How we track COVID-19 Palliatives, Projects through Radio Programs – Bounce Corruption Ambassadors
Yiaga Africa’s Bounce Corruption Radio Ambassadors have revealed how they used their accountability programs on radio to track and expose corruption especially during the COVID-19 pandemic when they revealed the hoarding of palliative, misuse of funds, and also uncompleted projects. The radio ambassadors shared these successes during the Bounce Corruption Virtual Knowledge Management and Learning Retreat for the network of Radio Ambassadors held on Monday, 28th June 2021.
Speaking during the retreat, the Radio ambassador for Gombe state, Hannatu Paloma revealed how she conducted an investigation in some selected Local Government Areas in Gombe State where the locals revealed that COVID-19 palliatives either did not come to their locations or were not sufficient. She also revealed how palliatives meant for Kumo and Billiri Local Government Areas of Gombe state were either diverted or given to few selected individuals based on associates. After she discovered this gap, Ms Paloma hosted radio programs with lawyers and representatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) where they amplified these issues and made recommendations.
She however decried the fact that women in the state do not like discussing issues related to corruption while many of the locals have restricted their definition of corruption to simply siphoning public funds rather than seeing corruption as going beyond the issue of funds to including vices such as beating traffic that people may see as miscellaneous.
Onyemiebi Siasia from Bayelsa State who hosts a 30minutes citizens’ engagement anti-corruption program tagged “Corruption Watch” said the program provided a platform for citizens to amplify issues relating to corruption. Siasia revealed that during the program, citizens reported cases of abandoned projects in their communities. He said the program expanded the horizon of citizens as to what constitutes corruption beyond just financial crimes.
Mr Siasia gave an example when citizens during his anti-corruption program raised concerns about poorly functioning street lights which triggered the Bayelsa State Governor Duoye Diri to order the Commissioner of Works to commence an immediate investigation into the matter. The investigation revealed that contractors had shortchanged the state government by making use of 50 watts street lights instead of the 100 watts approved and paid for by the government.
“The program galvanised public support in the fight against corruption as it made people understand that every stakeholder including citizens have a role to play”, he said. While admitting that as a journalist, he may not be able to apprehend or prosecute corrupt individuals, his program raised citizens’ voices against corruption and drew the attention of policymakers.
He called for the anti-corruption programs to be more consistent in order to keep citizens engaged for as long as possible while lauding Yiaga Africa and Macarthur Foundation for the initiative.
Peter Cheman Koti, a Radio Ambassador from Adamawa State, revealed that his state was one of the worst offenders in the looting of palliatives, which drove him to use his radio program to raise concerns over the hoarding of palliatives meant for citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said some of the palliatives such as instant noodles, vegetable oil, rice and corn flour expired due to delays or refusal of the government to distribute them to citizens as and when due. He said hoarding of palliatives may have started long before the pandemic as the state has received humanitarian interventions due to previous emergencies like floods and insurgency.
However, he said his accountability radio program provided an opportunity for citizens to speak on issues of alleged inflated contracts of projects being carried out by the state government. According to Cheman, contractors and government spokespersons declined to provide financial information of projects being executed, raising issues of transparency and accountability.
The virtual retreat also provided an opportunity for capacity building where experts such as the Executive Director of TechHer, Chioma Agwuebo spoke on radio broadcasting, social media and accountability, and exposed ambassadors to the importance of using the new media as an instrument of broadcasting. While stating the important role radio plays in shaping opinion, Ms Chioma said that in addition to radio, social media users have increased by 6 million users during the pandemic, which means a lot more can be done digitally. She further led a discussion on the role of media, especially radio journalists, in governance and democracy.
Similarly, Bala Thomas Mabiri from Equal Access International discussed critical issues around Strengthening Media Support for Community Accountability. During his presentation, he emphasized the need to strengthen the media in order to perform their watchdog role effectively.
While lauding the effort of ambassadors in amplifying corruption issues, Ibrahim Faruk, Program Manager, Governance and Development at Yiaga Africa explained the rationale behind the setting up of the Radio Ambassadors network. He said, “Yiaga Africa set up a network of Radio Ambassadors because we realize the importance of the media and radio in particular in reaching a wide range of audiences through various frequencies and programs. The media play a very important role in shaping narrative, driving the conversation, and driving public discourse. Thus, the radio ambassadors have continued to use their platforms to amplify issues around anti-corruption and accountability, impunity and transparency.”
Ibrahim said as part of the Bounce Corruption Project supported by the MacArthur foundation, the retreat will serve as an opportunity to share learnings from programs that have previously been implemented as well as inspire members of the Bounce Corruption Radio Ambassadors network to effectively use radio programming in the fight against corruption in Nigeria.
As part of supporting Bounce Corruption radio ambassadors to implement innovative initiatives that promote accountability and will build citizens’ interest to join the fight against corruption in Nigeria, Yiaga Africa will be putting out a round of calls for innovative contests where radio ambassadors can share proposals and implement accountability radio programs. The most outstanding innovative ideas that leverage radio stations/platforms and social media platforms with contents that counter corruption narratives, promote accountability and transparency across the country and contribute to building a more resilient society against corruption will be provided with seed funding to implement the ideas.
During the retreat, the participants honored one of the radio ambassadors, Imogu Odafe who passed away a few months ago. Mr Odafe was until his demise the radio ambassador in Niger State and a previous Bounce Corruption innovative contest winner.