Governors charged to sign in to Open Government Partnership (OGP)

By Olawale Adewale, The Nigerian Voice, Osogbo 

Governors whose states have not signed in to the Open Government Partnership (OGP) have been charged to embrace and key into the initiative so as to reap the benefits of the global mechanism for good governance.

The Executive Director of the African Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development (Centre LSD), Dr Otive Igbuzor gave the charge at the South-West OGP learning and sharing session organised by Partnership to Engage Reform and Learn (PERL), a programme of UK's Department for International Development (DFID).

Dr Igbuzor who is also a Partnership Facilitator DFID explained that the Open Government Partnership is an international initiative that provides a platform for reformers inside and outside governments around the world to develop reforms that “promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption and harness new technologies to strengthen governance”.

He said only seven states have signed into OGP out of the 36 states of the federation and urged the remains 29 states to also embrace OGP and sign into it in their states.

According to him, "OGP is an international initiative introduced in 2011. Nigeria was formally admitted into OGP in July 2016. The National Action Plan was approved in December 2016 and the implementation started in January 2017. Kaduna state was the first state that signed into OGP at the subnational level."

"At the moment, we have seven states including Kano, Ebonyi, Anambra, Niger, Abia, Enugu and Kaduna have signed into the OGP while Kogi, Jigawa and Bauchi have indicated their interest to sign into the OGP. We urge all other states to embrace and sign into the OGP", Dr Igbuzor explained.

Also speaking, the Civil Society Adviser to the OGP National Secretariat, Mr Stanley Achonu said signing in to OGP would attract many benefits to the state and aid good governance. "Good open government reforms can transform the way government and public services work, ensuring that they are properly responsive to citizens, while improving their efficiency and effectiveness, and preventing abuses of state power", Achonu stated.

He charged members of the civil society organizations and the media in the state that are yet to identify with the OGP initiative to make necessary moves to encourage their governors to sign into the OGP without further delay.

His words "This will ensure that ‘No One Is Left Behind’ and all the stakeholders including women, youths, persons with disabilities and all citizens and sectors are appropriately engaged. Civil Society Organisations and the Media’s role is critical in working as partners and collaboratively with Government and other stakeholders to emplace OGP so that they are not seen as adversaries of Government."

Also the Partnership Facilitator, DFID/PERL, Dr James Zasha highlighted the steps to be taken by interested states willing to join OGP. He also noted that OGP has tendencies to bring several opportunities and gains to the states that join OGP.

He said "Civil Society Organisation and the Media should actively engage government and other stakeholders with finesse and work to develop an OGP ‘Chatter of Demand’. It is apparent that for success to be achieved with OGP initiative, the State Chief Executive must be actively engaged to get their buy-in, and to ensure the ‘will power’ to drive the implementation and delivery. This can be done with commitment and active citizens involvement."

Dr Zasha, emphasised that Open Government Partnership (OGP) focuses on Transparency, Accountability and Participation and that there was a major need for active citizens' engagement and openness on the part of government.

He said "There should be commitment to OGP principles and the ‘Political Will’ to drive the process through lead Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) that will be charged with OGP responsibilities and appropriately designated senior government official to coordinate the implementation of OGP in the States.

Also, the South West Regional Coordinator of DFID, David Ukagwu promised the willingness of DFID-PERL to support the states in the region to perfect the process of joining the OGP.

He further requested the Director General of Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission, Mr Seye Oyeleye who also attended the event, to bring the OGP imitative to the attention of Western governors, particularly as it can help ensure service delivery to the citizens.

"Stakeholders such as the DAWN Commission, CSOs and the media should make the South West governors realise that OGP is a vehicle for entrenching good governance in their states"

Ukagwu reiterated that Open Government Partnership is the simple but powerful idea that would enable governments and institutions work better for citizens when they are transparent, engaging and accountable.