Grassroot development: Ikorodu communities gets Community Development Charter

>By Tobi Oyetunde<

 

“Grassroots development remains a cardinal component of global campaigns of the 21st Century. It is therefore important that the community as the epicentre of human and environmental activities should remain a recurrent decimal in the narrative of developmental agenda”.

 

This statement by Mr. Francis Abayomi, Executive Director, Peace and development Projects (PEDEP), aptly captures the essence of community led initiatives being implemented in Lagos by the International Press Centre (IPC) with the support of ACTIONAID Nigeria and the DFID/UKAID under a project entitled “Strengthening Citizens Engagement in Electoral Processes (SCEEP).

 

Speaking on the topic: “Community Interest vs Political Interest: Perspectives on Enhancing Grassroots Development” at the public presentation of Community Development Charters for three communities in Ikorodu Local Governement area of Lagos, namely: Agbede-Oloshugbo, Gbasemo/Ituagaga and Offin-Lajo-Oreta Communities respectively, Abayomi charged community leaders at the grass root not to insulate themselves against politics as stakeholders in community development as well as political actors are expected to work hand-in-hand rather than at cross-purposes in ensuring that the community remains on the path of steady development without negative consequences of political divisions.

 

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According to him, “a systematic approach” that creates an increased understanding and cooperation among the people and between the people and the government should be employed in advancing the development at the grassroots because development process is not unidirectional as there is need for access to information, improvement in communication and enhancement of peaceful change and sustainability of developmental initiatives.

“When the community is organized for developmental process, participation should be based on the principle of consensus building which involves dialogue, negotiation, and meditation. Everyone must be included in decision making process while transparency, openness and accountability must be encouraged through the use of a proper feedback mechanism”, he said.

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He however maintained that political interest of community stakeholders should not override their community interest. He said: “politics should be played in a way that it will not affect the needs of your community. As a stakeholder in the community, you must play politics with maturity in the sense that you should not place your personal and selfish needs above what will benefit the society at large”.

In fast tracking the development of the communities, he urged community stakeholders to interact and engage with duty bearers on their community development aspirations.

“The people must play the role of assessing projects, prioritizing projects, building strong teams to pursue common goals, identify key partners outside the community and build leadership capacity. As a community member, you must work for the growth of the community and make this charter which is the needs of your community known to everybody and the government”, he said.

 

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Sequel to Abayomi’s discourse, the community development charters for the three communities was then official presented to the public by the Director of IPC, Mr. Lanre Arogundade with copies received by the Senior Admin. Officer, Mrs. Olatunji Adeoye who was representing the newly appointed Sole Administrator of Ikorodu Local Government Area, amongst a host other officials from the local government. Copies of the charter were also handed over to community leaders and related community stakeholders at the event.

IPC/ACTIONAID launches community development charter in Lagos

>By Funmi Falobi and Tobi Oyetunde<

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As part of efforts to ensure community driven development at the grassroots, the International Press Centre (IPC), has launched community development charters for Lagos communities. The charter, otherwise called village book, captures the community profile and summary of development aspirations of grassroot communities following series of community led engagements facilitated by IPC in 18 communities across six local government areas of Lagos State with the support of Actionaid Nigeria and the Department for International Development DFID/UKaid, under a democratic governance initiative tagged: Strengthening Citizens Engagement in Electoral Process (SCEEP).

Speaking at the public presentation of the charters to the first set of three communities in Lagos, namely, Erejuwa-Makoko, Otumara-Ilaje and Isale-Iwaya in Lagos Mainland Local Government, the Director of IPC, Mr. Lanre Arogundade noted that there was the need for the media to do more in community reporting to aid grassroot development.

“The media doesn’t really cover the grassroots citizens and what happen there. So there is a need to change the orientation of journalists. They should not only report campaign before election but do follow up after the election. This is called solution driven rural community reporting”.

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Highlighting the importance of the charter, Vanessa Edhebru, representing Actionaid said that the charter is to see that the excluded people stand a chance to partake in development process and that’s why the reflective methodology action was used to get the voice and wish of the people. She declared that the charter “will help to avert violence in the act of getting recognition and also give the people room to represent themselves in a way that the government will know that they know what they are doing.”

 

In his keynote address entitled “Enhancing Grassroots Development, Integrating Community Stakeholder in Governance” Mr. Adeola Soetan, National Coordinator, Democracy Vanguard enjoined the people to be participatory active citizenry by being sensitive to how they are governed and be pro-active by participating in government.

He implored community members to know what is right for them and be more conversant with their grassroots government. He explained that since various communities in their varied forms and formats constitute the building blocks of local government, the local government as the nearest to the people becomes the most important tier of government.

