-Akiyode, said the organsiastion has been tirelessly working on ensuring that the Nigerian government is transparent and accountable to citizens.

Afolabi-Akiyode noted that data is recognised as the basic of effective decision making and the country can only thrive when budgets and contracting data and systems are open, information about government activities is known, the civic space is safe and there is multi stakeholders’ participation.

She added that while the project is not in anyway calling out government officials for not being transparent and accountable, it is to identify gaps in the approach towards the COVID-19 pandemic and provide recommendations on better ways to handle national/global emergencies.

Presenting the report findings, a Professor in governance and development issues, Department of International Relations, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Kehinde Olayode, said the essence of the audit was to enhance transparency and accountability.

“Citizens participated based on the way the government distributed and managed the funds that were received for COVID-19. At the peak of COVID-19, the government received funds from different sources such as multilateral agencies, IMF, World Bank, African Union, and African Development Bank. There were also donations internally from corporate organisations, religious bodies, and traditional rulers, but the major problem was, how did the government disburse and distribute the funds? Who had access to those funds? Did the government engage with the public and the civil society on how the funds were distributed? Did the civil society monitor the distribution to enhance transparency and accountability?” Olayode said.

“Hence, a Social Audit Tracker was developed and we sent out to researchers for them to take to communities and engage with residents and stakeholders to get information from them.

“CSOs need to understand how to source for information because you cannot track what you don’t know about. You need to know how to track the information, which must be legitimate and credible. You must have your facts and figures and then use that information to hold the government accountable.”

Representing the commissioner for Women Affairs, Cecilia Dada, the Director, Department of Poverty Alleviation, Ministry of women Affairs, Oluwatoyin Fatima Salami affirmed the ministry’s commitment to continually cushion the effect of COVID-19 on indigent citizens in the state through its various programmes from donations and empowerment programmes.

“The ministry has done tremendously well during and after the COVID-19. We will continue to strive further to do our possible best to ensure that poverty alleviation is sustained in Lagos State,” Salami said.

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