By: Mayen Etim
ABUJA, Nigeria – Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen, has called on Nigerians to support efforts of the Federal Government to ensure adequate protection for vulnerable people from all forms of abuse.
Speaking at a multi-stakeholders meeting on strengthening the inclusion of marginalized groups in the country organized by Accountability Lab Nigeria, (ALNG), on Thursday in Abuja, Tallen said the role of women and youth in the development of any society cannot be overemphasized.
She commended ALNG for initiating the laudable programme aimed at making government work for the people by focusing on improving transparency, accountability, citizen participation and responsiveness to citizens through technology and innovation.
According to her, developed nations of the world have been able to get to where they are today largely due to the importance they attach to women, youth and persons with disabilities, (PWDs).
“The scheme of connection put into empowering and inclusion of young people, women and PWDs in government/decision making processes, have enhanced these countries the ability to push the frontiers of various professions into actualization of their development objectives,” she said.
The Minister who was represented by the Administrative Officer of the Ministry, Mrs. Fatoki Adebukola, said financial fraud is spreading like wild fire from Nigeria across the world, and that the fight against corruption can only be achieved through the Open Government Partnership, (OGP) multilateral initiative that aimed to secure concrete commitments from national and sub-national governments to promote open government, socio-economic empowerment of citizens, fight corruption and harness new technologies to strengthen governance.
She explained that though the ultimate responsibility for OGP lies with the Government, she noted that these could not be fulfilled without involvement of CSOs, NGOs, Development Partners and private organizations at all levels, assuring that her ministry is also committed to the programme.
In her remarks, the Program Officer 1 in Nigeria, Ayebatari Wills, said there are gains in citizens working together with the government as it has to do with OGP. She said that OGP is a tool for democracy, as oftentimes there is disconnect between what the government does for the citizens, adding that her Secretariat is working with the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and CSOs to identify how PWDs can have access to lay their numerous complaints.
She expressed fear that CSOs are not coming forward to work in the Secretariat with the PWDs, which has made them co-opt ALNG into the working group.
In an interview, the Country Director of ALNG, Odeh Friday, urged the government to always do the needful by making inclusive process; before designing any policy, project or budget, the government should know that it is important to include people of such community who are direct beneficiaries of governance in the process.
The Country Director said his organization had carried out several surveys with citizens, community members and leaders where it was discovered that there is a lack of trust between the people and those in authority, among others.
“However, we’re still working strongly to continue this project. We’ve also built the capacity of the Community Frontline Associates, (CFAs) in order to continue with the project because donor funding is not sustainable which has made the job very difficult.
In his contribution, the Project Officer of the organization, Shiiwua Mnenga, said there should be openness in transactions of government businesses, and also accountability, and the only way this could be measured is to assess the extent to which the plights of women, youth and PWDs are taken into consideration.
He said the PWDs and the youth are neglected in so many ways. In some instances there appears to be policies that support them, but these policies are poorly communicated and implemented.
“In other instances there are nonexistent so this resulted in a huge gap that all of us need to work on. It is not government alone, but I think government has to take the lead, and all citizens including CSOs has to stand up by ensuring that there is a link between the government and the citizens so that through this means we can be able to communicate the government’s efforts and at the same time communicate peoples’ needs. I can say that the project has been a huge success,” he added.
Participants at the event urge the organization to extend the period of the project in order to achieve the desired aims and objectives.