GovernanceTechnology

Nigeria’s new chapter: Tracking corruption via social media

Corruption is a serious problem in Africa; it has ruined African nations and their economies. Nigeria despite its vast wealth from oil and other minerals resources has some of the poorest people and communities due to corruption in government.

But the citizens are engaged and fighting back against the ills of corruption in their country using social media. More than 10,000 people on Twitter are following the Nigerian initiative, Follow the Money. It tracks how funds allocated to aid and development projects are being spent. Pressure on the government is mounting.

In a worldwide ranking, Nigeria took in place 136 in the 2015 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) published by Transparency International Nigeria as well as South Africa have the largest national economies in Africa. But given widespread corruption in Nigeria, most of the wealth there bypasses the public. A major hindrance is the government’s lack of transparency. Although the national government has made a commitment to join the Open Government Partnership lower levels of government have no plans to provide open data on their budgets and spending.

Follow the Money, however, is a project that’s striking back. Using a combination of grassroots and online activities, it tracks whether government funds officially allocated to health, education and development projects do in fact reach their targets. If they do not, Follow the Money launches campaigns and demands government accountability.

“We focus on extensive social media activities and bring in traditional media and hold local hearings,” explains Oludotun Babayemi, co-founder of the project. This way, he says, Follow the Money can exchange information with citizens across the country and learn about shortcomings.

When a major flood in 2012 destroyed the Gutsura community in Nigeria’s northwestern state of Zamfara, the government announced it would provide emergency relief, allocate funds and relocate the 3,000 residents. “But one year later, not even a cent had arrived,” recounts Babayemi. “A citizen reporter of ours in the area told us what was happening and we started informing people via Twitter, Facebook and the radio,” Babayemi says. “We told the stories about the people there and demanded that the government act.” A few months later the residents were relocated to another community and were given new housing.

Per the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) published by Transparency International in 2015, Nigeria stood at 136 in the worldwide ranking.

South Africa and Nigeria have the largest national economies in Africa. But given widespread corruption in Nigeria, most of the wealth there evades the public. A major burden is the Nigerian government’s lack of transparency. Though successive Nigerian administrations have made commitments to join the Open Government Partnership lower levels of government remain unwilling to provide open data on their budgets and spending. Thus, perpetuating widespread corruption.

Follow the Money, a social media project is, however, fighting back by exposing and tracking all and any corrupt acts. Using a combination of grassroots and online activities, the project tracks whether government funds officially allocated to projects in health, education and development are reaching their targets. If they do not, Follow the Money launches campaigns and demands government accountability.

Oludotun Babayemi, a co-founder of the project said: “We focus on extensive social media activities and bring in traditional media and hold local hearings.” This way, Babyemi says, Follow the Money can exchange information with citizens across the country and learn about shortcomings.

Per reliable sources, in 2012 when a major flood destroyed the Gutsura community in the country’s northwestern state of Zamfara, the federal government announced the provision of emergency relief. Funds were allocated to relocate 3,000 residents. “But one year later, not even a cent had arrived,” recounts Babayemi. “A citizen reporter of ours in the area told us what was happening and we started informing people via Twitter, Facebook and the radio,” Babayemi says. “We told the stories about the people there and demanded that the government act.” A few months later the residents were relocated to another community and were given new housing.

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