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Imperative of Citizen-Led Accountability Demands on Use of Funds For Constituency Projects

Text of a Press Conference addressed by Comrade Dr. Ibrahim M. Zikirullahi, Executive Director of Resource Centre for Human Rights & Civic Education (CHRICED) at the Inaugural Press Briefing of its project of ‘Promotion of Community-Driven Anti-Corruption Initiatives in Kano State’ held at the Aminu Kano Centre for Democratic Studies on Tuesday, January 26, 2021.


Distinguished invited guests, ladies and gentlemen of the Press.

It gives me immense pleasure to welcome you to this inaugural press conference of CHRICED project of Promotion of Community-Driven Anti-Corruption Initiatives in Kano State. As a platform of active citizens campaigning for the promotion of human rights, democratic governance and accountable use of public resources, CHRICED is always concerned about how public resources can be used for the benefit of the vast majority of citizens. We have always agonized about the paradox of how blessed Nigeria is, yet the people of this country wallow in poverty, misery and extreme deprivation. In fact, one of the major tragedies of our country is the fact that since the advent of the current democratic dispensation in 1999, trillions of Naira of public resources spent by governments at all levels have not translated to a better life for the people.

One of the many government programs, which could have helped spread development, and give citizens a sense of belonging and benefits from public resources, is the zonal intervention project, also known as the constituency project. At the federal and state level, constituency projects would have been like the famous Marshal Plan[1] of the United States of America with its capacity to bring developmental projects to the people at the grassroots. If the politicians had allowed the intended service delivery envisage through the constituency project to work, such basic things as rural roads, cottage industries, health facilities, recreational spaces and so many more would have been built in communities across the country. Unfortunately, what we have seen since Nigeria’s return to civil rule is a constituency project system that has been severely damaged by corruption, inefficiency, and lack of accountability. Projects, which should have been the outcomes of democratic decision-making and robust participation of the people at the grassroots have been so thoroughly abused that they have become opportunities for politicians involved to line their pockets.

Consequently, the ordinary citizen has lost hope and has become absolutely alienated from the governance process. Given this state of affairs, CHRICED has always called on citizens not to merely complain about the situation, but to think of what to do to get what rightfully belongs to them. This is the worldview, which motivated us to design the project of Promotion of Community-Driven Anti-Corruption Initiatives in Kano State. The project is borne out of the belief we have long held in CHRICED that citizens should not be passive onlookers in the governance process. We are still very much convinced that people in their various communities must be active participants in ensuring democracy delivers good governance. As such, the CHRICED project of Promotion of Community-Driven Anti-Corruption Initiatives in Kano State will work with a vast array of grassroots community actors, anti-corruption institutions, the media and other civic agencies to ensure citizen-led accountability demands target constituency projects. This project will galvanize all the relevant actors to proactively engage the constituency project planning, and implementation process. One very important aspect of this project is that CHRICED wants to work closely with citizens to empower them with the skills and capacities to use innovative approaches, and legal provisions to ensure funds for constituency projects achieve the real objectives for which they were appropriated. Corruption and distortion of constituency projects starts from the point where political actors create opaque systems, which keep citizens in the dark about what they intend to do. As such, before the citizens realize what is going on, shoddy and substandard projects, which do not reflect the needs of the communities are foisted on them. Therefore, prevention of corruption must begin with the needs assessment.

CHRICED project of Promotion of Community-Driven Anti-Corruption Initiatives in Kano State will encourage citizens to take up the task of preventing corruption from the very beginning of the constituency project formulation process. CHRICED, therefore, calls on long-suffering citizens in communities across Kano State, who have been at the receiving end of the failure of the constituency project delivery process to brace up to take advantage of the opportunities presented by this project. By the nature of its design and implementation, this project will amplify the legitimate concerns of citizens with respect to the constituency project delivery and accountability processes.  

Another important aspect of this project is to inspire communities to take advantage of anti-corruption tools available in laws, and international commitments such as the Open Government Partnership (OGP). In this respect, this project will intimate communities about their roles and responsibilities in terms of undertaking self-led advocacies to push for robust implementation of key accountability processes. One of such is the co-creation framework in the OGP. Since the Kano State Government signed on to the OGP in 2018, it has repeatedly stated its readiness to deepen institutional reforms, fight corruption and grant citizens’ right of access to public records, and to enable citizens to effectively participate in governance. The project of Community Driven Anti-Corruption Initiatives in Kano State, is a veritable opportunity for the government at the state and local government level to collaborate with the goal of creating platforms for effective exchange with citizens in the spirit of co-creation. To this end, CHRICED expresses its readiness to work to support anti-corruption agencies, particularly the Kano State Public Complaints and Anti-Corruption Commission, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to ensure the fight against corruption is rooted in the grassroots, where the citizens bear the brunt of the effects of corruption.

Subsequently, it is pertinent to note that this project has been designed to ensure there are critical roles for all the stakeholders involved in the task of ensuring government accountability to the people. Specifically, for the media, there is a big role to play because the project will also be focusing on producing and stepping down investigative reports about local issues and constituency projects in communities. What this means is that apart from the regular reporting on what is happening in communities, there will equally be room for investigative reports, and those reports will be in turn stepped down to allow people at the local level access for the purpose of awareness and mobilization around the governance issues focused on. CHRICED is optimistic that our dedicated colleagues in the media will take full advantage of this project to reflect and amplify the voices of citizens, with specific reference to how corruption impacts their lives negatively and what they can do to address it.

At the end of this project in three years’ time, CHRICED’s goal is to ensure there is a drastic reduction in corruption with respect to the delivery of key social services, particularly constituent projects, in Nigeria’s most populous state. This is an important goal because all around the country, the effects of corruption are glaring for everyone to see. These effects are apparent in the collapse of education, healthcare, and basic social services. All over the country, the specter of insecurity is yet another evidence that the government at all levels has woefully failed the Nigerian people. How will we be able to narrate it to future generations of Nigerians that we lived in a time where violent crimes like kidnapping, banditry, and armed robbery have become the norm. The very sad and sordid realities of our country point to the fact that all is not well, and that corruption is a major reason why the country is in such terrible shape. To begin addressing the problem, one useful strategy is to begin from the grassroots where ordinary citizens bear the brunt of corruption every day. The success of this initiative, therefore, depends on all well-meaning stakeholders, including communities, social influencers, anti-corruption agencies, and the media building a robust synergy to realize the common goal.

Distinguished invited guests, ladies, and gentlemen of the Press, kindly permit me at this point to express our deep gratitude to the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The Foundation’s rock-solid commitment to building a just and verdant world has seen it support worthy causes that promote the rights, welfare, and well-being of people across the world. CHRICED is specifically grateful to the Foundation for its support towards the realization of the goals of this project. Many thanks also to the Board of Director and entire Staff of CHRICED whose tireless efforts have propelled the organization to become a leading advocate for democratic and accountable governance in Nigeria.

Thank you for listening, just as we look forward to working with you on this project.  

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