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Community development governance issue



Why Buhari was defeated in Ondo

It was an American psychologist and a professor emeritus at Stanford University, Prof. Philip George Zimbardo who said that “A good cult delivers on its promises. A good cult nourishes the needs of its members, has transparency and integrity, and creates provisions for challenging its leadership openly. A good cult expands the freedoms and well-being of its members rather than limits them”.
Regrettably, in Nigeria transparency and accountability is relegated to oblivion as most leaders and public office holders are averse to accountability, some critics posits. They painted a gloomy picture of disparity in the provision of basic amenities and infrastructural facilities in rural communities in Nigeria despite huge allocation to states and local government areas from the federation account.

This group observed that government at all level are paying undue priority attention to urban centres as opposed to rural areas. Nonetheless, while some blame the imbalance to quest for urbanization by most leaders in the country, few other attribute the developmental deficit in rural areas to corruption occasioned by secrecy in governance.

Supporting this line of though, a civil society activist, transparency and accountability campaigner and Chief Executive of Connected Development Mr. Hamzat Lawal said that secrecy in governance fuels corruption and undermine development at the local areas.

He lamented the difficulties often encountered in the process of seeking information that will help citizens, civil society groups and the media to track developmental projects captured in fiscal documents of government.

Sharing his thoughts on some of the anomalies his organization uncovered in the process of following the money in an exclusive chat with Nigerian Pilot Lawal said, “For us at Connected Development, it is about bridging the gap between what is on ground in rural communities in Nigeria and what is obtainable when you look at government spending and fiscal books. Over time we discovered that government appropriation and spending is shrouded in secrecy”.

He however accused government of brazenly disparaging and disobeying the rule of law as if the country is still galloping in the dark days of military junta, saying “Regrettably, government at all level are notable for disobedience to the rule of law. For instance; when you apply for certain information from government especially appropriation Act using FOI Act, they will not release the documents to you and even when they do, the information they will let out will be so scanty that it does not serve the purpose for which it was applied for.

If you look at the budget line of most states government, you will see some of these communities captured in the budget but when you go down to the communities you will not see any activities that match what is captured in the budget.

“Most times they want to focus attention on road construction because that is the sector they use in sigh-phoning money by inflating contract figure. But we are now tackling all that, recently, we entered into a partnership with the Public Private Development Centre to help us track some of these projects in the state government’s budget line, the organization will help us look at the contract terms to ensure that it meet global best trend while we will focus our attention on tracking the money”.

On what in his view can be done to prevent the foregoing anomalies, Lawal said, “Well, government need to be more transparent and accountable and citizens also need to be more aware of government activities and spending to be able to make the necessary demands on government.

Because when citizens are more informed about the processes, it will raise their consciousness to hold government accountable and that of course places a huge burden on the media and civil society organizations whose responsibility it is to constantly create this awareness with the view to raising citizens’ consciousness. When they increase their demand on government, government will in turn increase supply of the dividend of democracy and that in my view is the beauty of democracy”.

But what does Connected Development intends to achieve following government spending; the Chief executive Officer proffers the following answers.

“For us at Connected Development, it is about ensuring value for tax payers’ money and curbing corruption. It is about ensuring that government spending is commensurate with what is obtainable in rural communities in the areas of access to primary health care, basic education, water, sanitation, hygiene and agriculture especially now that nutrition among infants is a global issue”.

However, the popular views in the country that greater percentage of Nigerians are resident in the rural areas is incontrovertible hence the all important question, what can be done to change the narrative where government focuses more attention and resources in urban centres leaving rural communities to their fate?

Lawal again shared his thoughts on what can be done to bridge the dichotomy, while also identifying another salient problem, he said, “The major problem here is absence of credible data. Government also need data and information to shape her policy direction. Because if government does not have adequate data, how can they effectively plan?

Data in the country are provided by international agencies and partners, so what we need to do is to strengthen and increase budget of Nigerian Bureau of Statistics NBS, so that they can gather functional and current data that will help and guide government to plan properly”.

He argued that government can never get it right unless adequate and verifiable information is provided to guide government in drafting policies that aims at developing the hinterland.

He argued, “We need to know how many communities we have before ascertaining their needs so that government can plan using such credible data and information. That will also prevent government from spending huge resources to provide water to communities that already have access to water”.

Lawal also painted a horrible picture of his organization’s encounter in some rural communities in Nigeria where students still learn under a tree and where pregnant women are transported to ill equipped health centres on wheel barrow, saying “We have seen communities where pupils in this age and time are being educated under the tree, and when we say that the future belong to young people, we are not actually building and investing in the education need of this future generation, how can they be better leaders”?

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