14 February 2013

Nigeria: Lagos CSOs Engage Govt On 2013 Budget

Photo: Vanguard
Budget 2013

The Lagos State Civil Society Partnership (LACSOP) has scheduled an engagement process that will allow Lagosians seek clarifications through direct dialogue on the specific directions of the 2013 fiscal budget of the state.

The move is in line with the coalition's citizens' engagement project aimed at strengthening leadership and accountability in governance in the state, according to a release.

LACSOP, operating under a large network of civil society organisations (CSOs), including community based organisations (CBOs) will run a live tweet-powered engagement debate with support from the Department for International Department (DfID) project known as State Accountability and Voice Initiative (SAVI).

The programme, which is reportedly the first of its kind in the state, will attract media representatives and a large number of CSOs in Lagos state, where direct debate will feature key government officials, who will answer specific questions on the budget proposals, to enable citizens understand what is expected of them under the process.

Shedding light on the conference, the Coordinator of LACSOP, Mr. Ayo Adebusoye, said the citizens have the right to ask questions as to how government runs affairs of the state as tax payers money is usually spent during budget implementation, and as such they should be involved in all the processes.

Adebusoye maintained that the citizen ought to be carried along in the development process which concerns them, adding that the needs of the people should be sought first and their reactions obtained before such development would be accepted.

He said, "We understand the Lagos State's overarching vision is to be Africa's Model Megacity and Global, Economic and Financial Hub that is safe, secure, functional and productive and we also appreciate efforts that this vision be achieved by 2025 and the smaller steps towards the realisation of this vision can be found in its annual policy targets".

He further noted that for example, in 2013, the Lagos State Government (LASG) policy thrust is to strengthen infrastructure renewal in power, agriculture and agro-allied, transportation and housing sectors; an approach captioned as PATH.

Adebusoye however stressed that all these can happen only when the citizens are fully engaged in its implementation, adding that it was the reason for the debate to get the people to understand what they should do at different stages of development.

According to him, "if these goals are to be realised, adequate and equitable funding needs to be made in these sectors' annual budgets hugely funded through citizens tax and as such the people should engage adequately so that by the end they will hold government accountable for actions and inactions."

He insisted that it is the alienable right of the citizens to monitor and track the budget implementation, saying "in the past the people would sit and watch government officials divert funds meant for development to enrich themselves but today citizens need information to empower themselves through participatory democracy and engage government to account for every kobo spent on their behalf.

"What we intend to do during the conferencing is to open a dialogue channel, it is going to be a two way communication debate where citizens will ask questions directed to government officials who will be expected to respond, for they may want to find out what specific initiatives are expected in the agriculture sector, how much is to be committed and time frame and expected results and role the citizens should play" he explained.

State team leader of SAVI, Mr. Felix Obanubi, said "SAVI is concerned with giving voice to the people. Through our Advocacy Partners like LACSOP we build the capacity of the people to make them understand their roles as citizens and educate them on how they can participate in the process of governance and demand accountability from government".

Obanubi said the citizens lacked adequate knowledge which has often led to under-development because no one has engaged them in demanding accountability, adding that the entire process is aimed at empowering the citizens to speak on issues that concern them.

He commended the Lagos state government for giving opportunity to the CSO to take active part in the 2013 budget making and expressed the hope that similar opportunity would be given to them during implementation process.

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