The Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism, PTCIJ, will today launch two fact-checking sites designed further promote transparency and deepen the democratic space.
The sites will be launched at the Shehu Musa Yar’adua Centre in Abuja by 10:00 a.m.
Expected at the launch are dignitaries such as Yemi Kale, Statistician General of Nigeria; Idayat Hassan, Director of the Centre for Democracy and Development, and Sani Zoro, chairman House of Representatives Committee on IDP & Northeast development among others.
The sites, “DUBAWA and UDEME” are meant to provide accurate information to people, fact-check publicly available information and generally deepen the democratic space.
“The term UDEME originates from the South-south and South-east parts of Nigeria which means ‘My Share’. It is a platform designed to hold the Nigerian government and lawmakers accountable for how funds released for capital projects are spent.
“The aim of the platform is to educate citizens on what part of the budget is earmarked for developmental projects in their community and thus, empower them to track, investigate and report any form of corruption in the procurement process and implementation of capital projects in the past and present government budgets,” the Udeme platform states on its website.
“DUBAWA is an open source verification and fact-checking platform, developed and designed to sift through the barrage of information and stream out the truth. DUBAWA is a community for journalists, researchers, academics, policy makers and the general public to report, question and verify information posited not just by government and all its arms, agencies and parastatals but also claims by the media,” the Dubawa website states.
Follow PREMIUM TIMES for live updates of the event.
10:00am -Its a sunny Tuesday morning in Abuja.
10:15 am- People are gradually entering the Shehu Musa Yar’adua Centre for the launch of two fact checking sites by the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalists.
10:30am- Already at the venue are Otive Igbuzor, Executive Director, Africa Centre for Leadership Strategy and Development.
10:33am- Idayat Hassan, Director, Centre for Democracy and Development.
Hauwa Kazeem, representing Kole Shettima, Country Director, MacArthur Foundation.
10:30am – Journalists are setting up their equipment as guests gradually take their sits inside the Atiku Abubakar Auditorium.
10:50am – Idayat Hassan, Director, Centre for Democracy and Development takes the stage.
Mrs. Hassan speaks on how her organisation came up with Buharimeter, a platform for cross checking the achievement and lapses of President Muhamadu Buhari Administration.
“One of the important challenges we face is hacking. Several attempts have been made to hack the Buharimeter site but with partnership we are able to pull through,” Mrs. Hassan says.
She says the launch of Dubawa is right in the wake of the 2019 election which is around the corner.
She further thanks PREMIUM TIMES for bringing up such fact checking initiative.
11:06am – Yemi Kale, Statistician General, Nigeria Bureau of Statistics, in his keynote speech, explains the vital role data plays in improving decision-making in Nigeria.
“It is when we are able to interpret data accurately that we can be able to get rid of misinformation. An increasing trend the Dubawa has to contend with is those that deliberately send genuine data but twist it so as to misinform,” Mr. Kale says.
He says Dubawa operators should be very careful in handling information and data they receive.
He says the platform should also be used to fact-check fake and real news circulation.
Mr. Kale says the Dubawa platform would not have come at no better time than this which is the fake news era accelerated by modern technology.
“For Dubawa to be successful their is need for trustworthy reference data and handlers,” he said.
11:25 am- Currently some of the dignitaries in the hall are: Executive Sec. of NEITI , Waziri Adio, DG of Nigerian’s Governor’s Forum , A.B Okauru, Special Advisor, UN, Fred Eno, Head Technical unit on Governance and Anti-Corruption Reforms, (TUGAR), Lilian Ekeanyanwu.
Others are Programe Coordinator, OSIWA, Joseph Amenaghaum, Director News, Nigeria television Authority, Aliyu Barai, who is representing the the DG NTA.
Also in the hall are Dan Kunle, a friend of the Premium Times Group, Emmanuel Ogbile, Chief Commissioner Public Complaint Commission represented by Emma Ugboaja, Gbemiga Ogunleye, provost, Nigeria Institute of Journalism.
“As a nation we are faced wiith many challenges that can only be substantiated with relative data. We can not allow fake data and information to take the place of good data. If Dubawa should be successful, It should rely on accurate based data produced by firms like the NBS and others,” Mr. Kale says.
He gives many instances on how to determine a good accurate data.
Mr. Kale also gives instances on the damages fake data can do to the development of data.
“NBS always publishes data that are favourable depending on which side of the pendulum it swings. The objective of data is not to have friends or enemies but to be credible and fact-based and that should be the watchword of the Dubawa platform,” he says.
He also says the NBS is taking measures to improve data in the country which Dubawa and other users can use in fact-checking process.
Mr. Kale also defines DUBAWA as follows:
D – Diligence
U – Uncompromising
B – Bold and Brave
A – Assertive
W – Worthiness
A – Accuuracy which is the primary goal of the platform.
The moderator, Mrs Aloba, takes the stage to acknowledge the presence of more dignitaries at the event.
Femi Falana, human rights lawyer takes the stage.
Mr. Falana described the launch of Dubawa and Udeme as a challenge to Nigerians.
He said for several years nobody monitors the utilisation of the budget.
“Many legislators don’t even know what the budget is all about. I did a letter to EFCC and I can say that this country can realize more than N200 billion from looters in Good Luck Jonathan Administration.
“Between 2011 to 2014, 60.2 billion oil left the shores of Nigeria and it is estimated at about 12.2 billion dollars which is not accounted for. We are just mortgaging the future of our children.”
He says Premium Times should extend the advocacy for monitoring and fact checking to other parts of the country.