“Democracy without grassroots development is like tea without sugar or honey. Community should be the basic unit of development by virtue of the fact that this is where the overwhelming majority of the people, especially the poor and vulnerable who mostly need the basic essentials of life are”, he said.

According to him, it is better for people to know what they want than what the government thinks they want.

“Democracy should be like a pyramid that starts from the grassroots. People should be more concerned with what is happening in their communities than focusing on the federal.

“People should always put pressure on the government and themselves by monitoring budgets and projects, have a balanced agenda and ensure that everybody is involved in government. They should hold regular meetings with elected/appointed representatives to assess performance, evaluate feedback for effective information dissemination and useful communication management between government and the governed,” he said.

 

Receiving copies of the charter, the Executive Secretary of Lagos Mainland, Mrs. Essien Rashidah Omolola stated thus; “these papers and lists of what the people want will surely get to our leaders. Everybody should join hands and work hard to build and develop the communities.”

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Senior Special Assistant to the Governor of Lagos State on Community Development Affairs and State Chairman, Lagos State Community Development Advisory Committee, Alhaji. Tajudeen Quadri noted that Lagosians have demonstrated yearning for basic amenities and not money, adding that it was the desire of government to meet the needs of the people.

“This present government is community driven, hence, the people should say whatever they want and the government will do it for them”, he said as he urged community members to also put in place measures to supervise the maintenance of newly constructed projects.

 

Commending the initiative, participants urged government at the local level to look into their needs in order to speed up development in their respective communities. Commenting on the development needs of the grassroot communities, the Baale of Otumara, Chief Kehinde Kalejaiye stressed the need for a health centre in Otumara community. He said: “as big as Otumara is, there is no health centre and we need a health centre in Otumara.”

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FOI advocates urge World Bank to reverse downgrade of information access

By FUNMI FALOBI.

Freedom of Information (FOI) advocates in Africa, supported by their counterparts around the world, are asking for a reversal of the decision by the World Bank to downgrade its access to information programme.

In a letter by the Working Group of the African Platform on Access to Information (APAI) to the World Bank’s President, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, endorsed by over 130 other national, regional and international organisations in Africa and other parts of the world, the FOI advocates noted that “both the decision itself and the diminished capacity of the Bank to engage on this critically important issue will send the unfortunate message to governments of developing countries around the world that the issue of transparency and, in particular, access to information, is no longer important or a donor priority.”

 

The Chair of the APAI Working Group, Ms Gabriella Razzano, said in a statement that the letter to the World Bank was only the first step in a series of measures planned by the advocates to get the World Bank to reconsider the decision.

 

It will be recalled that the World Bank recently closed its Governance and Inclusive Institutions (GII) unit and some of GII positions were transferred to other areas of the Bank. In the process, the Bank’s freedom of information-related work was also eliminated ostensibly because of a desire by the bank to increase traditional project lending.

 

Calling on the Bank to reconsider the decision, the FOI advocates noted that the World Bank, through its Access to Information Programme, has “played a key role in the passage and implementation of access to information laws around the world,” adding that “in Africa, where the process was slow, the active support of the World Bank to governments and civil society organisations has resulted in the fast tracking of adoption of access to information laws from five countries in the 2010 to 18 in 2016.”

 

They contended that the closure of the World Bank’s Access to Information Programme will not only hinder adoption and implementation of access to information laws but could also engender a reversal of the progress already made.

 

The organisations also observed that in support of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Bank and other development agencies will be providing developing countries with loans and grants, arguing that “the need for citizens to access information on development financing and locally generated revenue is vital for the attainment of the SDGs” and that the bank’s decision also sends a negative signal in this area.

 

According to them, “in the absence of access to information and participation in programmes funded by governments and development partners, including the World Bank, the levels of corruption in Africa and other developing countries will undoubtedly escalate.”

 

Urging the World Bank not to abandon citizens at this time, the organisations argued that by accessing public information and monitoring development projects, citizens are able to hold governments accountable and to contribute to the realisation of development outcomes, adding that such efforts require the support of the World Bank’s technical expertise and influence to create maximum impact.

 

The organisations reminded the bank that over the past few years, multilateral institutions have moved towards being more inclusive of citizens in governance through initiatives like the SDGs, Global Partnership for Social Accountability (GPSA), Open Government Partnership (OGP) and Open Contracting, African Union Agenda 2063,among others, and that through various consultations, civil society organisations and citizens have contributed to the formulation and shaping of the character of these initiatives.

