By Bassey Udo
To seal their public commitment to run an open, transparent and accountable government agenda if elected into office come March 2023, five governorship candidates in Akwa Ibom State on Sunday signed a pact to embrace the Open Governorship Manifesto.
The pact, put together by Policy Alert was presented during the Akwa Ibom Governorship Debate organised by the Akwa Ibom State Council of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ).
The five governorship candidates who signed the document and participated in the debate included Iboro Otu of the African Action Congress (AAC), John James Akpan Udoedehe of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP), Ezekiel Nya-Etok of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), Ekere Essien of the Action Democratic Party (ADP).
Bassey Albert of the Young Progressives Party, who joined the debate virtually, signed the manifesto through a representative.
The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Uno Eno, pulled out of the debate at the last minute, while the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Akan Udofia, sent apologies that he was indisposed.
The Manifesto was aimed at getting the governorship aspirants to commit to implement the policies and programmes of their administrations based on the principles of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) initiative if elected into office in the state as the baton of government changes hands come May 2023.
Speaking during the presentation, Senior Programme Officer of Policy Alert, Mfon Gabriel, said the OGP was a global multi-stakeholder initiative that brings reformers in and outside of government to work together to create solutions that make government more transparent, accountable, and participatory.
OGP is a principle by a group of reformers in and outside government working to transform how governments at all levels serve their citizens.
“Since Nigeria signed up on the OGP in 2016, about 25 of the 36 states and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) have adopted the principles. Regrettably, Akwa Ibom is one of the three states in the Niger Delta region that is yet to sign up on the Partnership”, Gabriel said.
He said State in the Niger Delta present an interesting case for subnational open government implementation as the region is currently receiving the highest allocations in terms of revenues from the Federation Account compared to other states.
FAAC allocation data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) shows that between January and June 2022, Akwa Ibom collected N104 billion, the second largest statutory allocation after Delta among the five leading oil-bearing states receiving a 13 percent derivation fund, in addition to FAAC allocations.
The signing of the Manifesto is part of an OpenGovTownHall series implemented by the Niger-Delta Open Government Observatory (NOGO), a civil society cluster working to strengthen the uptake and implementation of OGP in the region.
NOGO is currently implemented in six states of the Niger Delta region with support from USAID Nigeria/Palladium Strengthening Civic Advocacy and Local Engagement (SCALE) project.
The project is led by Policy Alert in partnership with Nigeria’s Open Government Partnership (OGP) Secretariat, Open Alliance, among others.