Governments at all levels in Nigeria have been enjoined to complete abandoned projects littered across the country, especially those projects that have direct bearing to the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
Also the federal government has been urged to strengthen the anti-corruption institutions and ensure punitive measures against convicted corrupt officials in the country, and to collaborate more with various groups, including communities, CSOs and the media to carry out public awareness, social media campaigns on budget processes.
These calls were contained in communiqués issued at the end of two different training workshops for community stakeholders at the grassroots for fiscal influencing and responsive governance, and training of civil society stakeholders on budget monitoring and basic economic literacy, held recently in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.
The workshops were organised by the Niger Delta Budget Monitoring Group (NDEBUMOG) in collaboration with Oxfam in Nigeria.
The first was a training workshop on Strategic Partnership for influencing through the Theory of Change (TOC) model as encapsulated in the Financing for Development's Programme (SPP-I) that is being implemented in Nigeria by Oxfam, NDEBUMOG, CISLAC, Budgit and Kebetkache.
The training was to empower community stakeholders at the grassroots for fiscal influencing and responsive governance. Participants were drawn from Enugu, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Rivers, Delta and the FCT, Abuja.
It was geared at mobilising community stakeholders to be proactive at playing active roles in community development processes, acquaint community stakeholders of the importance for demonstrable inclusiveness in the fiscal processes through the use of factsheets and other tools for mobilisation of women for community development.
The Chief Executive Officer of NDEBUMOG, Dr. George-Hill Anthony advised participants at the training to make use of the knowledge gained to influence and hold political representatives accountable to do what is right for the development of their communities.
He added that the projected outcome is to create a situation of improved policies and practices of government and private sector that would result in reduced poverty and extreme inequality through effective and efficient management of Nigeria's huge resources and increased citizen participation through five pathways to change, namely; improved policies of government, improved policies of private sector, strengthened CSOs, increased citizens' voice, and finally, building stronger and wider alliances.
Oxfam representative, Mr. Celestine Okwudili Odo also spoke around similar objectives but conveyed greetings to stakeholders present at the event from Oxfam in Nigeria.
Participants called for community folks to protect social infrastructural projects located at various communities and also take responsibility for ownership, instead of treating such projects and infrastructure as no man's belongings.
They urge the citizens to pay their taxes promptly to attract development but warned against diversion of public funds by some politicians for other purposes that are not beneficial to the common good of the people. They also advocated community-government interface before budget preparations each year.
Participants called for a review of government fiscal policy policies to checkmate unnecessary wastages and frivolous expenditures, commended NDEBUMOG and Oxfam in Nigeria for the training and urged both to spread the benefits of the training to other communities not present.
The communique was jointly signed by Nsefi Uduak Umoh from Akwa Ibom State; Ogunka Junior from Rivers State; Adeyemi Folake Titilayo from Delta State; Dame Nnamani Patricia from Enugu State; and Pastor Edet Raymond from NDEBUMOG who is also the State Superintendent-Akwa Shadow Budget Groups
Meanwhile, the training of civil society stakeholders on budget monitoring and basic economic literacy was aimed at building the capacity of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to monitor budget and also understand basic economic concepts at helping them to undertake effective budget/project monitoring and evaluation.
Participants were drawn from CSOs, including NDEBUMOG's Team, SPP Partners, and some local NGOs, from Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Enugu, the FCT, Lagos, Delta State; and Akwa Ibom House of Assembly, and the media.
Participants observed that even though the budgeting process in Nigeria is widening and becoming more inclusive, CSOs involvement is still inadequate due to low capacity of CBOs to engage the process, as well as poor access to budget and project information.
Thy noted that some public institutions that have the mandate to ensure inclusivity and compliance to the Fiscal Responsibility Act have not performed optimally, especially, in making budget/project information available, there by practically facilitating the non-inclusion of CSOs, who need the information to play their role as watchdogs for society.
To them, the shrinking space is a major challenge to CSOs Budget Monitoring Networks, in that the budget making process rarely accommodates the opinions of the citizens, people with disabilities, and vulnerable groups. They also noted that corruption has eaten deeply into budget processes that the pattern of public finance management by government over the years has concentrated wealth in the hands of few individuals.
CSOs were urged to engage in budget monitoring should enhance their capacity through trainings, studies, researches, information and lessons sharing and institutional exchange programmes; and to keep demanding relevant information, using government laid channels and other instruments like the Freedom of Information Act.
They were also enjoined to go beyond the challenges of the shrinking space, mobilise themselves into networks for continued strategic influencing, budget analysis, advocacy, monitoring and evaluation, and to articulate the needs and inputs of women, persons with disabilities, youths, children and other vulnerable groups.
On the other hand, government institutions were urged to facilitate and make budget and project information accessible to enable CSOs perform independent monitoring and evaluation to enhance transparency and accountability, which will make (any) government even more popular.
They were also enjoined to accommodate the inputs of women, persons with disabilities, youths, children and other vulnerable groups on fiscal conceptualisation, planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.
The comminuque was jointly signed by Dr. Anthony of NDEBUMOG; Odo of Oxfam Nigeria; Emeka Ngene from Actionaid Nigeria; Nkiru Nwobodo of the Economic Empowerment and Development Initiative (EEDI), Enugu; and Oluwapelumi Adeigbe of Sister's Nest, Lagos State.