Nigeria has been described as one of the worst performing countries in terms of open budget processes.
A Senior Lecturer with Kaduna State University (KASU), Dr. Zuwaghu Bonat, who stated this as chief trainer on budget tracking during a 2-day capacity building training for representatives of beneficiaries of MacArthur Foundation funds on Tuesday in Kaduna said, over the years, Nigerian government at all levels have failed to make people’s priority as the main content of the budgets.
To him, “Nigeria is notorious for not having open budget. Nigeria is one of the worst performing countries in terms of open budget process. People are not involved in the making of the budget. Civil servants still hold information even when there is no need for such.
“We know the current budgets we have both at the federal and state government levels are not participatory in nature what was contained in that law.
“Even here in Kaduna where they have some improvement in the past two years where they would call civil society organisations and community based organisation and brief them about the content of the budget. There is still a room for improvement because people don’t still know much about needs assessment for them to know about the budget which is the basis for sustainable development.
“It is not civil servants, politicians or technocrats that will sit somewhere and determine what get into the budget whether it captures people’s needs or not.
“You heard what one of them said that, what they need is water and toilet facilities in their school. But the government would come and build classrooms where already have enough. So, government must use people’s need to prepare their budget.
“Recently, Kaduna State government passed the local government law. In that law, there is provision for community participation in governance. We know LG legislature will now have the power to look and pass the budget at that level before it moves to Kaduna assembly to become law.
“Now, those that live at LG areas especially those of them that are in this training hall cannot really engage the budget process unless they are well informed about what information they need on how to access, read, interpret, monitoring, tracking and influence what get into the budget if they are giving the opportunity under the new LG law.”
Executive Director of a non-governmental organisation that organised the training, LEADS-Nigeria, Barrister Rebecca Sako-John said, the training was targeted at people in the communities called beneficiary communities where UBEC funds are cited to build their capacity so they can be able to track these funds within their localities.
“These people are community leaders, community organisations, civil servants, school management officials, CSO and the media carefully selected to participate so they can replicate same when they go back to their people.
“They are being equipped to be able to engage the service providers and contractors base on information and knowledge of budget.
“We are already tracking but these people who are at the localities should be trained to be able to constructively engage in other issues that affect their well-being and not just UBEC funds.
“We are going to be doing tracking of 2015 and 2016 action plan projects in 22 local government areas for three years. The bottom line is to see quality service delivery and reduction in corruption practices”, she explained.
One of the participant from Government Secondary School, Gwawada, Chikun local government area of the State, Monday Obadiah described the training as eye opener.
According to him, “actually, this training has opened our eyes to many things we don’t know before.
“Back home in the communities, people do not even know they have the right to ask questions about what the government is doing for them.
“But this two days training has opened our eyes and as we go back, we intend to organise a-day seminar to inform them on how to track budget and all that.
“I want to believe there are a lot of projects that supposed to have been executed.
“In fact, it was when LEADS-Nigeria visited our school that we know we have a project that ought to have been done since 2015 and that is construction of a science laboratory.
“As the time they visited, nothing was on ground. But thank God a week after that visit, we saw the contractor.
“This is a kind of training that should be sustained because there are many awarded projects the beneficiaries are not aware of and they are not executed. We need good governance and this is one training that can help us collectively realise that.”