CSOs to embark on protest boycott of Akwa Ibom budget hearing in November
A coalition under the aegis of Guild of Community Development Advocates in Akwa Ibom State (AKGCODA) a.k.a Akwa Ibom State Civil Society Forum (AKSCSO FORUM) have vowed to embark on a protest boycott of the state’s budget hearing slated for November 16.
TheNewsGuru.com, (TNG) reports this is contained in a statement issued and signed by the convener Harry Udoh
Chairman, AKGCODA stating that:
The coalition “has observed with great discontent the continued subtle disregard and exclusion of the needs and priorities of citizens in the budget implementation,and sometimes in planning and formulation processes, including the disregard of inputs made during budget hearings.
“We believe that attaining sustainable human development requires policies and approaches that place people at the centre. It calls for a robust engagement of citizens and CSOs in shaping decisions that affect their lives and development.
” Recent years have witnessed phenomenal growth in the influence and collective power of civil society actors in building social, economic,and political agendas –locally, nationally,and globally.
“As a body saddled with the responsibility to coordinate all non-governmental and civil society organisations while supporting governments’ development efforts; we have taken note of the fact that in the last seven years, despite an apparent increase in opportunities for CSO participation in the budget process, the quality and outcomes of such participation has amounted to merely ticking off development partner expectations and achieving publicity mileage by the executive and the legislature. In Specifics, over the years, we observed the following:
“Every successive year, our inputs and contributions on what should and should not be in the budget are only received and then studiously ignored, no matter how germane the points we make. It would seem that civil society participation has become just to ‘fulfillall righteousness’.
“While other participants are given ample time to speak during the Public Hearings, this is not always the case with CSOs. Despite the value we bring to the table, it would seem that the officials only listen impatiently to what we have to say and promptly discard our contributions afterwards. Our proposals are hardly ever given any consideration.
“This ploy by the Government of the day to religiously “tick the box” of citizen participation has become a recurring decimal as citizen-recommended projects and needs captured in budgets get zero allocations and when they do eventually get allocations in subsequent years, they are characterised by the sheer lack of releases to implement such citizens input.
“A year-by-year analysis of the Auditor General’s report and Citizens Accountability Report which can be provided has revealed that there is a disproportionate relationship between the citizen-recommended projects/needs, the projects/needs included in the budget,and projects/needs that got actual releases.
“Poor capital releases to key service delivery sectors -Education, Health and WASH. Mid-year review of implementation of 2022 budget shows very low releases to those sectors -Education 2%; Health 1% and WASH 0%.
“After careful consideration, we like to respectfully inform you that the Guild has decided NOT to participate in deliberations of this public hearing and further public hearings until a noticeable improvement and commitment is made to ensure that the inputs collated through all channels of inclusions, submitted and presented at public hearings get the budgetary attention they deserve.
“Against the foregoing, the Guild of Community Development Advocates in Akwa IbomState demandthe following:
“Public hearings that pragmatically accommodates the inputs of civil society,leading to the production of an Appropriation bill and Budget performance that is responsive to
the needs and priorities of citizens as a democratic and constitutional right.
“Immediate commitment to commence the process of ensuring inclusion, allocation,and prompt release of the funds for implementation of citizens nominated projects in the
Appropriation bill with plans for budget releases when the bill is approved or reasons provided for releases not made..
“Inputs made by citizens at all levels of public consultation should be properly documented and taken seriously going forward. And, if not, reasons should be
communicated why our submissions are not considered.
“Implementation of Citizens-generated projects included in the budgets and the publishing of same in the Citizen budget as directly linked to citizens’ needs as well as other effective measures to include the view of citizens and their organizations in the budget review process.
“Sincere inclusion of CSOs in budget preparation and implementation demonstrated by verifiable criteria and data that explains how citizens-nominated projects that gets budget allocation and releases are selected and included as a feedback mechanism in
the Citizens Accountability Report (CAR).
“Ministries,Departments and Agencies(MDAs)mechanism for the selection of projects should be clearly spelt out, investigated, and leveraged for increasing the selection of citizens’projects.
“As a body, AKGCODA will continually play an intermediary role in bringing people’s voices and opinions to bear on public policies. While we seek better working relations, the fact that strategic and substantive engagement with civil society is vital if the Government of the day is to remain a relevant and effective development player cannot be underplayed.
“On the strength of this fact, AKGCODA will no longer register its attendance and participation in any process that discounts the credibility and realism of the budget as well as the principles of participation and sensitivity to the unique needs of the citizens as a matter of truth and deed, a constituency it represents.
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