Members of civil society and community-based organizations across Nigeria’s northeast emphasized the need for enhanced cooperation and media engagement to track security funding effectively.
The consensus was expressed during a pivotal roundtable advocacy meeting, which sought to bolster partnerships between media entities and civil society organizations (CSOs) to enhance transparency and accountability regarding security and humanitarian concerns in the region.
The advocacy meeting was organized by HumAngle, with support from the MacArthur Foundation.
Held in Maiduguri on Wednesday, July 12, the roundtable drew significant attention from stakeholders in the security and humanitarian sectors.
Hafsah Abubakar Matazu, Project Officer at HumAngle, facilitated the engagement and emphasized the urgent need to address the lack of transparency and accountability in security funding.
Over the past decade, the war against terrorism in the northeast has consumed billions of dollars, yet the exact amount and the disbursement of these funds remain unknown.
“HumAngle feels there is a dire need to interrogate and expose the government structures charged with the responsibility of ensuring these funds are put to proper use,” Matazu said. “These funds and the mismanagement of public resources directly affect the lives of those exposed to the insurgency.”
Nigeria allocates an average of $1.9 billion to defense, surpassing the combined defense budgets of all other West African countries. However, despite such significant financial allocations, the lack of media attention and public scrutiny regarding the accountability of these funds in the security sector is concerning.
Transparency International reports that the Boko Haram insurgency has claimed over 37,500 lives and displaced millions. Yet, there is a notable absence of media attention and public discourse regarding the lack of accountability in the security sector. Without proper accountability measures in place, it becomes challenging to promote a healthy and effective security sector.
During the roundtable meeting, participants engaged in comprehensive discussions and identified critical gaps in the security sector. Some of the highlighted issues included bribery and corruption when addressing gender-based violence cases involving vulnerable individuals, the distance between the victims of violence and security forces, instances of impunity from security operatives when handling cases of abuse, NGOs not fully taking responsibility for the protection of survivors, allegations of security actors as perpetrators of gender-based violence, instances of jungle justice practiced by security operatives, poor welfare for security personnel, extortion on highways, trust deficits, the presence of children associated with armed non-state actors, and schools occupied by security operators.
Additionally, participants from CSOs also identified gaps within their organizations, including poor documentation of best practices and breakthroughs, the lack of active social media handles for effective follow-ups and communication, outdated methods that do not align with present realities, and challenges in accessing funding due to strict criteria.
Recognizing the importance of collaboration between CSOs and the media, participants further identified gaps in their partnership. These gaps included the need for better cooperation and complementary efforts between the media and CSOs, inadequate or nonexistent plans for media engagement, and a trust deficit between the two entities.
To address these challenges and move forward, participants at the roundtable offered several suggestions, among which was the need for synergy and collaboration between CSOs and media organizations to track security funding effectively. They proposed the establishment of a mega social media platform where CSOs and media professionals can cross fertilized ideas, share ideas on ongoing project and coordinate synergised projects; identify more CSOs with interest in HumAngle thematic areas of tracking security funding; scale up advocacy activities to stakeholders on the need for accountability in security budgets and funding; and demand for urgent training for CSOs and CBOs on budget tracking.
The roundtable ended with participants agreeing to form a working group, named HumAngle/CSO (HCF), with Joel Duku of Media Advocates for Peace Foundation selected as the Team Lead.
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