By; JACOB ONJEWU DICKSON
Civil Society Organizations in Kaduna State, have appealed to the state government to downplay politics in the planned town hall meeting for the 2020 budget and ensure that Community Development Charter is given priority.
A coalition of 13 CSOs made the appeal at a press conference held at the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) Kaduna Council Secretariat non Thursday October 10, 2019.
“We call on the government in line with their mantra of putting the people first to:hold a non-political budget town-hall meeting with stakeholders that have taken time to analyze the budget and collated the Community Development Charter of the 23 local government for consideration into the 2020 budget within the timeframe that will allow us meet the December deadline of signing the budget; achieve the commitment on open budget by reverting back to holding the town-hall meeting in the 3 senatorial zones in order to ensure that there is more effective citizens participation in the process; that the Planning and Budget Commission in collaboration with the OGP technical working group on open budget should be assigned the responsibility of organizing the town-hall meeting these we strongly belief is within the capacity of the government to execute and still meet up with the December target date; and the effect of which will narrow the trust deficit with the larger citizenry,” the coalition said.
Reading the text of the briefing on behalf of the coalition, Barrister Rebecca Sako-John said that through the co-creation principles both the government and civil society partners developed and adopted the State Action Plan (SAP) with five commitments on open budget, open contracting, ease of doing business, access to information and citizens engagement.
“Without doubt, much progress has been made in opening up spaces for citizens to engage in the budget process, but the notice that the 2020 budget town-hall meeting is scheduled for today, 10th October 2019 without adequate consultation, threatened the desired organic process of co-creation as envisage in the letters and spirit of the OGP.
“It is in this regard that we received the news of the postponement of 2020 budget town-hall meeting earlier slated for 3pm.
“This is considering that the OGP civil society State Steering Committee and Technical Working Group members and the larger citizens only got the draft budget document this morning. This is unlike previous years when the draft budget was made public at least two days to the meeting to allow for an informed engagement.
“We want to specially commend the government for hearing our outcry and taking the difficult but necessary decision to postpone the town-hall meeting to Saturday 12th October, 2019.
“This is a clear demonstration to the entire world that you are responsive and accountable to the residents of Kaduna. Indeed, this is OGP in practice,” they said.
They further said that in line with a key performance indicator of the OGP commitment on open budget (to develop a framework to capture citizens needs in the budget) and based on assurances by the government; the civil society with support from development partners facilitated the generation of the Community Development Charter (CDC) in the 23 local governments with the hope that it will be captured in the 2020 budget.
“As you are all aware, recently Kaduna was ranked number one in Nigeria on transparency and openness as a result of governance reform initiatives that is driven under the umbrella of the Open Government Partnership (OGP).
“Also, it is no longer news that Kaduna State is the first sub-national to sign onto the OGP at the national and global level; which commits the government to co-create key decisions on governance with the civil society as equal partners.
“Ladies and gentlemen of the press, it will interest you to know that the commitment on open budget states that, ‘ensure more effective citizens participation in the entire budget cycle; which means that through-out the budget process there should be evidence of citizens informing and influencing budgetary decisions.
“If we miss to ensure that the CDC informs the 2020 budget, we would have failed to meet one of the key performance indicators in the commitment on open budget in the State Action Plan,” they warned.
They submitted that the decision on the town-hall meeting which they feel was taken by the government with little or no civil society consultation or consensus to be held in one location was contrary to the letters and spirit of the OGP.
“This comes after initial change of plan which was to hold it across the 23 local government areas, and then it was changed to 3 senatorial zones, before the recent unilateral decision to hold it in one location.
“Furthermore, the civil society is displeased that the budget town-hall meeting is being organized by the office of the Special Adviser Political to the Governor as against our expectation that the Planning & Budget Commission should put such a multi-stakeholder engagement together.
“This has been our advocacy over the past three years, as previous town-hall meetings had been overshadowed by party faithful of the government and praise-singing,” they expressed.
They said that it is equally important to use the opportunity to call on the Kaduna State House of Assembly, as the direct representatives of the people, to lobby the executive arm of the government to ensure they have a truly citizens-driven budget.
“Also, we call on the Assembly to, in the spirit of OGP approve an appropriation and sectorial committee public hearing to allow their constituents and informed civil society to present their analysis and input for consideration into the budget.
“Furthermore, the Assembly should open its doors to regular citizens engagement especially in carrying out her oversight function towards ensuring improved service delivery and living standard of residents of the state.
“Finally, we are open and willing to support the government towards ensuring inclusive governance in Kaduna state,” they submitted.Thank you.
Signatories of the Civil Society State Steering Committee and Technical Working Group of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), and Concerned Civil Society that were at the briefing are;
1. OGP Civil Society Steering Committee Co-Chairs
2. Concerned Civil Society3. Aid Foundation4. Campaign For Democracy5.Coalition of Association for Leadership, Peace, Empowerment and Development (CALPED)6.Legal Awareness for Nigeria Women (LEADS-NIG)7.Initiative for Collective Voice Accountability and Progress (ICoVAP Africa)8. BridgeThat Gap Initiatives9. Open Kaduna Radio10.FollowTaxes11.Association for Promotion of Parliamentary Relations (APPAR)12. Hope for Community & Children13. Afaka Youth Assembly