A non-governmental organisation, the Development and Integrity Goal (DIG) Foundation, has trained community groups/young people as Community Civic Education and Accountability Champions (C – CEC) in Ebonyi.
The 18 trainees were inaugurated after a two-day intensive training on strategic community civic education and accountability.
Oliver Aja, the Executive Director of DIG, told newsmen on Thursday in Abakaliki, the Ebonyi State capital, that the training and inauguration of the champions was part of a programme, themed: ‘Strategic Civic Education and Advocacy for Accountability and Good Governance’ in Ebonyi.
According to him, the programme is being implemented by the DIG Foundation in partnership with the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room (NCSSR) with support from the United Kingdom Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).
He added that the training was aimed at arousing and exposing participants to the knowledge of basic human rights and democratic principles for building community-based champions that would influence the larger society of active citizenship.
Aja said: “We have trained these champions to be civic education and accountability champions within their communities in trying to rebuild citizens’ confidence in governance because people are not feeling very good about governance.
“These champions are the ones that will go to the communities and tell them that there is still hope by teaching them how to hold their elected and other political leaders accountable.
“They will tell their people that there is still hope. We must hold our leaders accountable, because, when we don’t have active citizenry, our leaders will play around our emotions.
“Our leaders don’t do what we want or provide what we need but when we are together, collectively we can make demands and our leaders will sit up”.
He stressed that the champions, selected through a rigorous process, would inform the people that collective action and voice were needed to get the government and leaders to take responsibility for their actions.
Aja noted that the poor participation of the people in active governance was a result of a lack of civic education highlighting the importance of active citizenry as a panacea to bad governance.
He said that the Foundation and its partners were working to build a collaborative synergy with government agencies, hence the facilitators were drawn from the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) among others.
Dr Ibiam Azu, a development consultant and one of the resource persons, told newsmen that the programme was timely, saying that the people had not done enough in engaging their political leaders due to ignorance of the inherent powers they have as citizens.
He said that civic education and accountability training would equip the people with strategic knowledge of how to hold their leaders accountable and understand their fundamental rights as citizens.
Azu stressed: “We have not awakened the consciousness to engage the government, which also has not seen the value the citizens can add to governance.
“So, raising community champions will help the community and the people to understand that they are the beneficiaries of governance and could engage the government to take responsibility and ensure that people get what they are supposed to get.
“I’m happy with the programme because change does not start with everybody, it can start with a small group because you cannot underestimate a change which a small group of organised people can make,” he said.
A participant, Samuel Ituma from Ngodo community in Afikpo North Local Government Area of Ebonyi, commended the organisers, adding that he had received adequate training to function as a civic education crusader in his community.
“The programme is an eye-opener and I have been well enlightened, especially on the aspect of community-citizenship participation and engagement in governance.
“Before now, I had a different approach, but with the training, I will mobilise members of my community to understand their civic duties, their rights as citizens and how to hold the government and leaders accountable,” Ituma said.