The Strengthening Advocacy and Civic Engagement Project with support from United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Foundation for Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta (PIND) played hosts to the Niger Delta region to the 2017 Niger Delta Civic Engagement Forum (NDCEF) with the `Theme: Strengthening the Niger Delta through Civic Engagement.
Niger Delta Civic Engagement Forum brought together key stakeholders in the Niger Delta to identify, strategize and propose solutions in addressing the challenges around strengthening the capacity of Niger Delta government institutions to meet citizen needs and participation in governance.
The Chief of party, Mr. Dara Akala in his welcome remarks stated that the event was to create a platform for citizens of the Niger Delta to lay bare issues that affects the region, and to chat the way forward and at the end of the day, it will provide very clear insights to the Niger Delta Institutions (NDIs) on how they can do three things – Embed citizens’ participation in their standard operating procedure, Integrate citizens’ participation into their organizational culture, and Create and install an effective organizational infrastructure for understanding people’s needs and expectations, proactively seeking feedback from them. For me, these are transformative steps for the NDIs in increasing citizens’ participation to achieve inclusive economic development in the Niger Delta” He added.
Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, the former NDDC boss, in her key note address on noted that strengthening of the all institutions in the Niger Delta requires the effort of all the citizens in the region. “Development shouldn’t be left for NDDC and ministry Niger Delta alone. Every institutions such as the traditional institution and the youths counsel must be involved”.
Convener of the #OurMumuDonDo campaign, Charles Oputa, AKA Charly Boy who was also in attendance said in his speech that ‘made a case for accountability in leadership saying ’the country was in dire need of men of integrity, and good leadership. We lack men of integrity who are genuinely interested in fixing our economy. The people of Niger Delta are suffering and smiling. We must hold our leaders accountable”.
The Speaker, Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Barr. Onofiok Luke while delivering a keynote address stated that “One thing sits at the heart of Civic engagements: government’s transparency, sincerity and the political will to promote Civic engagement. You build consensus successfully if you run an open and transparent government. You encourage people to participate only in an exercise where they trust their participation would not be a mere window dressing.”
“An open legislature encourages interaction with the citizens; and these interactions could serve as opportunity for citizens’ participation in the Strengthening of government institutions. Our experience at the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly has so far proven this to be true. A key aspect of our regular citizen’s engagement policy is public hearing. For instance, to carry the citizens along in the state budgetary planning, we decided to introduce a number of mechanisms to enhance citizen participation in the yearly appropriation process. We call this model-Participatory Budgeting. We were the first to do this, four years before the National Assembly adopted participatory budgeting. In engaging the citizens where there noticeable records of achievements? Yes, of course! By merely asking ordinary people (Market women, traditional rulers, students and youths, civil liberties group, industry experts) to deliberate and make contributions to the budget of the State, we found that there was areas of needs which their inputs at the public hearings revealed. The 2017 appropriation law is an instance of such”.
The event also had in attendance Hilda Dokubo – Actress and ActivistOthers were, Ken Henshaw – Activist, Uduak Okon – E.D Youth Alive Foundation, Dr. Kingsley Emu – Commissioner for Budget and Planning Delta State and Emeka Ononamadu – INEC Resident Commissioner, Enugu State.