Some civil society organisations (CSOs) in Kaduna State have expressed concern over what they called low level of citizens’ inputs in the state’s 2023 budget.
The CSOs expressed the concern in Kaduna on Friday during a post-mortem on the 2023 approved budget with citizens’ accountability mechanism, organised by Kaduna Open Government Partnership (OGP).
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the meeting was supported by Partnership to Engage, Reform and Learn (PERL), a governance programme of the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.
NAN also reports that the accountability mechanism includes Kaduna Maternal Accountability Mechanism (KADMAM), Kaduna Local Government Accountability Mechanism (LGAM) and Kaduna Basic Education Accountability Mechanism (KADBEAM.
Others are: Kaduna Social Protection Accountability Coalition (KADSPAC), Kaduna Disability Community, Kaduna Agricultural Cohort, and Network of Civil Society in Environment (NCSC).
The citizens’ group noted that in spite of presenting recommendations for consideration at the budget town hall meeting and the public hearing, their concerns were not captured in the approved budget.
Mr Benjamin Yawan, who spoke on behalf of NCSC, observed that nothing had changed on the budgetary allocations for programmes and projects in the environment sector across the implementing ministries, department and agencies (MDAs).
Mr Philip Yatai, Citizens Co-chair, Open Government Partnership Technical Working Group on Social Protection, also said that the reports showed a decrease in the allocations for social protection interventions in the approved budget.
Yatai particularly noted that the allocations for social protection programmes had decreased from N26.3 million in the draft budget to N25.2 million in the approved budget, representing a 4.4 per cent decrease.
Similarly, Mr Seth Luke, who spoke on behalf of LGAM, said that none of the citizens’ recommendations to improve governance at local level were considered in the approved budget.
The story was no different for the agricultural sector, disability community, women and youth as well as KADBEAM where their recommendations were said not have been captured.
Meanwhile, Mrs Rahila Baita, who spoke on behalf of KADMAM, acknowledged a slight increase in the health budget, based on the recommendations of the group.
Baita said that the health budget was increased to 15 per cent, in line with the Abuja Declaration for Health Sector in states’ annual budgets.
PERL State Lead Facilitator, Mr Abel Adejor, also expressed concern over the decimal citizens’ influence on the approved budget compared with the 2.2 per cent influence on the 2022 approved budget.
Adejor, who described the performance as ‘very discouraging’, stressed the need for a new approach to engaging the budget circle, with a view to increasing the level of citizens’ influence on the budgeting process.
He also advised the CSOs to particularly advocate for the implementation of the 2023 budget and track implementation for transparency and accountability.
Also speaking, the OGP Citizens Co-chair, Mrs Hadiza Umar, thanked PERL for the continued support and pledged to mobilise citizens to engage the governance process with evidence in pushing for change.
“As CSOs representing citizens in different discussions, we must come together and work as a team, as against working in solos, to make progress in opening the governance space for citizens to engage,” she said.
Earlier, Mr Joshua James, Citizens Co-chair, OGP TWG on Open Budget, said that the meeting was aimed at assessing the citizen’s influence in the 2023 approved budget.
James added that the meeting was also to enhance the capacities of the CSOs and the media to effectively engage the governance process, with evidence from the budget post-mortem.
“The meeting is also to enable citizens to develop strategies for tracking the 2023 budget implementation,” he said. (NAN)