BY ABEL JOHNGOLD
Renowned anti – corruption crusader nongovernmental organisation (NGO) Social Development Integrated Centre (SDIC) – Social Action, Nigeria, in collaboration with MacArthur foundation has noted that the Niger Delta region has no reason to be underdeveloped considering the amount of resources as well as number of intervention programmes and agencies devoted to the development of the region.
Adding that there was lack of proper planning in the budget process of some states in the region.
The SCID made the observations at an all inclusive conference held at the Conference Hall of Top-View Hotels Asaba Delta State on Friday, 8th November, 2019.
According to the SDIC, the Conference which featured public unveiling of the Citizens Report on the state of Service Delivery in the Niger Delta Region for the year 2018 titled, “Closing the Gap between Intents and Realities”, was a platform for interaction between State actors and the citizenry on issues of budget performance.
The Conference gave participants opportunity to dialogue on pressing national issues which were debated before a communiqué was raised for the public.
The participants dialogue on approaches to combating the phenomenon of low public budget performance and service delivery at the sub-national levels towards achieving optimal judicious use of public resources and attaining the development aspirations of citizens in these areas.
In the Conference communique, the anti corruption crusader noted that the budget failures recorded so far in the States of the Niger Delta region had not been totally owing to actions of government, officials, but that inadequate actions by the Civil Society was also responsible for the failure of budgets.
The SDIC communique also observed that the budget was the roadmap or blueprint for the development aspirations of the people of and therefore its effective implementation was crucial to the development of the region. That budget education and awareness at the grassroots is at a low ebb.
The anticorruption advocate group also observed that there were numerous frivolous provisions, especially in the recurrent expenditure component, that puts too much pressure on the budgets. That budget preparation in some states were usually secluded from the citizens and this in turn, affects its implementation.
The SDIC communique added that there was a lot of corruption along and around the budget process.
In chatting the way forward to promote accountability in service delivery and public finance management at the sub-national level, Her Royal Majesty Martha Dunkun the Omu of Anioma, at the conference suggested that State governments in the Niger Delta region make the budget more inclusive, realistic and needs – oriented.
She added that governments increase service delivery in the region by shoring up the level of budget implementation.
The Omu of Anioma suggested that the National Orientation Agency (NOA) be upgraded to the Ministry of Indoctrination. That grassroots sensitization on the budget be simplified (such as in local languages, etc). And that there be more grassroots sensitization on citizens’ participation in the budgeting process.
HRM Martha Dunkun submitted that Civil Society Organizations engage and influence more government policies and actions. Adding that CSOs and citizens, put pressure on governments in the region to be to be more accountable.
Other speakers suggested that government in not just the region, but the country at large, be more resolute in meting out appropriate punishment/sanctions against those who indulge in corrupt acts, especial around budget formulation and implementation.
Participants generally resolved that the task of promoting accountability in service delivery and public finance management is a shared responsibility for all – government, CSOs, the media, traditional ruler and citizens.
In attendance were traditional rulers, policy makers, parliamentarians across the Niger Delta region, the academia, anti-graft agencies, Civil Society Organization (CSOs) and the media.