Yiaga Africa Establishes People’s Assembly to Promote Public Deliberation in Respective Local government areas in Sokoto and Lagos States
Nigeria’s democracy is increasingly experiencing a decline in citizens' trust in elected officials, political leaders and political parties. This has raised issues around the value of democracy, its ability to deliver the expected dividends and if governmental actions and policies truly reflect the interests of the people. This has further widened the gap between the government and the people. In addition, are the constant questions from the people on the value of their vote, the “we voted” and “so what” questions that further impact the quality of citizen’s participation.
Thus, as part of efforts to reignite faith in democracy and bridge the gap between citizens and the government, Yiaga Africa has commenced establishing People's Assembly to promote public deliberations at local government levels. The People's Assembly is a form of deliberative democracy tool that promotes the culture of public deliberation amongst the people. It promotes equal participation of diverse groups through debates and consensus-building on issues affecting respective communities to inform governmental actions and policies in selected local governments. The commencement of this initiative at the local government level is borne from the recognition of the importance of democratic governance at the level of government closest to the people. The People's Assembly leverages existing structures representing different interest groups in the LGA who deliberate on issues and present their recommendation to Local Government Officials for implementation.
Peoples Assembly in Sokoto[/caption]
Yiaga Africa commenced its engagement on People's Assembly in three Local Government Areas (LGAs) each in Sokoto and Lagos States. (Sokoto State: Bodinga, Sokoto South and Wamakko. Lagos State: Surulere, Kosofe and Ikeja). For each LGA, interest groups were randomly selected including faith-based organizations, youth groups, persons with disabilities groups and women groups to deliberate on selected issues affecting the people in their LGA. The peoples’ assembly began with the training of the different interest groups to inform the quality of participation of the people in the deliberative process.
In recent times, the support to democracy in Nigeria has oftentimes focused on national structures/institutions thereby creating a vacuum at the local level where the quality of governance is poor. Also, the culture of public deliberation and public interaction with local governments are largely missing or inadequate at the local level. In a bid to promote a culture of public deliberation, the People's Assembly in the 6 LGA’s in Sokoto and Lagos states is designed to supplement the existing system of representative democracy in LGAs with democratically elected leadership. This initiative operates as a direct democracy tool aimed at fostering direct public participation in decision-making.
The feedback from stakeholders and representatives of the three LGAs in both states was immense and overwhelming. Despite lamenting the poor state of affairs, poor citizen inclusion and standard of living, the interest groups expressed determination to take the necessary steps to make a major impact in the system and expressed hope in the future. Going forward, Yiaga Africa has established active communication channels with members of the communities and their representatives, who pledged to engage their local government on the outcomes of the deliberation and adopt the Peoples’ Assembly to enable their unified voices to influence the policies in their local government areas.
The People’s Assembly is an initiative of Yiaga Africa under its Turn Up Democracy project aimed at empowering citizens with information and tools for civic engagement, thereby enhancing the quality of their participation in democratic processes at all levels. Turn-Up Democracy is supported by the foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) of the United Kingdom.
Director of Programs, Yiaga Africa