Nigerians are about to get Eye-Mark — a web-based platform where they can give reports about the progress made on government projects. According to Clem Agba, Minister of State, Budget and National Planning, the platform is being developed so citizens can report poorly executed and abandoned projects.
With the web app, the average Nigerian can play the role of a monitoring and evaluation official. Uploading the picture of a project makes it easy to determine its location, which helps the government know who to hold responsible.
History of Similar platforms
This platform is not the first of its kind in Nigeria. In 2014, BudgIT — a data-driven civic tech company — designed and launched Tracka to involve Nigerians in government project implementation and tracking service delivery.
Actively powered by citizens across different constituencies, Tracka claims to have tracked over 15,000 projects across the 26 states where it has a presence. It is also promoting citizen participation through its town hall meetings.
Nigeria’s poor project completion history
Road construction in Jos, Plateau state. Source: Otisshola, CC BY-SA 4.0
The large number of projects abandoned by the Nigerian Federal Government is disturbing. As of 2019, this report alleged that there were about 56,000 abandoned projects across all geopolitical zones in the country.
In 2017, The Chartered Institute of Project Management put the cost of abandoned projects in the country at over $12 trillion. The story is not different on the state level
With available records showing discouraging figures, a recently launched project might already be stalling. On the other hand, that may not be the case.
The Lagos State Government launched the unified fibre project in July 2020. But after nine months, eyewitnesses say some of the sites that were dug to lay coloured cables remain uncovered, with cables left in the opening and no visible work in progress.
It’s too soon to say if the project has been abandoned, but a platform like Eye-Mark could be home to several eyewitness accounts.
Will the Nigerian Populace give it a vote of confidence?
On paper, Eye-Mark is a solution through which the government can display citizen inclusion, transparency, and accountability. And given a few years, it might help reduce the number of abandoned projects and untracked expenditure, feats similar to what Tracka has accomplished.
Though laudable, the government’s precedents when it comes to citizen engagement and accountability are major concerns. Is it safe to say that Nigerians might not brim with confidence at the thought of this government’s plan?
Genuine fears that people will be afraid to participate with their identities revealed
African governments’ history of bullying the media and civil society means they have to do more than Western governments to gain citizen trust. Following the October 20, 2020, Lekki Tollgate Massacre in Lagos, Nigeria, the government-sanctioned some media platforms for using User Generated Content (UGC) in their reportage.
The sanction somewhat revealed the government’s stance on citizen journalism. Recurring media shutdowns and sanctions are commonplace on the continent. In 2020 alone, sub-Saharan Africans lost 6,929 hours to government-caused Internet and social media shutdowns of different degrees.
One hopes the identity of users on the platform should remain anonymous
If people use the app anonymously, informants face no risks. And this is where digital media platforms — with features that allow anonymous reporting — such as Channels TV iWitness play a role.
However, with the geospatial technology on the Eye-Mark platform’s design, the reporter might not enjoy anonymity.
If people feel safer expressing themselves on non-governmental platforms or reporting anonymously to media platforms, wouldn’t it be more productive if the government adopted these channels to engage citizens?