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I have worked in development, some of the projects big – such as the UNDP assignment in Sierra Leone back in 2007 to rewrite that…

I have worked in development, some of the projects big – such as the UNDP assignment in Sierra Leone back in 2007 to rewrite that country’s Communication Policy; the UNDP assignment in Nigeria’s North East in 2016 to train journalists in countering extremist narratives; World Bank and USAID-funded assignments in Abuja; Nigeria Infrastructure Advisory Facility (NIAF) of the DFID and Adam Smith International also in Abuja; among many others. 

But I recently was involved in a small programme, and that programme made my day, and my life. Mobilising for Development, more popularly known as M4D (mobilisingfordevelopment.com) and whose slogan is “Spreading Ideas That Work”, was a pioneer governance programme aimed at supporting improved equitable access to quality basic services and accountability at the local level. And the key term here is ‘local’. In fact, I am sure many readers may never have heard of M4D; and that is its secret – small, quiet, but effective.

Alas! M4D has come to an end as it has been winding up its activities from the end of April, after six years impactful contribution to rural development in nine local government areas (LGAs) in Jigawa, Kaduna and Kano states. Unlike the big programmes I have worked in (including one I was compere-extraordinaire, ordering a President and a Vice President and ministers around on time management), M4D was different and unpretentious – no elite control, no undue officiousness, no verbose language; just simple interaction with rural folk.

M4D, while it lasted, worked with communities, marginalised groups, policy makers and service providers its selected area. The programme focused on service delivery in the areas of education, health, water and sanitation and livelihoods, in order to contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and broader Nigerian development aspirations beyond 2015.

M4D’s methodology was simple, and it is a replication of effective development work elsewhere: identify a problem; think of solutions; assemble collaborators; choose the best approach; plan action; do action; evaluate. In all its interventions, M4D has been doing just that. I have studied and written Knowledge Management reports on many of M4D projects, some of them I visited and observed directly. I will here give a few examples using the methodology stated earlier. 

In Dunari Ward of Mallammadori LGA of Jigawa State, a problem of open defecation was identified; people frequenting the local market had nowhere to, as we say, ‘ease themselves’ (a real problem all over Africa). M4D facilitated the setting up of a Public Private Partnership (PPP) to develop a public toilet through a Better-Fit-Approach (BFA), in partnership with the LGA and a local CBO called Water Consumers’ Association (WCA). The public toilet, while being pro-poor, is however a pay-to-use service. 

The PPP worked like this: The LGA purchased land for N700,000; M4D contributed N1.9m to construct the toilets and the local CBO was given management responsibility. Before it was completed, a Willingness-To-Pay (WTP) survey was conducted around the ward (the simple question was asking people to choose between open defecation or paying an average of N15 to N20 ‘to ease themselves in privacy’) – a 97% positive response came back.

The end result was beyond belief – open defecation stopped; money poured in for the NGO; land was reclaimed from the hitherto vast ‘defecation field’ on which a number of new homes were built and a football pitch created. In the two years the toilet was operational, and due to the training on record-keeping the CBO was given by M4D, almost 30,000 people, male and female, had used the service, paying more than N500,000 for it. The money has made it possible to pay cleaners and the water to clean, among other sundry needs.

The BIG QUESTION here is, what has government been doing all these decades that a simple solution such as this could not be thought out and implemented until M4D, funded by UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), came along? Second BIG QUESTION to ask here is, will this simple, effective solution be sustained after M4D is gone?

Another example: in the famous Kwanar Gafan Tomato Market in Garun Mallam LGA of Kano State (right on Zaria Road), the problem was that the market was built largely of straw, a very combustible material. Due to this poor infrastructure, the market always faced challenges of fire incidences that almost every year destroyed huge amounts of cash, commodities, and even lives. M4D assembled LGA Policy Makers (PMs), the market business community, the state agency charged with physical planning (known as KNUPDA) and the state Local Government Ministry and a PPP was organised to build lock-up shops in the market. 

KNUPDA designed the lock-up shops, the local government demarcated land lots for which the market business people bid and paid N10,000 per plot. The LGA then allocated and issued a certificate of ownership and the market people built their own shops, complying with the KNUPDA-approved design. End result? Modernisation of the market will improve Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) and strengthen existing Tax-for-Service efforts amongst the beneficiaries, while fire incidences and insecurity will be drastically reduced. And again, the businesspeople will have assets backed by certificates of ownership, important collaterals in the Nigerian business environment.

The BIG QUESTION again. How come we, as a people, could not do this all along? And will this modernisation of the market continue after M4D is gone?

Over in Kaduna State, in the semi-urban neighbourhood of Mando in Igabi LGA (Mando is just a few kilometres west of Kaduna city), political office holders started to build and equip a skills acquisition centre but, after a few years, the centre became dormant as government usually never bothers about the people until it is election time. The Kaduna M4D identified that dormant skills acquisition centre at Mando as a problem, as it was not giving the service expected while the local unskilled and jobless youths were in dire need of its services. 

What did M4D do? They conducted capacity building workshops using the approach of Service Improvement Action Planning (SIAP) following which LGA was gingered into completion and re-equipping of the centre. After 3 years of dormancy, the centre is now fully operational and has also resulted in improved economic empowerment of youths in the LGA.

Will this centre be sustained after M4D is gone? Or will it go into hibernation again, as it did in the past?

M4D also did work including, in Kaduna State, teaching rural folk how to track their local budgets in Kachia LGA; and designing Teachers’ Competency Test for Kudan LGA (which the state government appropriated or ‘replicated’ and sacked 20,000 teachers); In Kano State again, M4D worked on provision of additional potable water (by reclamation of a pool) in Sumaila LGA and addressing school absenteeism by teachers and pupils in Dawakin Tofa LGA. In Jigawa State, girl-child hawkers were given Second-Chance Education in Ringim LGA while the community was gingered to build more classrooms to address overcrowding in Miga LGA schools.

As you go, M4D, we hope that these governments will sustain these interventions. I worked closely with Deputy Team Leader Ahmed Mohammed; Jigawa’s Team Leader Alhaji Gombe; Madam Hannatu in Kaduna; and Hajiya Sadiya in Kano; my fellow Knowledge Management consultants Dr. Sulaiman Adediran and Ms. Janet Bogunjoko. 

But above all is my own collaborator, Uko Emmanuel the Akwa Ibom-boy turned Dan Arewa who knows all the fish joints in Dutse and Kaduna and even Kano, my hometown. I hope to God governments will not let these projects go to waste.

DRUGS AND AREWA: Alhamdu lilLah the campaign has got traction now, and can drive itself.

NEXT WEEK IS RAMADAN: May Allah let us see the month and bless us in it and forgive us our trespasses, amin.


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