“Even the most well intended and well thought out policies may not have an impact if they are not implemented properly. Unfortunately, the gap between intention and implementation can be quite wide. The many failings of government are often given as the reason good policies cannot really be made to work” as suggested by Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo in Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of Way to Fight Global Poverty.
In the same vein, we quite agree that government inadequacy is greatly affecting the impact of foreign aid in a developing country like Nigeria. In November 26, 2014, the federal government of Nigeria announced the approval of NGN 9.2 Billion Naira (NGN 9,287,250,000) for the procurement and distribution of 750,000 clean cookstoves and 18,000 Wonderbags, as part of the National Clean Cooking Scheme (NCCS) to rural women in order to reduce deaths emanating from indoor air pollution, reduce tree felling, and desertification. One would have thought this is a right step, in the right direction, and at the right time when the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, is strengthening key stakeholders in providing alternative energies for their countries.
It’s already 256 days after this announcement, and 120 days after some of the funds were released to the Federal Ministry of Environment [MOE] of Nigeria, the fate of the 750,000 rural households or women that were suppose to enjoy from the benefit of this project still remains hanging, with lots of controversy around the number of clean cookstoves that the contractor has already “brought” into the country, the court case filed by the contractor against the Ministry of Environment, and most importantly where did all the money go? or where is the money?
It is easy to get depressed by such findings like “the milk has been skimmed somewhere and somehow” 5 billion Naira finally got to the Ministry of Environment account, and 1.2 Billion Naira (NGN 1,253,778,750) out of it went to the contractor, although the MOE in a response to our FOIA letter confirmed NGN 1,393,087,000 is the total sum of the contract, while the remaining 4.2 Billion Naira (4, 287,250,000) is nowhere to be found, and we keep been asked on why we do what we do: “Why bother?” These are the “small” questions in that if perhaps, no one, decided to keep the story alive – with several request for information letters (using the FOIA), monthly stakeholders meetings, tweet – a – thons, and traditional media engagements – this would not have been in the front burner, as it has always been.
In this campaign, the agents of “horizontal accountability” in Nigeria – the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) have been an ally since we started tracking, and they had every bit of information around this activation. As pointed out in Andreas Schedler’s Restraining the State: Conflicts and Agents of Accountability that agencies of accountability do not develop as the result of solo brilliant performances but need requisite coalitions to come together, in this case we had to kick the status quo from its point of equilibrium, while still hoping that the ICPC will sprung into action after been part of the processes we have initiated.