The African Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development has restated the need for a more transparent, accountable and people-oriented parliaments across the African continent.
Director of Strategy at the Centre, Itia Otabor, made the call on Thursday, in Abuja, at a Capacity Building Workshop for Media and Civil Society Partners on ‘Open Parliament Index (OPI),’ a project being implemented by the Nigerian Network of Parliamentary Monitoring Organisations.
OrderPaper Advocacy Initiative, Nigeria’s preeminent legislative think-tank, the Secretariat for the network, is also leading the implementation of the ‘Promoting Open Parliament for Upscaling Legislative Accountability (POPULA) Project.
Otabor, who said that the ‘Open Parliament Index (OPI)’ was launched on July 20, 2022, noted that the project is to assess parliamentary institutions across the continent using the criteria of civic participation and public accountability. He added that “six countries, including Nigeria, were selected to upscale the results further and engage with the national parliament.
Nigeria was selected as one of those six countries. You see, the project is called Promoting the Parliament in Upscaling Legislative Accountability. Even after Nigeria was shortlisted sometime last year, we had to wait for approval and orders, which we got towards the end of last year, and implementation started this year.”
He expressed optimism that the OPI will become a mechanism, a tool that we can use to achieve the Institutionalization of the performance measurement that will engender and promote a more transparent and accountable and public participatory parliament.
“The basic thing we intend to achieve is to popularise the index. And that is by working with our parliament by working with citizens and the CSOs in terms of popularising the index. If we popularise the index, especially the indicators that went into the result that was published in the index it will help to promote transparency accountability and civic participation in our national parliament,” she added.
Also speaking, Chairperson of the House of Representatives Press Corps, Grace Ike, said promoting open parliament for upscaling legislative accountability can not be overemphasised. She noted that journalism was one of the few jobs where people are recruited and, unfortunately, left to their fate without training and retraining.
“It is even worse for legislative reporters. In most cases, they have to go out of their way to sponsor themselves to attend courses,” she said.
Ike further said that the parliament was the most misunderstood arm of government and its assessment had been a subject of controversy over time.
“It is, therefore, the responsibility of parliamentary reporters to enlighten the people on how the lawmakers carry out their functions. Hence, a workshop of this nature is key in further educating and equipping journalists who cover activities of the legislature on the best criteria or methods for properly assessing legislators.
Speaking earlier, a Representative of Parliamentary Network Africa who spoke via zoom from the organisation’s headquarters in Ghana noted that the initiative would strengthen the capacity of PMOs in Africa while expressing optimism that the programme will achieve its desired objectives.
The network further declared its readiness to continue working and rendering support to the network, especially in the technical aspect.