It was indeed a great session, first of its kind, and a great demonstration of inclusivity and participatory governance in Nigeria by the National Assembly.
It is truism that the proposed 2016 National Budget was drafted in isolation and a product of solo-effort by the Civil Servants; hence, its existence has been greeted with numerous controversies.
Studies have shown that there are so many outrageous and suspicious items in the budget which are against the principle of Zero Budgeting and do not reflect the Change agenda being driven by the presidency. Based on these controversies and dramas which have embarrassed and given negative signals with damaging effects on the image of the nation both nationally and internationally, the National assembly has taken it upon itself by doing the needful in ensuring that the remaining process of the budget is now open, inclusive and participatory.
We hereby applaud the opportunity given to us by the National assembly in opening partnership channel with us the CSOs, recognizing us as important and critical elements or components to good governance and democracy at large. Also trusting our input and seeing us as voice to the voiceless and the intermediary between the government and the governed.
During the session, many analyses and reservations were made, and the National Assembly had pledged that all our contributions, observations and recommendations will be taken to the floor of the senate and definitely, the budget will be reviewed in a holistic capacity.
Some of the points raised by some of us are:
- We have discovered that from time immemorial, budget in Nigeria has been an up-bottom approach which is against the democratic principle and practice world-wide. We recommended that henceforth, budget in Nigeria should be a bottom-up approach, open, transparent, all inclusive and participatory, especially at the formation stage, even at implementation and evaluation stages. That is: everybody must have a voice in it.
- We discovered that implementation of budget in Nigeria has always been short of the 1year circle. That is, if a budget was passed in March, the government always closes the implementation in December, which will only continue to short-change the people and development in the Nation. We recommended that henceforth, budget should be a complete 12month cycle in compliance with the provision of the Constitution. That is, if the 2016 budget is passed by February 2016, its complete cycle should be February 2016.
- We discovered that the 2016 budget does not in any way linked to the 2015 budget. That is, what are the items, projects that have been implemented and which are the ones that are carried over to 2016. Do we have some funds left from the previous budget, are there carried over expenditures. Where did we stop last year and where do we continue from. The 2016 budget totally exercised disconnect and lacuna between the 2015 and the 2016 budget.
- We also discovered that items purchased in 2015, are re-appearing in 2016. For example, purchase of computers, photocopy machines, cars, furniture etc. 2015 is just two months away, why repurchasing them in 2016?
- We also made a case, for the purchase of foreign vehicles like BMWs, Mercedes Benzes, Toyota products etc, against our procurement law that support local contents, why are we not buying the national brands, since the CBN forex policy is made to discourage importation, why is the government not living by example?
- Some items in the budget appearing numerous times, like the Zungery Hydro power project appeared 6 times in the budget. Why?
- We also condemn the situation where about 400billion apportioned for recurrent expenditure and overhead cost on Education, while only about N38 billion apportioned for capital project in schools. This will hinder development in the educational sector
- We also raised concern for the low allocation for Agriculture, despite the call by the presidency for diversification of the economy, and siting the importance of the Agricultural Sector in Job creation, economy building, feeding the people, etc. So why will only N76 billion be allocated for agriculture despite all these importance?
- We also made a case for the improvement of the allocation for Ministry of Women Affairs despite the women constituting half of the population and knowing how important they are to eradication of poverty, hunger, job and wealth creation. Only N3.9Bilion allocated for women is a slap to womanhood.
- We also sited instances of suspicious and wasteful spending in the proposed 2016 Budget like: N1.7billion for office rent (Who are the land owners, tenants etc?), N16 Billion for rehabilitation of office buildings (What happened to the rehabilitation carried out in 2015?), N19.8 billion for Travelling and tours of officials (where are they going?), N13.5 Billion for purchase of software (Are there no software developers in Nigeria?), purchase of Vehicles (what happen to the ones bought 2015 and previous years, why not buying the National Brands that are far cheaper?) 1.6bn for budget preparations (who prepared it? Are they not civil servants who are salary earners? So why spending that type of money preparing the budget of flaws and fraud?).
The need to establish an open, inclusive and participatory budget formation is not negotiable and cannot be over emphasized. We applaud the effort by the National Assembly towards the determination to ensuring increased participation in the process that govern our activities especially the drive towards ensuring the efficiency and effectiveness of the Senate to pass a document the we all be proud of.
Globally there is growing government involvement of CSOs in budgeting and in Nigeria, we have begun the process with this interaction with the senate, we appreciate the partnership hands extended to us by the National Assembly towards formally institutionalizing the CSO-Legislative relationships. As CSO, we shall continue to engage the government in constructive and intellectual ways in ensuring that things are done in the right manner, especially in conformity with the international best practice.
At the end of the interactive session, we adopted a resolution on the Budget hearing which will later be passed to the senate and the House of Representatives respectively.
Present at the meeting are: Senate President Bukola Saraki, Senator Rose Oko, Chairman, Senate Committee on Diaspora & Non-Governmental Organisations, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso, National Planning & Economic Affairs, Senator Lanre Tejuosho, Senator Olamilekan Yayi, Sen. John Owan, Chairman, Senate Committee on Finance etc and also Hon. Peter Akpatason Chairman, House committee on Civil Society Organisations and Development Partners, the representative of the Speaker, and other distinguished members of the House of Representatives.
Also some of the CSOs that participated in the interactive session include: PLAC, CENCOJ, BudgIT, HOMEF, ActionAid, CENGSSUD, CODE, EiE Nigeria, FEPAR, BMGF, NNNGO, Oxfam, ONE Campaign, OSIWA, YIAGA, NDI, CSR in Action, among others.
Centre for Global Solutions and Sustainable Development (CENGSSUD)