Following the Money to End COVID19 in Nigeria

Young Nigerians are calling for transparency in the management of donations made towards fighting COVID-19 within the country.

Nigeria has been rated as a country with wide inequality gaps, as evident in Nigeria’s inequality report which was published by Oxfam in 2017. This report explains how “poverty and inequality in Nigeria are not due to lack of resources, but to the ill use, misallocation and misappropriation of such resources”.  According to the same inequality report by Oxfam, “between 1960 and 2005, about $20trillion was stolen from the treasury by public office holders”. This clearly shows that there is a precedence for misuse of public funds in Nigeria.

Since the COVID-19 crisis began in Nigeria, a number of individuals and organizations, including the European Union (EU) have contributed funds and resources to help fight the spread of the virus within Nigeria, which amounts to billions of naira but there is no consolidated record of these amounts donated. Many voices of young people on social media have echoed the need to ensure these donations are used judiciously and seek to ensure that there is no misappropriation of this money. This is where Follow The Money Nigeria decided to step up to the plate.

'Follow the Money' is a group of about 6,000 people around the world trying to hold their governments accountable by tracking government spending on basic education, health and water sanitation. Follow the Money is an initiative of Connected Development (CODE), which is one of Oxfam’s partners in Nigeria. Follow the Money was founded by Hamzat Lawal, who is also the CEO of CODE. According to Hamzat, CODE seeks to ”use tech tools, which adhere to social distancing rules to track the public financial resources". The follow the money team has used social media and direct communication to reach out to relevant agencies and individuals requesting for detailed information about donations and how they are being spent, and a dashboard will be launched in order to record and publish these figures.

Follow the Money has commenced the tracking of COVID-19 funds across 7 African countries including Nigeria. International donors, private sector leaders etc have provided funding which needs to be tracked and Follow the Money is taking up the challenge, as a response questions about transparency directed at the government.

Follow the Money is requesting for transparency and accountability even from NCDC (National Center for Disease Control), the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development and all other relevant government organizations to provide information about test kits and testing, money allocation and more. They also seek debt relief so that money can be redirected to fighting COVID-19, just as Oxfam is currently advocating for, at the global level.

Oxfam in Nigeria advocates for citizen’s action by providing grants, partnership and support to spur citizen action in demanding accountability and transparency within governments. Connected Development (CODE), as a partner of Oxfam in Nigeria has embodied this notion by immediately responding to the call of citizens for accountability from the government, in the dire case of COVID-19 where lives are at risk and the misappropriation of these fund can have consequences in spreading disease and in some cases, even deaths.

It is a testament to Africa’s youth to look at the solidarity that is being borne out of this adversity. During the ‘follow the money’ press conference, the Follow the Money teams across the continent gave their updates and information about funding received to fight against COVID-19.

Busayo Morakinyo of CODE, brought focus to how COVID-19 has brought to light the inadequacies of Nigeria’s health and education system and how misappropriation in those areas have led to issues in dealing with COVID19 now. Follow The Money is collaborating with other partners to counter fake news as this is a challenge when trying to verify figures in tracking the funds. CODE intends to maintain these tracking and advocacy efforts after the COVID-19 crisis. When looking at the socio-economic impact, Busayo also calls for the government to be more transparent and push towards a better health system and prioritize gathering data and making data more accessible even after the crisis subsides.

Follow the money is also spurring induvial citizens to aid in tracking these funds by urging the online community of active Nigerian citizens to engage on social media to raise voices and visibility about the campaign. Nigerians are being called to maintain the momentum of the conversation for transparency and share the information provided on the utilization and disbursement of COVID-19 relief funds. The pressure from social media is an essential avenue to ensure the government hears the people, therefore young Nigerians online also have a huge role to play in ensuring the success of this campaign.