In October 2012, when the Follow The Money Team were developing their website, little did they know that the hash tag #SaveBagega was going to reach a staggering 600,000 people from over 100 countries, consequently, putting more pressure on the government of Nigeria to attend to the urgent need of this ailing community.
Bagega is a village community in Zamfara, Northern Nigeria, where 1,500 children await
urgent medical attention for lead poisoning. “All we had in mind was to create a web
platform integrated with social media tools, and write reports (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube
and Storify) that could amplify the voice of these helpless communities”, says Hamzat Lawal of the Follow the Money team. The non-profit, Follow The Money, advocates, tracks, and visualizes aid meant for local communities.
Everyday millions of hash tags are been created on Twitter for different reasons. “We
were looking for a hash tag that could easily be related with the ailing community, and
since this advocacy was directed to saving these children in Bagega, we decided to create
#SaveBagega” affirmed Hamzat. Coordinating Tweets could be challenging at times, as such tweets were directed towards stakeholders that were concerned, some of whom were already using Twitter! the list included President Goodluck Jonathan’s social media PR – Reno Omokri @renoomokri; the Senator who sees to matters of Ecology and Environment – @bukolasaraki. Tweets were also directed to organizations that might be interested in children, communities, data, accountability and transparency.
Moreover, On December 6, 2012, a social media campaign was also launched with the
Human Rights Watch (HRW) urging people to help write the following on the official Facebook wall of
President Goodluck Jonathan:
“President Jonathan, why won’t you release the money you promised in May to clean up poisonous lead in Zamfara? Children are dying and your government’s failure to act is putting more children at risk”.
By the end of January, when Senator Bukola Saraki visited Bagega, he confirmed to the whole world, not through the terrestrial media, but through his twitter handle @bukolasaraki that “from confirmed sources the president has ordered the release of funds for the remediation of Bagega. Perhaps, a win for the use of “co-ordinated” creative technologies. The children of Bagega may demand more information on what struck their community years ago and will be presented with a thorough account of this online. However, it is is important to note the potential gaps existing in scenarios where online government presence is lacking.
As the quest to ensure transparency and accountability in the funds released to save Bagega
continues, at the last stakeholders meeting on February 12, 2013 in Gusau, the Follow the
Money Team asked the Ministry of Mines and Steal Development (MMSD) about the total amount of made available to them? “We will get back to you before the next meeting and try to
make it public” says the representative of MMSD. All these were posted our twitter handles
for the world to see. On February 26, 2013, the MMSD announced in a press release that 158.3 million was received by the ministry to encourage safer mining practices in Zamfara state.
As Follow the Money might not be the only available or possible model for advocating for
open data and transparency, or tracking and visualizing aid meant for local communities,
it can be said that they have been able to document history, and open a new page in how
creative technologies can be a tool for saving communities.
Hamzat Lawal is the Co-Founder/Advisor, Nigerian Youth Climate Action Network and
also the Co-Creator, Follow The Money.