 

They insisted that the “World Bank’s role in standard setting on key transparency and integrity initiatives in development programmes has been unparalleled” and that at a time when discussions on SDG indicators on access to information as set out in Goal 16 target 10 are high on the global agenda, the bank’s leadership and expertise is needed.

 

The organisations told the Bank’s President that “the fight against poverty is about people. This fight cannot be won without people being able to access information. We strongly recommend that, rather than downgrading the Access to Information Unit, the World Bank should strengthen it so as to be able to continue the important work that the World Bank has been doing in this area.”

 

Diligence vs luck: Forum x-rays imperatives for attaining success

>By Tobi Oyetunde<

 

Which is most desirable; working towards a goal with diligence or hoping on luck to be successful? That was the focus of forum by the Royal Character Academy with the theme, “Diligence as a performance optimiser: where is the place of luck in success?, which held in Lagos recently.
Bosede Olusola-OBASAGiving an introduction to the discourse, the lead facilitator, Bosede Olusola-Obasa defined “diligence” as a combination of “hard, smart, successful, tireless, creative, timely and deliberate” work. She noted that “diligence is a determined, continuous and careful effort to accomplish a given task”. She further said, “for your diligence to pay off, you must cut distractions, stick to your plan, prioritize your goals, reward yourself and go extra mile”, noting that everything in life has its reward.

 

“Diligence has its benefit which are in reward, recognition and fulfillment”, she said, adding that some people have some wrong beliefs and expectations about being diligent only when they own their own private business, while others believe in waiting for luck.

Contributing to the discourse, the guest speaker, Mr. Peter Farotimi Olorunsheyi, Managing Director of PETFAM Technical Services Nigeria Limited shared the story of his life and how diligence helped him in attaining success in life. He told participants how he had to learn roadside mechanic after his primary education and how diligence helped him to take the learning serious, which inspired him to become an engineer.

 

He said, “I used to write notes about what I was being taught while undergoing my learning (as a roadside mechanic)” and it was “my diligence that lifted me from being a roadside mechanic to an industrial engineer”.

 

Olorunsheyi recalled how he was to later go to the Nigeria Army School of Mechanical Engineering, Lagos and then an upgrading course at the Nigeria Army School, Auchi. He noted that in pursuing success, diligence and hard work should not be negotiated for mediocrity just to please others.

 

Concluding, he gave seven key points that can help diligence to yield results, namely: Be determined, Dig your ground and you will find your gold, be meticulous, be a good thinker, be consistent, be focus and be practical in your thoughts.

 

The final segment of the forum was an open session where participants at the forum talking about ‘The Place of Luck in Success’ agreed that there is nothing as luck. A participants whose name is Lucky said: “You must take deliberate steps in life, be clear in what you want and be logical” while another by name Tope said “it is only lazy people that expect luck without doing anything, you must do something and that’s why there’s a saying that when preparation meets opportunity, success is inevitable”.

Corruption: Be the watchdog, Owasanoye urges media

By Funmi Falobi

 

Nigerian media have been urged to serve as catalyst for nation building and anti-corruption watchdog in order to entrench transparency and accountability in governance.

 Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, the Executive Secretary of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) stated this at a tweet-a-thon organized by the International Press Centre (IPC) with support of Public Affairs Section U.S Consulate General, Lagos held in Lagos.

 

Speaking on the theme entitled ‘The State of Transparency and Accountability in Nigeria: Issues for Media Digest and understanding’, Owasanoye who was represented by Mr. Jake Effoduh, the Programme Officer, PACAC, said that the media have a very vital role in assisting Nigeria to reposition itself as a country with a strong commitment to good governance by playing an important role of making public officers accountable to the Nigerian people.

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“At this point where we are as a nation, we need the media to ceaselessly disseminate information about the developmental costs and evils of corruption in our society. We need the media to re-embrace its fundamental role, not only of performing checks and balances on the other three arms in the process of governance, but to also interpret the activities, programs and policies of government to the citizens,” he said.

 

According to him, transparency and accountability are fundamental pillars of any democratically elected government, noting that this is where the media comes in: as a catalyst for nation building and as an anti-corruption watchdog.

 

“I must say that the Nigerian Media, though limited in resources, have managed to keep up to its constitutional mandate quite remarkably. The media has reported corruption cases extensively, and as a result, today, the government is more accountable to its people. Also, citizens have gained insights from the continuous featuring of corruption stories, and the publication of government’s anti-corruption efforts. Notwithstanding these wins, there’s more to do”.

 He declared: “55 Nigerians stole N1.4tr within seven years and this can tar 640km of roads, build 36 ultra modern hospitals, sponsor 4,000 children from primary school to tertiary institution and construct 2,000 housing units.”

