By Angela Atabo
The Connected Development (CODE) a Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) says it tracked N193 billion spent on government projects across the country in 2020, towards ensuring accountability.
Mr Hamzat Lawal, Chief Executive, CODE and founder, Follow The Money, said this at the launch of the group’s annual report: Empowering Communities in a Pandemic in Abuja on Friday.
Lawal said CODE also tracked about N96billion of COVID-19 funds at states and federal levels in Nigeria, using its social accountability tool ‘Follow The Money’.
“When CODE set out in 2012, it had the sole purpose of bridging information gap between marginalised communities and their government, so that people in the communities can access basic human needs that will improve their standard of living,” he said.
He said for every project’s money tracked, communities got to have a good standard of living and enjoyed dividends of democracy.
“Each year at CODE, we take a moment to reflect on our work, and review insights from engaging with marginalised communities, our learning and accomplishments.
“The year 2020 was a landmark year where we saw the impact of our work tested in many ways.
“Since our establishment in 2012, we have relied on our ability to challenge the status quo and demand accountability from the government to drive social change in the communities where we work.
“Many of which have accelerated timely intervention in healthcare, water and hygiene services, education, environment and structural development in hundreds of low-income communities in Nigeria and six other African countries,’’ he said.
Lawal said that with rising levels of poverty, inequality and despair, orchestrated by the impact of the COVID pandemic, CODE’s work of addressing systemic corruption in government and poor transparency and accountability, had became increasingly crucial.
He said CODE also advocated for national emergency procurement guidelines to be updated as well as prioritisation of the country’s failing healthcare infrastructure.
He added that the group tracked COVID palliatives distribution in 232 communities.
He said achieving CODE’s mission of empowering Africa, one community at a time, required courage, determination from resilience of activists who desired to see an Africa that was free from injustices, inequality and greed; a continent where people can achieve their full potential.
Lawal said during COVID-19 lockdown, CODE came up with COVID-19 Transparency and Accountability in Africa (CTAP) campaign which offered CODE an opportunity to take its knowledge to six other African countries.
He said that from CODE’s intervention in Malawi, the president of Malawi sacked the Minister of Labour for diverting COVID-19 resources for personal use.
He said that in Kenya, citizens were able to reject government’s proposal to acquire more loan from IMF and the World Bank because the information they got on Follow the Money showed that all previous loans collected by government could not be accounted for.
Lawal said with support from ActionAid, CODE was mobilising young people, transferring knowledge and most importantly, forming key policies and decisions making around gender responsiveness which government didn’t have.
He noted that CODE had enhanced the capacity of grassroots community activists and campaigners in six states and the governments were more sensitive to issues that concerned girls and women.
Lawal said that most of the work was done with support from donor-partners like John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, ActionAid Nigeria, Heinrich Bolch Stifund, OXFAM Nigeria, OXFAM NOVIB, Christian Aid, Ford Foundation and USAID E-WASH.
Ms Lucy James, Senior Programmes Manager, CODE said CODE worked to demand for the domestication of Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPP) at the wake of increased sexual and gender based violence during COVID-19 lockdown.
James said CODE also worked towards promoting gender inclusion in all spheres of the society, especially in leadership and governance and for the first time women in Obodo-Ugwa in Delta, participated at the community development committee meetings.
“With an objective to build strong institutions, CODE has dedicated its resources and efforts towards rebuilding the fragilities in the Nigerian society, the year 2020 was no different.
“In spite of the challenges of COVID-19,our resolve for a more gender –inclusive society, a higher standard of accountability and transparency in governance and improved state of education and healthcare never wavered,’’ he said. (NAN)