“Premium times should continue to do progressive journalism in Nigeria. Your type is rare,” Mr. Falana says.
12:00 Walking in now is Mr. Shehu Sani, senator representing Kaduna Central.
12:03am – Seun Onigbinde of Budgitin stresses the need for Nigerians to develop interest on the contents of the budget.
He says Budgit is committed to partnering with Premium Times to ensure accurate data is pushed out for the public.
“We are also committed to openness and honest correction,” he says.
12:10pm – Senator Shehu Sani takes the stage.
Mr. Sani saiys the launch of Dubawa and Udeme is a new step into transparency in the country.
He also speaks on constituency projects.
“As far as I’m concerned, it’s not going to be an easy task to track the spending of what was assigned to senators and House of Representatives,” Mr. Sani says.
He says constituency projects distract the lawmakers in the country from doing oversight jobs adding that they should concentrate on important issues that they were elected.
“If within my constituency projects i say i want to share 250 motorbikes. I can get a rented crowd but when they are gone i will return the bikes back to where they came from so there many tricks to this,” he says.
He says there are virtually no functional state House of Assembly in the country.
Mr. Sani says most unfortunately is the fact that civil groups are more interested in what happens in the national level without going to the states to know what is happening there.
“Many of these states over past 15 years received money from many donors, agencies and banks globally but you don’t see anything commiserate with the money they receive. The new concept is that they will take money from China with a very soft condition but they should know that they must pay this money no matter how long it takes.
“Our debt has risen to N64 billion. The debt is not decreasing it is rising. When we bring up budget you see that 50 percent of it is from debts. civic societies should monitor this to know money was collected and what it was used for.
“we have a situation that 70 percent of our foreign missions are under funded. 6 to 7 of our foreign missions got quit notice from their landlords in the last few months. our diplomats has being reduced to beggars.
“We have system that we don’t know how money was looted until a government leaves office that’s the process and that is why we need Dubawa and Udeme. Take a look at the Diezani case, where are we when all this where happening, where was the media and civil societies. Over 50 governors are standing trial for corruption so you ask where was investigative journalism when they are in power. painfully these people standing trials are once man of the year in many of our newspapers.
“95 percent of young people coming to the national assembly doesn’t demand accountability but they come with tonnes of plaques to give awards to senators. I have so many awards that i have lost count”, Mr sani said.
He says it’s only when people stand up against the people elected in power that we can get accountability. He says protest is key to achieving many goals.
He says its easy now to protest than before so it should be taken advantage of.
He describes the idea of the launch of the project as very important.
He describes Premium Times as the flagship of good conscience in the country.
12:32 – Abdulrazaque Barkindo of the Nigerian Governors Forum secretariat says the forum is a major partnership for ensuring global practice in Nigeria. He says the forum is trying to make sure that best practices are coming to stay in the country.
“We are beginning to see good people such as Senator Shehu Sani coming to governance and he is also planning to be the governor,” he says.
He commended the effort of PTCIJ in launching Dubawa and Udeme and promised that the NGF will support the platform as much as they can.
“It is a fantastic initiative and it is something we need in the country. Whatever data you need on governors and some of their activities we can give you,” he says.
12:38 – There is a short video on what they websites seek to achieve.
12:40 am – The moderator calls on Mr. Olorunyomi and Joshua Olorunfemi, PTCIJ project manager, to the podium for an interactive session.
Mr. Falana opens the interactive session. He asks how PTCIJ will be monitoring the budget especially knowing that the budget presented are usually partial budget as there are some agencies such as CBN not included in the budget.
Mr. Olorunfemi says what the platform intends doing foremost is to empower citizens to demand accountability for the share promised to them and how to find them.
He says Nigeria has many challenges and they intend to tackle them bit by bit.
Mr. Sani in his question asks how PTCIJ will assist the National Assembly to get information in areas of government which are not even available to the senators.
He says the ecological funds are out of the purview of the senators and also the governor’s security votes. He asks how they intend to work in getting such valuable information to their committees.
Mr. Olorunfemi in his response says they have been able to get lot of information through the use of Freedom of Information act.
Mr. Olorunfemi says PTCIJ was able to get reports of the ecological funds in 2016 using the FOI.
“We were able to track the ecological fund in 2016 and used it to hold the government accountable,” he says.
“We also used the data journalism to extrapolate data in the public space . We have also used the investigative journalism to achieve grear progress.”
Mr. Ogunleye of NIJ says he would like Dubawa to tackle the manipulation of facts by agencies that are meant to provide the facts.
He gave an example where his paper reported that 50 people died from meningitis , but the governor said 100 people died. He later realised the data was tied to how much the government was hoping to get from international donors.
He says Dubawa should help make public the actual allowance National Assembly members get.
Mr. Olorunfemi says in 2016 Premium Times did a comprehensive report on how much National Assembly members earn. He says more will be done.
Mr. Olorunyomi says there have been lot of fake news, but PT now has a lot of resources to assist in fact checking.
“What Dubawa intends to do is help strengthen the standard. We are not promising that there won’t be error, but we will try as much as possible to promote accuracy,” he says.
“If such errors occur we will correct it and apologise and try to avoid them,” he says.
1:05 – Premium Time’s Editor-in-Chief, Musikilu Mojeed, gives the closing remark.
Mr. Mojeed says the platforms will make people careful about making claims and promises.
He says it will be interesting for Dubawa to take a look at the inaugural speeches of governors and know how far they have fulfilled their promises.
1:10 pm- Event ends.