Once upon a time in Nigeria, education was free, health care services were easily accessed, the agricultural sector thrived immensely and the happiness and comfortability of the citizens mattered greatly to the government. it was an era that ended somewhere around the millennium. A story the present generation listens to with awe and wonder asking, “will there ever be a time like this again?
In a small Machina community of about 15,000 inhabitants, an old man was rushed to the nearest and only available health care centre. He had severe abdominal and back pain, a condition that could have been remedied if prompt medical attention was given. But when he got to the healthcare, no treatment was given and he died. The same story was told of a little baby who had died from cerebral malaria as a result of poor treatment and/or management.
Machina community is the capital of Machina local government in Yobe North senatorial district and has no general hospital, except for a poorly equipped Health Care centre, to which huge sums have been allocated although without result as evidenced by the terrible state of the facility.
Between 2015 and 2017, over 4.5 billion was earmarked for implementation of projects in Yobe state. In the 2017 Zonal Intervention Project (also referred to as Constituency Project), lawmakers in Yobe state nominated about 66 projects estimated to cost 3 billion naira and not a single provision was made for a health care centre in any of the local governments. A similar situation was noticed in the 2018 ZIP where out of 45 projects amounting to 3 billion, only one project captioned “Construction of Primary Health Care centre in Yobe East Senatorial District” was nominated. This ambiguous description is typical of these ZIP projects, impossible to track, impossible to monitor thus a cesspool of corruption, the kind that carries the deadly expense of the lives of citizens.
In 2017, Connected Development (CODE) in collaboration with Enough is Enough (EiE) during its Follow the Money campaign, discovered Machina community and the plights they face and decided to beam the light on their condition as well hold the necessary stakeholders accountable. As a result of this, a documentary titled “Human Cost of Corruption” was produced to tell the story of Machina, as a representative of a larger problem faced by citizens at the grass root level.
The 10-minute documentary was premiered at Silverbird Cinema on the 4th of December and had members of civil society organizations and government agencies in attendance. It was aimed at increasing awareness among Nigerians on the impact of corruption on the everyday lives of citizens. It centred on the sufferings of the people, their losses and their hope. The community with its one health care centre and one health worker had not received an intervention in over 20 years according to The Emir of Machina community.
Speaking at the premiere, Dapo Awobeku from EiE noted that “the Office of the Citizen is the most important and highest office in the land”, and Follow the Money recognized the deficit of health care facility in Machina during a data mining exercise in Yobe state. Dapo noted that sensitization is key in informing citizens on their role in ensuring that they benefit from the social contract that exists between them and the government as represented by their lawmakers. Failure to play this role results in several lost of lives.
The documentary ended with a panel discussion – Social Contracting Mobilizing Grassroots Voices for Development. This panel had voices from BCDA, One Campaign, Follow the Money and Enough Is Enough, where they discussed ways in which the office of the citizens will be strengthened. One of the discussants from Kaduna state suggested that the Open Government partnership should be signed up by state governments because it gives citizens access to states’ budgets, government policies and also give them a chance to actively participate in the governance process. One of the participants at the event said there should be rural sensitization especially as elections are approaching because lawmakers will typically make promises during this period and attempt to use money to buy electorates’ votes, thus there is need for emphasis on the power of the citizens’ votes and why it should be used for their own benefit.