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Harnessing the Power of Media and Civil Society Organizations to Strengthen Accountability in Maternal and Child Healthcare Interventions in Kano State

Welcome Statement by Professor Momodu Kassim-Momodu Chairman, Resource Centre for Human Rights & Civic Education (CHRICED), at the training for Media and CSOs on Strengthening Maternal And Child Healthcare through Accountability Interventions in Kano State, Held at Aminu Kano Centre for Democratic Studies (AKCDS) on Thursday, August 5, 2021.

The Media Family, CSOs, friends.
It gives me immense pleasure to welcome you to this training for the Media and CSOs on the project of Strengthening Maternal and Child Healthcare through Accountability Interventions in Kano State. The training is one of the several activities we have designed to achieve the cardinal objectives of the project of Promoting Democratic Participation in Two Local Government Areas of Kano State. These activities take their justification from the notion that democracy, is not an end. Citizens must organize, pressure policy and governance systems to ensure the will of the people triumphs in every facet.

This is the thinking that motivated CHRICED to design this project for the purpose of reducing maternal and child mortality, not only in Kano State, but also across Nigeria. The project is running on the premise that it is possible to reduce maternal mortality in two target local government areas by improving inclusion, transparency, and accountability. CHRICED believes that with proper planning and management of health budgets and other extra-budgetary interventions targeting the health sector, a lot of difference will be made, in addition to saving the lives of citizens. It is apparent that despite national and sub-nation efforts to reverse the reality of Nigeria contributing 20 per cent to global maternal mortality, significant resources set aside to address the challenge have not made the impact required.

These challenges, and the need to amplify them, reaffirm the enormous powers of the media, especially if it understands, embraces, and deploys its influence to shape the common good. A vibrant media, which knows of its functions, and makes the courageous decision to play those roles, would contribute immensely to the realization of a truly democratic and accountable and inclusive country. CHRICED equally recognizes the critical function of CSOs which have the requisite skill and capacity to raise important questions and seek for sustainable solutions to key governance issues. With the right capacity and skill, the media and CSOs will better serve society by holding duty bearers accountable, especially with respect to the use of public resources.

As a knowledge-driven platform of active citizens working for the promotion of human rights, rule of law, democracy, and accountability, CHRICED remains committed to the realization of a democratic Nigeria where participation, inclusion, and transparency are guaranteed, and state and non-state actors actively collaborate towards accountable and responsive use of resources for the collective well-being of citizens.

Collectively, we will strategically and consistently beam the searchlight on maternal and child healthcare interventions to ensure they are determined by participatory planning, timely delivery, and value for money. We also have the big role of exposing corruption in maternal and child healthcare projects because if we do not take the initiative, we have indirectly abdicated our responsibility. As media and CSOs therefore, you must become a lot more interested in what happens to the maternal and child healthcare projects in Kano State, particularly in Gwale and Kumbotso Local Government Areas. There can be no disputing the fact that if maternal and child healthcare resources are properly managed, needless deaths of women and children would be avoided.

CHRICED is also convinced that despite the many challenges encountered in the maternal health service delivery chain due to corruption, inefficiency, and lack of accountability, there are many effective steps active citizens can take to reverse the unacceptable realities. One of such important steps is to galvanize citizens to ensure maternal and child healthcare projects are determined through processes, which are transparent, accountable, and participatory. Consequently, it is partly the role of the media and civil society to ensure the ordinary citizen is enlightened and involved in the governance process. This quest to ensure citizens participate in governance is guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria. Section 14 (2) (C) of the constitution provides that “the participation by the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance to the provisions of this Constitution.” There is also a very strong constitutional basis for the role of journalists, online bloggers, and broadcasters. This we find in Section 22, which provides that “The press, radio, television and other agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this Chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people”.

With these constitutional provisions, CHRICED believes citizens should not merely complain about governance deficits. CHRICED urges citizens to think of the many legal and legitimate actions they can take to prevent irresponsibility in the governance process and get what rightfully belongs to them. Across the focal LGAs of the project, we will work closely with citizens and communities to empower them with the skills and capacities to use innovative approaches, and legal provisions to ensure funds for maternal and child healthcare projects achieve the real objectives for which they were appropriated. The media and CSOs will always be our partners as we take up this cause.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me at this juncture inform that this training is also encouraging innovation and the deployment of technology by journalists, especially those operating in the new media space. We appreciate the power of digital and online content, and its capacity to reach many citizens and policymakers. Mobile telephony and other forms of information and communications technology have vastly opened the space for citizens to engage governance processes and outcomes. We, therefore, want to see our media and CSO friends explore and deploy these technologies to give wider reach and impact to their accountability reports. CHRICED has thus added a digital component to its training modules, just as we look forward to our media friends using the skills to give bigger mileage to their accountability reports. We will also encourage our media and CSO friends to take advantage of anti-corruption tools available in-laws, and international commitments such as the Open Government Partnership (OGP), Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, the Fiscal Responsibility Act, Debt Management Office Act and Procurement Act. CHRICED believes that data-driven reports will be key in the push for accountability. CHRICED is open to technical partnerships and other forms of technical assistance to ensure we collectively drive the conversation to strengthen maternal and child health systems and outcomes.

Finally, CHRICED expresses its gratitude to the MISEREOR/KZE of Germany for its support, which made this project possible. My thanks also to other members of the Board of Directors, and the entire staff of CHRICED, whose dedication has ensured the smooth implementation of this project.
Thank you for listening, I wish you all a very impactful training.

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