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By Constance Meju The marginalization women from decision-making in governance and exclusion has become more worrisome as the federal government c

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The marginalization women from decision-making in governance and exclusion has become more worrisome as the federal government continues to make effort to address this seriously impacting failure that has kept women away from effectively contributing to the development of the country. This fact became more as the Nigerian involvement in the Open Government Initiative, OGP, a body of over 70 international governments committed to promoting good governance through inclusion, transparency and accountability were unfolded to participants at a town hall meeting in Port Harcourt recently.

Addressing participants at a town hall meeting on corruption and Open Government Partnership, OGP, organized by Kebetkache Women Development and Resource Center, Port Harcourt in association with the Women Rights Advancement and Protection Agency, WRAPA, June 18, Dr Sofiri Peterside, a resource person noted that the document which explicitly spells out how the Buhari government which joined the group in 2016, did not at any stage mention women  even as eight women were in the team that drafted the Nigerian Action Plan, mandatory for participation in the OGP. OGP thrives on citizen engagement and the inclusion of diverse voices, a seriously missing factor of the Nigerian governance system.

Because of government failure to domestic and implement the 35 per cent Affirmative Action on inclusion of women in governance, the number of women in decision making has continued to dwindle rather than increase in accordance with the United Nations target for women and in spite of the huge population of women in Nigeria and their huge involvement in the electoral process. This has added to increase in the number of women in the poverty bracket.

Sofiri said inequality is embedded in societal struggle for resources and power and makes the struggle for inclusion in governance an agitation that requires perseverance and reaching out to get more men on the side of the women. He noted that it took support from slave traders to end slavery but called on government to put in place deliberate structures to help bridge the heavily tilted inequality gap between men and women.

At the end of the town hall meeting, participants called on government to revisit the national action plan and include issues affecting women, domestic the OGP in states and local governments to engender good governance in the country and engage effectively, civil society and the citizens for transparency, accountability and inclusiveness in tandem with the goals of OGP. 

The full text of the communiqué is reproduced below:

COMMUNIQUE ISSUED  AT THE END OF A TOWN HALL MEETING  ON OPEN GOVERNMENT PARTNERSHIP CONDUCTED BY KEBETKACHE WOMEN  DEVELOPMENT AND RESOURCE CENTER, PORT HARCOURT IN ASSOCIATION WITH WRAPA AT ALGATE HOTEL, OBIO-AKPOR, PORT HARCOURT ON TUESDAY, JUNE 18,2019.

PREAMBLE

Kebetkache Women Development and Resource Centre on Tuesday June 18, 2019 conducted a Town Hall Meeting for Obio=Akpor at Algate Hotel, GRA, Port Harcourt. Aim according to Ms Emem Okon, executive director of the organization, was to amplify the voices of women and issues around them for inclusion in governance. The programme was in conjunction with Women Rights and Protection Agenda, WRAPA. There was a conversation on corruption followed by a presentation on  Open Government Partnership by Dr Sofiri  Peterside.

OBSERVATIONS

 *Corruption is not just about embezzlement but cuts through all sectors of society running from the individual, home to communities, civil service, business sector, civil society, schools, health institutions, national, state and local governments.

The effects of corruption are adverse to the wellbeing of the country and eradication of this vice should start from the homes and individuals to be effective. Platforms like the Human Rights Commission, CLEEN Foundation , Civil liberty Organization, the Police Anti-Fraud/Gender/Human Right desks and sister agencies, the RFCC and ICPC, to report incidents of corrupt practices to check its spread.

*Open Government partnership is an international initiative set up to encourage transparency in government and stop corruption. Over 70 countries including Brazil, Indonesia, Philippines, Mexico and Norway and Nigeria signed on in 2016.

*Nigeria opted for the OGP because the huge oil revenue accruing to the country due to lack of transparency and openness in governance, is not yielding correspondent dividend to citizen and OGP if well implemented, can make citizens the greatest beneficiaries of democracy.

*In line with OGP requirements, Nigeria has set up structures to promote openness, transparency and accountability as well as a National Action Plan.

*Nigeria’s National Action Plan identifying commitments most important to the context of the country include, promoting accountability and the economy, as well as fighting corruption with an agenda to expose corruption, punish the corrupt and support victims of corruption.

*Culture and the patriarchal system has continued to work against women and girls despite advancement in other areas and demanded that government must play a key role through deliberate policies towards structures which power gender inequality.

*Inclusiveness and engagement of both civil society and citizens were identified as key in Open Government Partnership but noted that Nigeria falls short of expectation in this regard.

*In line with OGP guideline, the federal government has made LG finances free from state control with the direct disbursement policy and called on communities and civil society organizations to make it[s operations more effective by adequately monitoring development in that sector.

*With regards to tax transparency, government is making effort to prevent corrupt leaders from winning contracts as was the case in the past, through establishment of accessible central databases.

*OGP document did not in any way mention women, reflecting the continued exclusion of Nigerian women’s interests and needs by decision makers.

Recommendations

Participants called for a review of the National Action Plan on OGP to include the interest of women and charged civil society organizations to constructively promote activities to bring about paradigm change in the country.

They charged Government to demonstrate openness and transparency in the finance sector by streamlining taxes required of the informal sector where most women operate.

In line with the requirements of Open Government Partnership, OGP, government should adopt measures that will expose citizens to information on new policies and opportunities so women and girls can access them.

Noting efforts by the Rivers State governor to bring women into local government decision making, the forum asked for the inclusion of more experienced women in all strata.

They urged governments to respect the right of citizens to contribute to budgets and make budgets available for monitoring purposes as part of inclusion and promotion of openness and accountability.

They called for platforms to mobilize for a more citizens engagement at all levels.

Women were advised to set up platforms for reaching more women and mentor the young to build a stronger voice to bring their issues on the front-burner and called for continued education of women and girls.

Government was charged to continue to adopt use of innovations to stop corruption and respect these instruments to avoid the INEC server saga.

Women were advised to continue to amplify their voices and reach out to men as they agitate with perseverance for inclusion in decision making and paradigm change on gender despite current challenges.

The meeting also called for the domestication of the Open Government Partnership in Rivers State and all local governments to promote good governance.

 They thanked Ford Foundation for making the enlightening engagement on Open Government Partnership possible.

#Gender Accountability and Transparency Project (GAP)

#Kebetkache  Women

Constance Meju is publisher of Port Harcourt based National Point Newspaper and Gender and Human Right Justice advocate

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