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Why citizens must participate actively in governance, development process — Experts

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Oxfam’ signage is pictured outside a high street branch of an Oxfam charity shop. / AFP PHOTO / Justin TALLIS



For any development to make appropriate impact, the catchment group must play critical roles in its processes. Some have argued that when women and children are active participants in a governance process in any community, such participation brings about sustainability.

It is with this understanding that stakeholders in the Niger-Delta put together a two-day co-learning on Strategic Partnership Programme -financing for development with women and children learning the governance process, hosted by Niger Delta Budget Monitoring Group (NDEBUMOG) with support from Oxfam.

The gathering had a blend of fiscal stakeholders, especially from budget and taxation. Other fiscal derivatives, such as, evaluation, gender sensitivity, impacts’ dynamics, monitoring, evaluation, among others, were also considered during deliberations and testimonies. Importantly, the gathering was a shared co-learning exercise; through participatory experience- sharing through fiscally harvested testimonies that could shape future’s development equilibrium, especially, for development managers and researchers.

Oxfam’s Strategic Partnership Programme was specifically structured to be fiscally useful to Nigeria and is envisaged to create sustainable impact, whereby, more Nigerians, especially; women, are empowered to participate in decision making processes, contributes to nation’s building, as active citizens, and benefits from better living standards, through increased availability of essential services.

The concept’s results are projected to be achieved through improved fiscal policies, responsive democratic practices, alongside, a private sector envisions towards reduction of poverty and extreme inequality, through effective and efficient management of Nigeria’s resources with increased citizens’ participation.

After deliberations and testimonies, stakeholders observed that het citizens should participate in all strata of fiscal governance, from tax, budget and audits, among others, as the failure of government to address infrastructural shortcomings, has become a morale burden at mobilizing the taxpayers towards their civic responsibilities.

They also noted that the neglect of education by tiers of government has brought additional burden on the people, as parents are forced to send their wards to private schools at exorbitant costs. According to the stakeholders, there is no enabling environment and motivations for informal sector to be encouraged to pay their taxes, arguing that Value Added Tax (VAT) increase is scary and shall further bleaks citizens’ expectations on economic freedom.

The participants stated that the rising insecurity in the country is a serious concern and a wakeup call for citizens to be involved in budget monitoring.

On the way forward, government was implored to invite Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) Civil Society Organisations (/CSOs) /Community Based Organisations into the fiscal circle with the national and state assemblies, through formal processes, such as attendance of public hearings for service delivery and pro-poor related bills, policy reviews, and budgetary interventions

The participants said state governments should domesticate and simplify Nigeria’s tax laws, encourage implementation through service delivery and make public, such tax laws and policies to help fair tax education. They also asked that all governmental transactions in Nigeria, should follow due process, accountability, transparency and value for money, while CSOs should focused on budget tracking and monitoring, as a tool for ensuring good governance

This is aside, they want states to launch and support Open Governance partnership, to fast track development, through participatory democratic accountability, while the Federal Government should step up effective security apparatuses, which will provide enabling environment for a thriving economy.

According to the stakeholders, rather than an increased in VAT, government should block leakages, illicit financial flows, capital flight in all sectors, alongside, stimulating citizens-ownership of anti-corruption crusade.

Earlier, during the opening ceremony, the Executive Director, NDBMG, Dr. George-Hill Anthony disclosed that the Strategic Partnership Programme was meant to create sustainable impact, whereby, more Nigerians, especially; women, are empowered to participate in decision making processes, contributes to nation’s building as active citizens, and benefits from better living standards, through increased availability of essential services.

“The concept’s results are projected to be achieved, through an improved (fiscal) policies, responsive (democratic) practices, alongside, a private sector envisions towards reduction of poverty and extreme inequality, through effective and efficient management of Nigeria’s (tremendous) resources with increased citizens’ participation.”

Providing an insight into the success stories of the project, Anthony said that statistically, from inception of SPP’s programme in Nigeria, between 2016 and 2018, a total of 5,235 capital projects were extracted, through capital projects’ factsheets.

“These were made up of 1,022 (factsheets) that was shared to 254 direct (SPP’s) beneficiaries. Unmeasured indirect beneficiaries were estimated at 500,000, weighed through knowledge strengthening of direct beneficiaries that evolved from extracted federal projects (factsheets) for stakeholders’ consciousness. 700 conventional factsheets were produced. 200 of these were fiscal advocacies fact sheets. These factsheets, covered, 494 (extracted) projects/programmes from 187 Ministries, Departments and Agencies, under Federal Ministry of Education, 211 projects were picked, which covered 63 agencies, under Federal Ministry of Health, whilst 317 projects covered 30 agencies, under Federal Ministry of Agriculture.

“In year 2, there were 453 direct beneficiaries, an estimated 45,300 indirect beneficiaries, whilst 224 fiscal governance NGOs/CSOs were mapped. For year 3, a total of 329 direct beneficiaries and 68,820 indirect beneficiaries were reached, 4,213 Federal capital projects were extracted for stakeholders’ awareness and basic economic literacy, through 500 factsheets that was used for fiscal governance town hall meetings.”

He added that NDEBUMOG was involved in the training of over 3,000 beneficiaries; mostly women for another of SPP’s partner on needs assessment, shadow budgeting, democratic leadership and gender justice.

“Notably, this Strategic Partnership Program (SPP) was specifically structured to be fiscally useful to Nigeria, alongside, engendering participatory accountable democratic consolidation for Nigeria. Year 4 is evolving; hence, we are all here! So far, there are 90 participants from two activities that were conducted by us in Lagos, this year.

“These are: capacity building for civil society groups on taxation and multi-stakeholders dialogue on taxation. Our programmatic strategy on fiscal governance is to connect tax, budget and audit(s)-paths. We are already strengthening the connectors. As the new manager of Tax Justice and Governance Platforms, spread across 16 states, recently, we nominated some members of Tax Justice Platforms for engagements in an audit program of one of NDEBUMOG’s allies. That is ongoing!”

According to him, some of the 17 Shadow Budget Groups shall also be connected with some Tax Justice Platforms. Anthony stated that between 2016 and 2019, a total of 4,126 direct beneficiaries were reached through NDEBUMOG’s component of the SPP, whilst it is estimated that 614,120 indirect beneficiaries, may have been reached as at 2018. “You will agree that around 80 persons are in this hall. If the number is added, it means, a total of 4,206 persons gained fiscal knowledge and capacity strengthening from the SPP, through us.”

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