By Eric Ojo, Abuja
Connected Development (CODE), a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), on a mission to improve citizen’s access to credible information and empower local communities in Africa, has reaffirmed its commitment to holding government accountable to the people.
The Chief Executive of CODE, Hamzat Lawan gave the assurance while speaking during the press conference held to launch the organisation’s 2020 annual report, entitled “Empowering Communities in a Pandemic”.
The report, contained details of CODE’s record of tracking N97 billion COVID-19 funds at both State and Federal levels in a pandemic, using its social accountability tool, Follow The Money (FTM).
Its FTM initiative advocates and tracks government/international spending in health, water, sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), and education across grassroots rural communities to ensure and promote open government and service delivery. Since, CODE has tracked an estimate of USD 307.6 million (in budget sums for projects) across 357 communities in Nigeria, improving over 4.8 million rural lives.
Speaking further Lawan said: “Since our establishment in 2012, we have relied on our ability to challenge the status quo and demand accountability from the government to drive social change in the communities where we work”.
With an objective to build strong institutions, CODE has dedicated its resources and efforts towards rebuilding the fragilities in the Nigerian society, the year 2020 was no different.
“Despite the challenges presented by COVID-19, our resolve for a more gender-inclusive society, a higher standard of accountability and transparency in governance and improved state of education and healthcare in the country never wavered. In fact, COVID-19 was just another hurdle in the course of our work and where challenges abound, we recognised and utilised opportunities for greater impact”, he added.
CODE is bridging the information gap between citizens and the government, tackling financial leakages and bringing governance closer to the people at the grassroots.
“We do this by empowering citizens with the knowledge, skills and capacity to demand for the provision of quality public services in their communities. Consequently, essential development projects, previously abandoned or which otherwise would not have been implemented, are being restarted and completed, accelerating social development in these regions, fighting inequality and promoting inclusive development.
“In 2020, with the global pandemic binding the world together, we saw our work come together in new ways, creating the springboard we need to unleash unprecedented impact in the years ahead.
“We witnessed a great level of interdependence—that our collective success does not only depend on how we care for ourselves but also how we are looking out for other people around us. Over the past eight years, CODE has showcased consistency and doggedness in amplifying the voices of the marginalized”, he further explained.
According to him, the year 2020 spelt different for many Nigerians who found themselves grappling with the harsh realities and effect of COVID-19 on their lives and businesses. Like other nations, the Nigerian government set out to support its populace, announcing the release of funds and palliatives to be distributed to all Nigerians, especially the most vulnerable groups.
“It then became pertinent for CODE’s Follow The Money to ensure that every kobo disbursed to cushion the effect of COVID-19 on the citizens was both appropriately used and accounted for. Mobilizing over 8,500 community champions, we impacted 257 communities across Africa, tracked N97 billion of COVID-19 funds, accelerated the publication of an updated national Emergency Procurement Policies (EPP) by the BPP and directly impacted over 4.8 million lives”, he stressed.
Beyond home wins, CODE in partnership with BudgIT, a fiscal transparency organisation, expanded its scope area by activating COVID19 Transparency and Accountability Pan-African Project (CTAP), a pan-African tracking system for all COVID-19 funds received and donated in seven African countries including Nigeria.
The other countries are Liberia, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi and Sierra leone. One consistent gap across the country is poor procurement processes, fund embezzlement and lack of government’s transparency.
On another front and in ripping the fruits of advocacy, a 22-day online campaign led to the construction of a water system for residents of Sabongeri-Nedeji, a community in Edu LGA of Kwara State, which previously relied on a huge puddle of unclean water as its primary source.
The report also stated that with COVID-19 exacerbating the poor state of education across Nigeria, CODE adopted a unique approach to tackling the menace. Starting with Adamawa State, CODE successfully sensitized 10,000 residents in Fufore LGA and Yola south LGA on the need to increase girl-child enrollment and retention in schools, this immediately set a new precedence as traditional leaders and community chiefs began deliberating on how to advance girl-child enrollment in schools.
Tagged as a shadow pandemic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence (SGBV) in Nigeria reached alarming levels during the peak of COVID-19 in the country. Reports show that between March and April 2020, the country recorded a 56 percent increase in gender-based violence cases in 24 states.
The increasing rate of SGBV cases triggered a nation-wide revolt, with CODE and several Civil Society Organization (CSOs) rising to demand the domestication of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPP) and Child Rights Act in all states of the federation. Currently, 18 out of 36 states have domesticated the VAPP Act.
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