By Ejiro Umukoro
Town hall meetings to encourage civic participation in the proceedings of the House of Representatives are imminent, the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Benjamin Okezie Kalu has said.
The development is a part of the measures adopted by the House to boost the open parliament initiative where the citizens are given the opportunity to follow the legislative functions of the parliament.
Giving his goodwill message at a National Dialogue, themed “Mainstreaming Open Parliament into the 10th Assembly Legislative Agenda” on Wednesday in Abuja, the Deputy Speaker, said that a parliament that is accessible, transparent, and accountable is the cornerstone of a thriving democracy.
He said: “The theme of this dialogue, “Mainstreaming Open Parliament into the 10th Assembly Legislative Agenda,” resonates deeply with the core values of participatory governance that we, the 10th Assembly, have pledged to uphold.
“Our commitment to align with the goals and ambitions of this dialogue is unwavering. As we deliberate on the critical intersections of transparency, civic participation, and public accountability, let me share with you some of the cogent plans that the 10th Assembly has in store to further these ideals.
“Firstly, we recognize that to achieve the lofty goals set by the Open Parliament Index (OPI), we must prioritize the standards of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), the Principles of
Parliamentary Openness, and the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s (IPU) indicators for democratic parliaments. The adoption of these benchmarks underscores our determination to create a parliament that is not only accessible but also responsive to the needs and aspirations of our constituents.
“Secondly, the 10th Assembly is committed to embracing technology and innovation to enhance transparency and participation. We understand that in an era defined by rapid technological advancements, an open parliament must utilize digital tools to bridge the gap between citizens and their representatives.
“This assembly is resolute in its pursuit of leveraging technology to streamline communication, facilitate access to information, and enable meaningful engagement between citizens and their elected officials.
“Furthermore, participatory governance is not a mere buzzword for us; it is the cornerstone of our legislative agenda. We intend to establish mechanisms that enable citizens to actively participate in the legislative process, ensuring their voices are heard and their concerns addressed. Through randomized and hybrid town hall meetings which you will see from my office starting next year, online platforms, and collaborative policy discussions which will commence from my office later this year in the form of a policy dialogue event, we aim to create an inclusive space where every citizen’s opinion counts.
“As the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, I am personally committed to leading the way for innovation and transformation in the realm of participatory governance and open parliament. I firmly believe that a parliament that is accessible, transparent, and accountable is
the cornerstone of a thriving democracy. It is with this conviction that I pledge to champion initiatives that promote openness, transparency, and civic engagement”.
Emphasizing that the national dialogue on open parliament was a catalyst for change, Kalu added that the outcomes of the deliberations will be presented to the leadership of the National Assembly for possible mainstreaming into the legislative agenda, stressing that the dialogue signifies a crucial step towards achieving a government that is truly “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”