The United Kingdom (UK) government has announced the approval of a £12 million new funding as support to help entrench basic ethics in running in the day-to-day running of the country.
The UK Ambassador to Nigeria, Paul Arkwright, disclosed this in Abuja at the opening of the 2018 Open Government Partnership (OGP) Week.
Mr Arkwright, who was the special guest speaker at the event said Nigeria’s progress since joining the 70-member countries OGP in 2016 has been commendable and deserved the continued support of the UK government.
The ambassador, who described the UK as the proud global leader on transparency and accountability, identified the OGP as an important part of its agenda.
Open government is the process of engaging with civil society and the citizens’ in a transparent and accountable partnership to promote democratic, equal, sustainable and prosperous society.
Noting transparency as a principle that does not stop at national borders, Mr Arkwright commended five states of the federation that have so far signed up to the OGP, to deepen sub-national transparency in the country..
Urging more states to emulate these, the Ambassador assured that the UK government would continue to support Nigeria to ”engage, reform and learn”.
He said the government would also lend its facility to support the country’s effort to open up governance, legislature other institutions’ work for scrutiny work and allow citizens hold them accountable
“UK and Nigeria has a fledging partnership,” Mr. Arkwright noted. “Nigeria’s decision to join the OGP not only sends a strong signal about the way it sees the inherent value in openness in civil society and government working together, but also a strong national and global message and commitment to tackling corruption.
“Nigeria’s progress has been very commendable. The OGP self-assessment report indicates reforms in the country’s first national action plan are on track. Citizens’ engagement in the federal budget process has been strengthened by the timely release of budget information and consultations with civil society organisations.”
On 2019, the envoy said while the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has a job to do to bring about credible elections, the citizens have a role to play.
On the other hand, he said the government has a responsibility to demonstrate leadership and maturity by bringing transparency in the process to bring a peaceful, free, fair and credible voting.
“We want to encourage transparency around the 2019 elections process so that Nigerians will accept the result as credible and reflect the will of the people,” Mr Arkwright said.
While secrecy enables corruption, injustice and negligence to go unchecked, he said transparency matters for sustainable development.
He said when citizens ”see how government spends public funds and what that achieves for them, and have a say in how the government is run, trust and confidence would be built in political leadership.”
Besides, with open, accountable and responsive government, he said citizens are more likely to pay taxes, vote and get involved in decision making, shine the light on financial flows to ensure that transparency reduces opportunities for corruption.
“Sunshine is the best disinfectant. Open government is a better government,” he said. ”The UK and Nigeria government will have to ensure that openness and accountability are embedded across institutions”.
“Civil society must seize the opportunity and hold government to account for its progress. The OGP is a shared process, but leadership has to come from both sides.”
In his speech, U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Stuart Symington, acknowledged the significance of open government partnership with civil society, saying “all over the world, people seek to have a government that realises its partnership with citizens is its present and future”.
Mr Symington commended plans by the Nigerian government to come up with independent mechanism on corruption indices, as he believes “the score about corruption that mattered was the score marked by the citizens”.
The Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, said so far, five states, namely Kaduna, Kano, Anambra, Ebonyi and Niger have adopted the OGP principle, out of which Kaduna was nominated as one of the global sub-national pilot states
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