By Gift Olivia Samuel The Sight News
ABUJA: A non-governmental organization, Connected Development (CODE) has disclosed that its initiative Follow The Money recently tracked resources budgeted for Education, Healthcare and access to Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) to the tune of N50 billion in six states.
This was disclosed at a stakeholders town hall meeting on the Youth Organizing Leadership (YOL) Project— a gender responsive approach to tracking development projects in Nigeria, where stakeholders from the civil society and the government were brought together to analyze findings from across the states, to provide directions for improved service delivery.
CODE’s Senior Programmes Manager, Lucy James Abagi, noted that CODE built the capacity of 35 young people and over 120 youth have been trained so far across Enugu, FCT, Borno, Akwa Ibom, Kaduna, Lagos, to take ownership of tracking projects to improve service delivery.
According to her, “Our champions across the six states identified projects from the budget and from their tender processes, they did some tracking and provided oversight across these states for these projects.
“For instance in Enugu state we had projects being identified from the Accountant General’s report. Our team encountered a bottleneck because we could not assess the tender documents that speak to the specific locations of these projects. We sent FOI letters in Enugu state and the state government did not respond to these FOI letters to tell us where these projects are being sited.
“In Borno state, we had a little bit of success stories because the government opened up their books and provided details of where these projects are and our teams were able to provide oversight on these projects and the four projects that were identified have been completed and some are ongoing.
“In the FCT, our team identified the projects, although we were not able to assess how much was allocated to each of these projects but we were able to track the projects to completion.
“In states like Akwa Ibom, we didn’t have access to the tender documents, we couldn’t assess how much these monies were. We were only able to just look at the budget and pick up the budget items because that is too vague and will not speak specifically to location data, benefiting communities and the amount of the budget”, she said.
She further noted that their conclusion across board is that the government needs to open up their books, as most of these states are signed up to the Open Government Partnership (OGP) and the Freedom of Information law has been domesticated in Nigeria, adding that the states need to respond to questions around service delivery.
Abagi pointed out that it is important for states and the federal government to take into cognizance the fact that young people are the change that we seek in Nigeria, urging them to open up a process that allows young people to be part of the decision making processes in the states.
She called on the youth to wake up to their responsibilities and start taking part in the processes of governance in their states, take ownership of the process, understand the system and take part in tracking. “Young people need to keep demanding, find their way into the budget system and find out how much their states are earmarking for projects that will directly impact them, if not there will be no change”.
On the part of the government, she said, “The government needs to strengthen the relationship between themselves and benefiting communities by discovering the priority needs of the communities before budgeting so that the communities will take ownership of the projects”.
Speaking on the “Subnational Budget Planning and Implementation in the Era of Open Government Partnership: The Role of Nigerian Youths”, Tijah Bolton-Akpan said the reason for engaging in the budget discuss as it has to do with the subnational tiers of government is because they are the most relevant to citizens and pushing the conversation to that level makes citizens become involved in the budget and government processes.
He called for the FOI laws to be used in states that have them, adding that in states that the law doesn’t exist, there is the need to push for enactment of such laws such as—the public procurement laws, Fiscal Responsibility law and the FOI.
According to him, “Young people should take the lead on this, they should be involved because it is their future and tomorrow that is being shortchanged and it is important that they are able to be at the forefront”.
The Youth Organizing Leadership (YOL) Project is supported by Action Aid.