 He therefore urged the media not to rest on its oars but to ‘ceaselessly disseminate information about the developmental costs and evils of corruption in our society’.

 

In his address, IPC Director, Mr. Lanre Arogundade charged journalists to take advantage of the event and improve on robust engagement. “The objective of the media transparency watch project is to promote media and public dialogue on the imperative of transparency, accountability and anti corruption for good governance in Nigeria and as well as enrich the content of media reports on transparency issues among others.”

 

Contributing to the discourse, Deputy Editor, Vanguard Newspaper, Mr. Eze Anaba lamented that the challenge before the media in holding government accountable is now so huge as the economic situation in the country has also affected the media. He explained that most newspapers have dropped pages because of the cost of procuring newsprint, which is not available in Nigeria and have to be sourced abroad.

 

“If you cannot meet your family obligation, is it newspapers you will spend on? This is why the media has allowed itself to be dulled to semi consciousness and letting the government go with a lot of things”, he noted.

 

On her part, Chairperson of the National Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Lagos Chapter, Mrs. Sekina Lawal tasked the media to speak with one voice so as to be able to address issues in unity. She stated further that the media should endeavour to do exclusive stories because an average Nigerian could easily predict what to see next in the paper.

 According to her, that the media is termed ‘the fourth estate of the realm’ is not just for that sake, noting that it is not an easy task to be the watchdog of the society. She therefore urged journalists’ body; the Nigerian Union of Journalists, Nigerian Guild of Editors, etc, to speak with same voice adding that “ when the media is well taken care of, that is when journalists can take issues up.”

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Citizens urged to use FOIA to access information

By Funmi Falobi.

 

Nigerian citizens have been urged to familiarise themselves with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in order to access public information and promote transparency in the country.

 

This was the outcome by experts at a tweet a-thon entitled “The Use of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by Media and Civil Society in the Quest for Transparency in Nigeria” organised by the International Press Centre (IPC) with support of Public Affairs Section, U.S. Consulate General, Lagos.

The FOIA , according to discussants at the forum can be used to curb corruption and entrench transparency in Nigeria if Nigerians including professionals make use of it as it was revealed that over 90 percent of public institutions violates Section 29 that mandates submission of Report on every February 1 with National Assembly, Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and security agencies being worst culprits.

According to the lead speaker, Olukayode Majekodunmi, Deputy Executive Director, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP):  “It is important for the citizens including the media to use the Act as the only way to make Nigerian government accountable is through the FOIA.”

He noted that to bring the Act to public domain, there is need for more public enlightenment on the usage of the Act and the judiciary should be more engaged to help in its implementation.

On the challenges of the Act, Majekodunmi said sanctions are not provided for non-compliant agencies. He therefore called for the review of the act saying “The Freedom of Information Act needs to be reviewed so that about 10 sections of the law which dwell on non-disclosure of information will be looked into.”

On his part, Kabir Garba, Editor, Art/Media, The Guardian newspaper said journalists have role to play if the Act must succeed. While declaring that there are still challenges facing the act five years after its passage, he stated that the civil society organisations have been more active while the media have been passive in the usage of the FOIA.

“The media was active in agitating for the law and now that it has been passed we seem to go to bed. If not for the CSOs the success recorded so far would not have been there. There is need for media and CSOs to collaborate as it was in the beginning of the struggle in 1993, which was sustained until the Bill was passed in 2011,” he said.

He declared that journalists should elevate discussion on FOiA: “So far, the war against corruption in Nigeria are still government led and not media led and is not good for democracy because they will give us what they want us to hear”, he noted.

In his speech, IPC Director, Lanre Arogundade said decision to focus on the use of the Freedom of Information Act by the media and the civil society was based on recent happenings in the country which shows that the journey towards transparency in Nigeria could take longer than anticipated despite the change of government a year ago.

“It is quite worrisome that a wall of darkness envelopes the true earnings of our elected leaders; be it in the legislature or the executive. It is equally worrisome that transactions in the oil sector are still shrouded in secrecy based on the under belly of wide spread corruption. It is “Also worrisome that there have been so many corruption allegations that have left members of the public wondering whether this cankerworm can actually be terminated or whether it is fighting back and defeating the nation.

There is also the embarrassing controversy over the 2016 budget in terms of what constitutes the original version, the true version, the mutilated version, the un-mutilated version, etc.

Yet we have in place the three-year old FOI Act whose enactment was believed would pave the way to greater accountability and transparency by those who exercise public authority on behalf of the people,” he said.

Only 20% of Africans use the internet

-By FUNMI FALOBI, Lagos.

