NGOs call for more citizen participation in budget preparation in Nasarawa

From Beauty John, Lafia 

Global Peace Development (GPD) with partners, ActionAid Nigeria (AAN) and Beacon Youth Initiative (BYI) have called on the Nasarawa State Government to conduct citizens need assessment in budget preparation to prioritize demands of the people for better resource allocation.

The Executive Director of GPD,Mr Ebruke Esike made this call during aone-day Policy Dialogue on Accountability with Ministries, Departments, Agencies and Relevant Stakeholders on Public Accountability, in Lafia, Wednesday.

The dialogue, which had in attendance; Ministry of youth and Sport Development, Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, Ministry of Finance, budget and planning, the state House of Assembly and Civil Society Organisations, observed; In effective youth inclusion in budget and procurement process, limited reflection of youth empowerment initiatives that could address drivers of violent extremism, Inadequate citizen knowledge and awareness of budget process, tracking and monitoring for accountability among others, as some of the lapses in budget preparation in the state.

Ebruke, whom was represented by Fatima Sadiq, the state coordinator of the NGO, while stressing the need for citizen participation in budget preparation, advised that conventional and social media outlets should be vigorously explored as platform for citizen mobilisations, government engagement on budget process and implementation.

In his remark, the Resilience Programme Coordinator for ActionAid Nigeria, Mr Anicetus Atakpu, identified unemployment, perceived marginalisation and illiteracy as some of the drivers of violent extremism.
Atakpu, whom noted that Nasarawa State remains one of state with the highest allocation to education, however decried the high rate of illiteracy.

“It means that alot needs to be done in the area of sensitisation and awareness creation how we can encourage formal education in Nasarawa State,” he said.

Dr Terfa Abraham, whom presented a paper on the state’s 2021 Budget Analysis and Advocacy Options to Stem Violent Extremism, opined that government should engage with the media and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) so that people will know the projects in the budget, who it is meant for, when to be executed and the people that will benefit from it.

“Specifically for the Nasarawa State government, if you look at the 2021 budget, it has a alot of projects targeted at helping young people , women and girls but Information about what government is doing for this category of people is not contained even at the websites of all these ministries.

These information are not provided in details and so you see Government having buses , ICT equipment , generating sets to purchase but because of the inability of the budget document to provide information that can help people know where these projects will be located , it creates mistrust on the part of government,” Abraham added.

Dr Abraham stressed the need for government MDAs to increase the volume of information they post on their websites so that people will know what the government is doing for them.

Also speaking, the Nasarawa State House of Assembly Chairman House Committe on Finance and Appropriation, and member representing Wamba constituency Hon Aliyu Mohammed reiterated the commitment of the state legislature to partner with the executives to reduce youth restiveness.

The lawmaker then appealed to the executive to ensure quick release of funds to MDAs for the implementation of budgets so as to improve the welfare of the people of the state.

Some of the recommendations made at the end of the dialogue include; Budget should provide adequate information to be able to guide citizens for proper monitoring, tracking and oversight of projects, Inclusion/adoption of budget reference codes to ease tracking and monitoring of projects, Government should boost investment in agriculture and other sectors to adequately provide job opportunities, create value chain and increase income.

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