It is not uncommon to hear the government of our great country make promises which they never follow through on. The citizens have become used to it that they no longer get hopeful when such promises are made hence have stopped expecting or demanding for what is ours by right.
This probably happens because the citizens are self-sufficient and can afford to survive without government intervention. Unfortunately, some cannot and they suffer untold hardship when funds meant for their development is diverted. It is for this reason that some young people came together to start CODE, a non-governmental organisation that holds the government accountable and ensures that citizens in rural areas receive their dues.
One of our reporters sat down with the Chief Executive of CODE and he revealed how CODE has helped to better the life of citizens in rural areas.
Kindly introduce yourself.
My name is Hamzat Lawal, I am the Chief Executive of Connected Development, CODE, and I am the Co-Founder of Follow the Money which is our most popular intervention so far.
Does that mean you run two organizations?
Connected Development is a registered non-governmental organization that seeks to provide information and try to create a platform for informed debate between citizens and government but our Follow the Money is an initiative of Connected Development that deals with issues around transparency and accountability, engaging citizens and ensuring that public funds for rural communities are accounted for.
Can you give us all the details of the duties CODE performs?
Connected Development has four thematic areas; we have transparency and accountability, youth engagement and empowerment, we deal with issues around climate change, and also we deal with what we call issues around conflict areas. Because we belong to a group called the digital humanitarian network, it’s a group that is being coordinated by UNOCHA and we are actually one of the strongest members in the African region because this group is hosted around the world and we help during crises to provide digital information using technology.
What has it been like, what has your organization achieved so far?
Our Follow the Money initiative has been really successful in terms of engaging citizens and pressurizing government to act. What Follow the Money does is we advocate. In two thousand and twelve, in Zamfara state, there was lead poison outbreak that killed over four hundred children so at that time they needed over eight hundred and fifty million Naira for intervention. So what we did was to advocate for the release of that fund and the President released the fund after our social media campaign where we were able to use Twitter and Facebook to put pressure on the President and also collaborating with groups like the Human Right Watch and getting our stories on Aljazeera, BBC, CNN…
In November two thousand and fifteen there was an approval by the Federal Executive Council of nine point two billion Naira to procure seven hundred and fifty thousand cooking stoves and at that time it was a political period where the PDP and APC were campaigning and everybody was using public money, or rather the ruling government was using public money to sponsor their campaign and for us we got the feelers that these funds would be diverted if nobody talks about it and at that time the citizens were also not happy because we had high level of insecurity, high level of unemployment and other social vices. So what we did was to start a stakeholders meeting and a debate – online and offline debate around it. Also we travelled down to Sokoto and other northern states to sensitize the women and make them aware of this initiative because most household -every household in Nigeria has a mobile phone, but not all of them are connected to the internet. Most households in the north depend on radio for access to information, so we collaborate with organizations like the BBC Hausa radio so that we’re able to share this information so we go to the communities, prepare them for this intervention and make them aware of how much is being budgeted, what is meant to come to their community, so this also helps to raise their consciousness and make them demand more from government and empower them to be able to engage with their local government counselor, the chairman or their state governors during town hall meetings which we sometimes co-organise with our partners.
So that’s some of our projects. We are also running another project under the Great Cream Wall. It’s an initiative that engages eleven frontline states in northern Nigeria to build what we call the shelter belt which connects to other African countries to curb desertification and desert encroachment.
Some time ago ten billion naira was approved for this initiative. The World Bank have also given money, European Union have also approved money. So what we’re trying to do is to visualize how they intend to use this money and also how they intend to engage citizens to take ownership. Because for us it is important that citizens take ownership of government interventions and have a sense of belonging so that they become sustainable overtime because government will come and go but citizens will always remain in their community and transfer this knowledge to the younger generation…