By Joshua Oriola
The Civil Society in Nigeria have rejigged their activities and restrategized to ensure effective engagement of budget of the federal government.
This becomes necessary given the change in the budget calendar which is now January to December of the fiscal year.
Members of the Civil Society from various parts of the country met in Abuja for reviewing of their activities around budget engagement.
The meeting was aimed at discussing mechanisms for tracking the citizens input in the 2020 FG budget to determine the level of uptake of the citizens input in it.
Some of the Civil Society at the meeting include the Coalition of Association for Leadership, Peace, Empowerment and Development, the Nigeria Labour Congress, ActionAid Nigeria, the Accountability Lab Nigeria, the Civil Rights Concern, the Global Center for Human Empowerment and Entrepreneurship Development.
Other are Footprint Empowerment Initiative (FEI), Follow Taxes (FT), Public & Private Development Center (PPDC), Nigeria Economic Submit Group (NESG), Nigeria Association of Small Medium Enterprises (NASME), Kano Budget Working Group, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) and Project Monitoring Partnership.
They shared experiences and learning and agreed on ways to strengthen CS coordination and collaborations with government towards effective engagement of the federal government budget process.
The civil society unanimously agreed to work with government in a collaborative manner that will bring about sustainable progress for the greater good of Nigerian citizens.
The meeting which was facilitated by Partnership to Engage, Reform and Learn (PERL), a programme of the Department for International Development (DFID) paved room for cross-fertilization of ideas among the CS actors.
The CS partners demonstrated their commitment to keep engaging the budget of the federal government efficiently to ensure proper implementation so as to achieve service delivery.
Addressing the participants, Federal Team Leader, PERL Engage Citizen Pilar, Mr. Greg Anyaegbudike charged the CS actors to step up the engagement of the budget process to logical end and track the budget of a particular service delivery line in the budget from preparation up to the point of facility level service delivery to the citizens.
While speaking, the National Coordinator of Open Alliance, Ayomide Faleye appealed to CS actors in Nigeria to synergize and allow proper coordination on budget engagement, particularly in the area of information sharing and partnership so as to have one voice and united front.
The Chairman, Nigeria Association of Small Medium Enterprises (NASME), Nasarawa State, Mr Chris Mamuda said it is important to strengthen the engagement of budget process because of it’s influence on economy and the implication on the wellbeing of the citizenry.
The Coordinator Kano Budget Working Group, Malam Safiyanu Bichi said the new strategy would enhance cooperation among CS actors and take budget engagement to the next level.
The Food and Agriculture Programme Advisor, ActionAid Nigeria, Blessing Akahile said the meeting came at the right time and that the new strategy was a good sustainability mechanism to ensure continues engagement when PERL ends.
The Chairman, Project Monitoring Partnership, Jigawa State, Dr Isa Mustapha said with the new strategy, the CS actors in the country would be more coordinated on budget engagement and that this will boost service delivery.
The Head, Coalition of Association for Leadership, Peace, Empowerment and Development, (CALPED), Yusuf Goje said the new strategy will bring out tangible results in the budget engagement as it will enhance result oriented activities towards improving service delivery and impacting the lives of the citizens..
The participants dissected issues concerning budget process, identified challenges and opportunities and fashioned out workable strategies for budget engagement going forward.
The participants agreed to ensure that their engagement add value to budget process so as not to be seen as rabble-rouser or nuisance.
They promised to do more, strengthen their capacity, coordinate better and effectively utilise the existing space and mechanisms for engaging Federal budget and consolidate on the options for citizens’ engagement in the budget process.
They identified citizens budget portal, open treasury portal, budget tracking template, NOCOPO, report gov.ng, citizens dialogue series, MDA websites, National Assembly Committees, bid opening sessions and visiting government offices during office hours useful tools for the their engagement.
Others tools include open governance processes, MDAs/NASS call for memos, policy validation sessions, MTEF, public account reports, Accountant General and Auditor General Reports, MTSS, public hearing and national council meetings.
The CS actors used the avenue to chart new strategies for sustained partnership and coordination on budget engagement with expected strengthened partnership between civil society groups working in the FCT and those in the states.