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LSD trains journalists, CSOs on open government partnership




THE African Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development (LSD) has brought together  journalists and members of the civil society on two-day training on Open Government Partnership (OGP).

The training which was held on Wednesday and Thursday at Idrinina Hotel Lokongoma, Lokoja, in Kogi State focused on the role of the media and advocates in strengthening transparency in governance.

The International Centre for Investigative Reporting, Premium Times, Radio Nigeria, The Guardian, Silverbird TV, PTV, ThisDay, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), among others were part of the media organisations represented.

Joshua James, the lead media OGP in Kaduna State, said the media play critical role in ensuring good governance.

“While we cannot formulate policies we can make the government to formulate relevant policies,” James said. “The media should in its functions be a feedback mechanism between the government and her citizens.”

He urged journalists to deepen their understanding on critical national policies and programmes by partnering with civil society organisations (CSOs) and government agencies in utilising available local resources.

Journalists during one of the training sessions had the opportunity to identify some challenges and solutions to reporting OGP-related issues.

Uchenna Arisukwu, Programme Coordinator of LSD, said the OGP is a global platform for reformers, which the media is part of.

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He said: “Part of our function is to sensitise the media on the role they have to play in OGP so that they can effectively play their role as watchdogs of the government and bring about transparency. In totality, OGP is about openness.

“OGP is expected to make Nigeria a better place if all is implemented.  I dare to say that from all the policies and programmes of government OGP, stands, unique and, if  you ask me, revolutionary because it is co-creation between government and CSOs.  It cuts across all the strata of the Nigerian state and on different issues.

“So if we are able to sort out corruption, we are like 75 per cent done with our problems and OGP is thriving around transparency and accountability.  So when the system is open to probes, it will greatly reduce corruption in Nigeria.”

Arisukwu noted that  OGP serves as an instrument of accountability to the citizens. “Because the government has promised accountability and openness, it will enable the common man to hold the government to the promise of openness, accountability, and transparency.

“They need to understand how to apply the wonderful principles of OGP and how they can apply it to their lives and support it to succeed in Nigeria.  OGP for me is the shortest route to Nigeria’s transformation if well implemented.”

Participants at the training

Julian Osamoto, a journalist from Kapital F.M Abuja, told The ICIR the training has exposed her to the core essence of OGP.

“I learnt that the OGP is an instrument of accountability and transparency. I have been hearing of OGP but I didn’t know I could be a stakeholder. This training has actually shown me that I have been indirectly applying OGP but with this knowledge, I have grasped that I can do more,” said Julian.

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Akintunde Babatunde, Programme and Research Officer with the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ) also noted the training is a necessary reinforcement process.

“The training has reinforced my belief that the media that can hold government accountable in a bid for government to be more transparent should be a major part of the pushers and implementers of the OGP,” he said.

According to Adedoyin Ojosipe, Media and Advocacy Officer at the African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL), the training served as a platform that calls media practitioners to action while pointing out that though the concept of OGP is not new to the media, it has been a role played indirectly by the media.

“Holding government accountable, informing government on the plight of the masses and doing solution based reporting has been a part of media objectives,” Ojosipe said. “However, training has only created a re-awakening on why we need to up our reports in community development, making our leaders more accountable and making the masses buy into co-creating and co-owning a transparent process that can lead to improvement in their standard of living.

OGP is a coalition of equal partners from civil societies, stakeholders and the government, focused on improving transparency, accountability, citizen participation and responsiveness to citizens through technology and innovation to foster transparency.

At the International Anti-Corruption Summit organised by the government of the United Kingdom in May 2016, President Muhammadu Buhari affirmed his commitment to strengthening anti-corruption reforms through implementing programmes aimed at exposing corruption, punishing the corrupt and providing support to the victims of corruption, and driving out the culture of corruption.

This commitment led to the sourcing for avenues to deepen institutional and policy reforms which led to Nigeria joining the OGP in July 2016 as the 70th country.

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The organisation was founded in 2011 by 8 countries namely: U.S, United Kingdom, South Africa, Indonesia, Brazil, Norway, Mexico, and the Philippines. It currently has 79 member nations and sub-national governments including Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi.

The partnership is voluntary with domestically-driven initiatives. OGP is a community of people who identify local issues and proffer local solutions to these issues according to the international standards and then proffer solution to the issues.

Although voluntary, member states must meet some eligibility criteria’s of which there are fiscal transparency, declaration of assets, citizen engagement, and access to information.

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