This blog post was written by Hamzat Lawal, Co-Founder/Chief Executive of Connected Development [CODE], winners of the 9th ONE Africa Award.
It all started in 2012 when Oludotun and I co-founded Connected Development [CODE] without any external financial support and office space. With our passion and ambition to improve rural lives across the continent, we started a non-profit organisation based on the elemental principles of international non-profit organisations in Nigeria.
We created programs within the themes of transparency and accountability, electoral processes improvement and environmental sustainability. On transparency and accountability, we had create Follow The Money (FTM), through which we monitor and track foreign aid and governmental implementation of capital funds intended for the development of rural communities. Our aim was to contribute towards building a practise of open government values and citizens engagement in matters related to the use and management of public funds. The uniqueness of the CODE approach was to leverage on the fact that international aid agencies find it exceedingly expensive to monitor projects on the continent, as they preferred once-off impact evaluations. This prevents early identification of deficiencies in project execution and disfigures efficiency. In addition, there were gross open government deficit concerns in Nigeria including poor governance, the systemic looting of public funds, accountability deficit, public records inaccessibility and disadvantaged citizen participation in governance.
We received our first grant from the Indigo Trust after selling the Follow The Money idea. Initially, we started by advocating for governmental intervention over a lead poisoning outbreak in the rural communities of Shikira and Bagega in Niger and Zamfara States. Later, after we convinced government to address the issue, we tracked the implementation of funds meant for cleaning the communities and providing healthcare treatments to under 5 years children that were dying from the outbreak.
We were also involved in the NGN 9.2b #WomenCleanCookStoves process and managed to expose corruption, mismanagement of public funds, contractual ambiguity and controversies on the number of stoves that were obtained in the process. Since we set up shop, we have impacted over 30,000 rural lives through rolling back poverty, child and maternal mortality; facilitating the improvement of learning environments and clean water access provision; and ensuring service delivery. To make our work sustainable, we established a pool of over 200 community reporters [ifollowthemoney.org] that reside in rural communities and assist us in tracking the funds and providing real-time data that empowers local communities on their own to demand accountability.
The 2016 ONE Africa Award has accentuated the continent’s belief in our work while raising responsibilities expected of us. It was a great experience receiving the award in Marrakesh at the Mao Ibrahim 2017 Governance conference. We had the opportunity to interact with global and Nigerian game changers that inspire us to do our bit, he founders of ONE and other African personalities including Mo Ibrahim, Amina J. Mohammed, Akinwumi Adesina, HRH Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Aliko Dangote, amongst others.
The ONE Africa award will be very useful in expanding our Africa impacts through monitoring service delivery on projects intended for marginalised communities specifically in the areas of health, education and the environment. It will also be helpful in our efforts to build more capacities for the communities to engage the government and hold their leaders accountable directly. We plan to broaden our network in Nigeria and the continent by reaching out to more communities and magnifying rural voices.
Hamzat Lawal is an activist and currently the Co-Founder/Chief Executive of Connected Development [CODE]. He is working to build a growing grassroots movement of citizen-led actions through Follow The Money for better service delivery in rural communities. He tweets via @HamzyCODE