Stakeholders in Edo State have called for the re-energizing of advocacy to support procurement and other government reforms that are of public interest.

The call was made during a stakeholders meeting to discuss key transparency, accountability, and anti-corruption reform initiatives organized by the Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ) in Benin City.

The meeting secured stakeholders’ endorsement for the Open Government Partnership (OGP) process in Edo State and re-echoed the need for Edo State government to approve the draft Accountability and Integrity Strategy (EDSIAC), OGP state action plan, Freedom of Information (FOI) bill and sustain justice sector reform efforts.

The Executive Director of ANEEJ, Rev David Ugolor in his opening remarks said ANEEJ has put together the event to offer stakeholders the opportunity to discuss some transparency and accountability initiatives that have been proposed some years back but are yet to be formally approved for implementation by Edo State government.

“Many of such reforms are currently being implemented at the national level and across many States in Nigeria. It is important that our own government is part of it. For instance, Nigeria has a national anti-corruption strategy that is currently being implemented and States like Kano have keyed into it.

“Nigeria is implementing its 3rd national action plan as part of the Open Government Partnership process and many States in Nigeria are implementing various reforms under the OGP initiative.

“We are aware that some specific reforms are already being implemented by the Edo State government and we will discuss how to promote such initiatives, increase inclusion and civil society participation in the process,” he noted.

According to Rev. Ugolor, who was represented by Comrade Leo Atakpu, Deputy Executive Director, “ANEEJ has thus conceived this civil society-led initiative to revamp stakeholders’ interest on these issues, to promote transparency, accountability, and public participation in the governance of our dear State.

“ANEEJ has worked with several partners to advance some of these initiatives that promote transparency, accountability, and public participation in governance, in Edo State.

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“The effort saw ANEEJ working with RoLAC, Westminster Foundation for Democracy, the OGP national secretariat, Edo State government, and several civil society groups including some of you present here.

“Through the collaboration, Edo State government joined the Open Government Partnership in 2018. Stakeholders have been duly sensitized on the concept of OGP and their role in the implementation of the initiative. Training has been held for state and non-state actors, where the draft State Action Plan (SAP) was developed.

“We even organized retreat for State and non-state actors to generate the OGP State Action Plan. The Steering committee for the OGP in Edo State has been constituted and inaugurated by the governor himself.

“Unfortunately, the momentum dropped when the first tenure of this administration ended, and up till this very moment, the State Action Plan is yet to be formally approved by the governor for implementation.

“About the same time, the Edo State Integrity and Accountability Strategy was also developed with the implementation framework designed to facilitate full operationalization. The mission was to reduce corruption through strengthened institutional frameworks, fiscal transparency, accountability, and the rule of law.

“ANEEJ worked with Civil society organizations, prepared a monitoring framework to monitor and report on its implementation. Such an important document is still pending and awaiting the governor’s approval.

“That is not all, a draft freedom of information law has equally evolved from stakeholders’ engagement and advocacy. This draft bill was put together by the legal drafting team of the Edo State Ministry of Justice.

“This has also not been taken forward despite ANEEJ and other stakeholders’ push. There is now the need to reactivate discussion and advocacy on all these issues, and many more, to ensure that the time and effort put into generating and preparing these important draft documents is not wasted.”

The well-attended event had both state and non-state actors in attendance including Ministry of Justice, EFCC, ICPC, NBA, NUJ, members of CONGOs, RoLAC II program team, Edo State Internal Revenue Service, Ministry of Budget and Economic Planning, Ministry of Youths Development, National Orientation Agency, JONAPWD and other interest groups.