Decorating Champions of Open Government

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In recognition of their individual efforts in promoting openness in governance, the Africa Network for Environmental and Economic Justice, decorated Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State and some of his staff with the Open Government Champions Award, Adibe Emenyonu reports

Open Government Partnership (OGP) was established in 2011 as a collaboration between eight national governments sharing a common goal to secure concrete  commitments from governments to their citizenry to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption and harness new technologies  to strengthen  governance.

The eight national governments that constitute the foundation members of OGP are Brazil,  Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, Philippines South Africa, United Kingdom and United States of America.

However,  in July 2016, Nigeria signed on to the OGP as the 70th country. And by the end of July 2018, member states of the OGP had risen to 80 countries and 20 sub-national government of which Nigeria is one of them. By signing onto this initiative, members of national and sub-national governments commit themselves to ensuring certain  principles  in governance  such as fiscal transparency, anti-corruption and access to information citizens’ engagement.

It was this singular commitment that prompted Africa Network for Environmental and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), to add Edo State as part of the conversation in marking the 2019 OGP week on the theme: “A Global Call To Action To Transform  The Way Governments Serve Their Citizens”.

In his opening remarks, Rev. David Ugolor,  who is the Executive Director, ANEEJ, said part of the celebration is the initiation of Open Government Champions award to recognise some personalities  who have contributed  to promoting transparency,  accountability and open government in Edo State.

One of those penciled down as recipients of the award was Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State. Also his Chief of Staff, Mr. Taiwo Akerele and Prof. Yinka Omorogbe, Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, also benefitted.

The governor was decorated with the Open Government Champions Award, for implementing policy actions to promote transparency and accountability in governance, while Omorogbe and Akerele were bestowed with awards the silver category for being astute open government advocates in Nigeria.

During the award ceremony held in Benin City, the ANEEJ boss said the award was presented to the governor for advancing principles of OGP. Ugolor said Obaseki got the Gold Category of the award for being a frontline Open Government Advocate in Nigeria, adding that by signing the OGP, members commit themselves to certain principles in governance, which include fiscal transparency, anti-corruption, access to information, citizen engagement, among others.

“We are rolling out the drums today to celebrate the OGP Champions who by their disposition are making the state a torchbearer of OGP in the Niger Delta/South-South states,” he noted.

In his remarks, Obaseki, who was represented by the Head of Service, Mr. Isaac Ehiozuwa, said before signing up to the OGP platform, his administration adopted open governance by putting in place laws and policies that allow for transparency.

“The present administration showed open governance in job creation and in appointment of political office holders. To demonstrate its open government policy, the state government as at March 1, this year, published its financial record,” he noted.

Akerele, on his part, thanked ANEEJ for the award, adding that it is a privilege to be part of a team that doesn’t compromise in delivering good governance. He said,  “We will not relent, we will continue to deliver quality service to Edo people.”

OGP was launched in 2011 to provide an international platform for domestic reformers committed to making their governments more open, accountable, and responsive to citizens. The OGP brings together government reformers and civil society leaders to create action plans that make governments more inclusive, responsive and accountable.

In the spirit of multi-stakeholder collaboration, OGP is overseen by a steering committee including representatives of governments and civil society organisations. To become a member of OGP, participating countries must endorse a high-level Open Government Declaration, deliver a country action plan developed with public consultation, and commit to independent reporting on their progress going forward.

The Open Government Partnership formally launched on September 20, 2011, when the eight founding governments endorsed the Open Government Declaration and announced their country action plans. Since 2011, 80 OGP participating countries and 20 subnational governments have made over 3,100 commitments to make their governments more open and accountable.

In essence, it’s objective is to make sure that real change is happening on the ground in a majority of OGP countries, and that this change is benefitting citizens. There are three primary ways for OGP to help make sure the right conditions are in place for countries to deliver ambitious open government reforms by maintaining high-level political leadership and commitment to OGP within participating countries, supporting domestic reformers with technical expertise and inspiration and fostering more engagement in OGP by a diverse group of citizens and civil society organisations.