Research has revealed that Africa lags behind among comity of nations in the area of internet usage and access to internet.

According to a report by the World Economic Forum, percentage of individuals using the internet showed that Europe has 77.6 percent; America 66.0 percent; Arab States 37.0; Asia and Pacific 36.9 percent and Africa 20.9 percent.

Elsie Kanza, Head of Africa, World Economic Forum advocates that there is a need to fix the  digital poverty,  explaining that if Africans have access to affordable and fast internet, they would be able to create a rich future for the continent.

 

 “Initiatives like this will only work if everyone has access to the internet in the first place. For too many of us, this critical first step is still lacking. In fact, according to figures from the International Telecommunications Union, just over 20% of Africans have internet access,” she said.

Ahead of the 2016 World Economic Forum on Africa, which takes place in Kigali on May 11-13, the Global Shapers, over 1,000 young people across 94 cities in Africa with the drive to make a contribution to their communities, are launching an #internet4all conversation.

Similarly, the Web We Want Foundation, as part of efforts toward increased internet access in Africa has scheduled programmes from May through June sensitising and advocating fast, safe and affordable internet access in Africa commencing with an action week between May 1-7 through activities to commemorate the International Worker’s Day, the World Press Freedom Day, the African World Heritage Day, the World Economic Forum on Africa and African Union Summit.

Activities include calling for more action on internet rights in Africa; Speaking out on internet, economy, jobs and rights; free speech and the internet should go hand in hand, among others.

Full report on the research available @https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/04/only-20-of-africans-use-the-internet-we-must-fix-this-digital-poverty-now?utm_content=bufferfa0c9&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

LAGOS COMMUNITIES DECRY POOR INFRASTRUCTURAL DEVELOPMENT

Communities in Lagos state have cried out over the poor state of infrastructural development, calling on the state government to come to their rescue.
Speaking at a media parley organized by the International Press Centre, IPC, Lagos with the theme “Solution-driven Reporting of Poor Social/Living Conditions in Lagos Rural Communities” supported by the World Association for Christian Communications (WACC), the communities urged the state government to ease the suffering of the people in by addressing the deplorable state of amenities.
According to representatives of the communities from eight Local Government Areas  in Lagos, namely Offin/Oreta in Ikorodu, Otumara – Ilaje in Lagos Mainland, Bolaji Omupo in Somolu, Ituagan Waterside in Amuwo Odofin, Oko-Oba community in Orile/Agege, Peace Estate community, Command in Agbado/Oke-Odo, Erejuwa in Makoko and Obele Odan in Surulere; issues facing them include rehabilitating and completing abandoned road projects, provision of primary health care facilities and ensuring development of other social infrastructures to make life comfortable for them.
Prince Adeyeye Adebisi, a community leader from Offin/Oreta declared that he has witnessed the delivery of women on the popular motorcycle otherwise known as Okada as a result of bad road in the community.
“The major link road to our community is in very bad state. This road was the one constructed by former military governor, Gbolahan Mudasiru. We are on number 364 in road construction on government list. I’ve recorded women delivering on Okada. We spent over three million naira to dig drainage from Igbogbo. When it rains, you find yourself straining your ankles. Local government is not helping at all. When we manage to repair the road, they will come and video it in the night and take it to Alausa to collect money,” he said.
On his part, Jude Ojo, representative from Otumara said there is no public toilet and the area suffer from sanitation issues. “Government policies are politically driven instead of citizens driven. There is no consideration for the poor even in acquiring shops. We need road, town hall, the existing clinic has no drugs, no personnel; we are suffering in silence, we need help,” he said.
“There is no road, drainage in our area. The little project is by self effort. As a matter of urgency, we need primary healthcare; we use private hospitals and the bills are high. Drainage will also help us because the carnal is so close to us,” said Solomon Okosu, representative of Peace Estate in Command.
For John Ogunfuyi, Ituagan has no secondary school and no sufficient teachers in the primary school. “There is no electricity in our area, we need health centre. We want government to put these in place,” he said.
Moses Adewunmi, General Secretary, Boshua Community Development Council, Somolu said: “The canal project in our area is uncompleted; it has stayed for almost two years and has paralyzed the entire community. The road construction in Bolaji Omupo was abandoned and hoodlums now come and steal people’s property due to this abandoned project.”
Contributing to the discussion, Francis Abayomi, Director, Peace and Development Project, noted that the focus of development by the government should be people centered. “There is no how one can talk about development without the people in the area. Whatever development issues they are focusing can’t be completed without the people”, he said.
 

… Putting people at the centre of development and facilitating inclusiveness and sustainable initiatives.

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