The Center for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) has on Thursday 18th May, 2017 organized students forum on #OpenNASS Campaign. #OpenNASS campaign is an advocacy campaign aimed at tackling 3 fundamental issues. Specifically, the campaign aimed at tackling poor understanding of governance and the role of voters, few tools (discussion forums, petitions, town halls etc) available to the average voters and opacity in the use of public funds and policy choices. The campaign has been very active on social media and in the last year, has been amplified via infographs in nothing less than 6 newspapers like Daily Trust, This Day, Punch e.t.c and discussions / sensitization jingles on 8 radio stations across Nigeria. In her opening remarks, the program coordinator, Malama Harira Abdurrahaman Wakili, said that In Nigeria, there is a major disconnect between the elected representatives and the general voting population outside of the electoral process. This has seriously hampered the strength of democracy because officials make decisions and vote on issues with limited information from their constituents, and with little oversight from these same constituents. This problem is borne out of 3 fundamental issues:
- The average voter does not understand the governance system in Nigeria, and their role in keeping their government accountable.
- There are very few tools (petitions, open lines, discussion forums, etc.) available to the average voter to share information with elected representatives and hold them accountable.
- The national government is very opaque on its policy choices and use of public funds
In addressing ways to overcome the above mentioned problems, Hariara said that Nigerians have started writing and signing petitions for an #openNASS. The petition will put more pressure on the National Assembly to open up its activities. In view of this, CITAD observed that there is urgent need to spread the campaign across by organizing such event and in its different activities and network in order to have more hands to join the agitation.
In the paper he presented, Malam Hamza Ibrahim Chinade, CITAD’s Media Officer, said that the National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is a bicameral legislature established under section 4 of the Nigerian Constitution. It consists of a Senate with 109 members and a 360-member House of Representatives. The body, modeled after the federal Congress of the United States is supposed to guarantee equal representation of the 36 states irrespective of size in the Senate and proportional representation of population in the House of Reps. He then gave the party composition of the senate as APC 60 and PDP 49, while the party composition of the House of Representative is APC 225, PDP 125 and others 10. He finally outlined the following as the major roles of the legislature in a democracy i. Enactment of laws ii. Appropriation of funds, and iii. Oversight on implementation.
Mrs. Salma Muhammad led an interactive discussion on the role of students in promoting #openNASS. During the discussions, Ahmad Tijjani, a Political Science student from Bayero University, Kano encouraged the fellow students to include #openNASS campaign in the SUG activities in tertiary institutions in the state. “We will not allow the politicians to design the people needs in their offices and deny them access to useful information”. Ahmad Said. Idris Nuhu Congo from Gaya Local Governments urged CITAD to take the campaign to secondary schools in the state in order to catch our youth young. Ibrahim Abdullahi a community leader from Hotoron Kudu, requested CITAD to produce #openNASS campaign pamphlets in Hausa Language for easy understanding for their people.
Finally, Malam Isyaku Garba of CITAD shared information of the role of legislative aides of the elected representative and gave their contact phone numbers. The event was attended by about 60 participants.