Anti-Corruption and Fair COVID Recovery High on Agenda as MacArthur Foundation Delegation Visits Nigeria
By Armsfree Ajanaku
This week, the pace of activity within Nigeria’s civil society organizations will pick up as the sector welcomes Mr. John Palfrey, President of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
Mr. Palfrey and other members of the Foundation team will be in Nigeria to meet with civic organizations implementing a diverse portfolio of projects. The Chicago-based Foundation supports creative people, effective institutions, and influential networks in building a more just, green, and peaceful world.
Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria, with its vibrant civil society organizations, has been one of the greatest beneficiaries of the MacArthur Foundation’s efforts. The Nigeria office, headed by the tireless Dr. Kole Shettima and other members of the Africa office in Abuja, has demonstrated the Foundation’s faith in Nigeria’s manifest destiny by the number of projects it has supported to advance democratic and accountable governance.
Nigeria has benefited greatly from the work of the MacArthur Foundation in a number of areas, including its aggressive efforts to fight corruption and institutionalize accountability.
In Nigeria, anti-corruption efforts have received a significant boost thanks to “big bets” from the MacArthur Foundation, which has supported civil society efforts to reduce corruption through citizen initiatives that promote openness, responsibility and commitment. Hundreds of civil society organizations have received funding and training to run anti-corruption programs through Foundation grants and technical assistance. According to the Foundation’s website, the Foundation has awarded funds worth more than $124.7 million to 114 Nigerian groups since 2015 to support grassroots initiatives to root out corruption and establish accountable governance.
For example, the MacArthur Foundation’s Nigeria 1.0 program has galvanized anti-corruption efforts by highlighting fundamental services such as home-school feeding, reducing corruption in the electricity sector and promoting accountability in the implementation of Universal Basic Education (UBE) projects. across Nigeria.
These efforts have brought to light the effects of corruption on the delivery of basic services, just as ordinary citizens of the communities have been inspired to take action against corruption, especially in relation to the delivery of basic social services. across Nigeria.
Similarly, the MacArthur Foundation’s On Nigeria 2.0 program has provided significant support to organizations to leverage the learning and sustainability elements of the On Nigeria 1.0 program. As part of this robust anti-corruption effort, grassroots organizations such as the Resource Center for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED), Connected Development (CODE) and Community Life Project (CLP ) as part of the JoinBodi cohort are working to reduce corruption in the implementation of constituency projects in Kano, Kaduna, Ekiti and Osun states.
Recognizing the essential role of investigative journalism in promoting accountability, the Foundation also supports various newsrooms in conducting investigations and publishing findings that expose wrongdoing and build accountability. This wave of Foundation-supported activities has significantly revitalized Nigeria’s civic sector. The complexity of the problem of corruption and its significant consequences on ordinary citizens’ access to basic services seem to have prompted the MacArthur Foundation to support initiatives that directly benefit the most disadvantaged and vulnerable citizens. As many MacArthur Foundation grantees will attest, the confidence that meaningful change is possible to reduce corruption in Africa’s most populous country has been a tremendous inspiration. As a result, beneficiaries implementing these programs with the Foundation’s support have learned to avoid agonizing and to organize and mobilize the public, especially at the grassroots, to ensure that corruption and its destructive effects are reduced.
Besides the extremely effective results of anti-corruption work in Nigeria, the MacArthur Foundation has been one of the few donor agencies to have proactively responded to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Crucially, at a time when other donor organizations were suspending funding in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the MacArthur Foundation felt it was essential to support an equitable recovery effort. Nigeria has again benefited enormously from new projects designed to respond to the severe effects of the pandemic on ethnic minorities, youth, women and people with disabilities.
One such intervention is the ongoing project to promote the rights of the original inhabitants in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) of Nigeria implemented by the Resource Center for Human Rights and civic education (CHRICED). The project is a response to the injustices and marginalization suffered for decades by the first inhabitants of the FCT, whose monumental sacrifices enabled the country to find space for its capital. Manifestations of these injustices include the statelessness of the original inhabitants, the lack of compensation for many whose lands were taken, the flagrant disobedience of court rulings in favor of the original inhabitants, the lack of sub-national governance systems, in particular the state multi-level system to coordinate governance at the local level. There is also the question of the cultural rights of the first inhabitants, their treasures and cultural deposits being eclipsed by the pace of development of the territory.
The need to peacefully and sustainably resolve these issues, which are fundamental to the survival of the original inhabitants in the FCT, informed the objective of the project, which aims to strengthen the voice and organizational capacity of the inhabitants’ organizations of CTF origin. It is believed that with the required capacity, the native inhabitants of FCT will be in a better position to advocate effectively for the promotion of their political, economic and cultural rights. Currently, ten native residents’ organizations are implementing a diverse portfolio of projects to address the range of issues faced by native residents. Although the project is only six months old, significant results are being recorded. In terms of preserving the cultural treasures of the early inhabitants of the FCT, pottery craftsmanship is one of those cultural treasures on the project’s radar.
As one of the early successes of the project, the Ushafa Pottery Center located on the outskirts of the capital is experiencing a revival. Before the project it was a ghost town with weeds and rodents everywhere. The Original Inhabitants project breathed new life into the space, which in turn became a hive of activity for women and young people. Dozens of original residents are on hand to take advantage of the revival of the pottery center to learn pottery skills, which would in turn become a base for sustainable livelihood activities. It is no surprise that the Ushafa Pottery Center is one of the MacArthur Foundation Chairman’s first stops upon his arrival in Nigeria. The center’s revival is the culmination of the MacArthur Foundation’s belief that marginalized communities deserve fair treatment, especially given the devastation caused by the pandemic.
Ajanaku is the Head of Programs and Communications at the Resource Center for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED).
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