National Assembly Complex
Nigerians across all sectors and spheres of the society have been enjoined to hold public officials accountable for the resources entrusted in their hands, in a bid to ensure fiscal responsibility and spur good governance in the country.
The call was made at a recent forum on fiscal responsibility which took place in Enugu State, where the stakeholders insisted that public resources should be used for the benefit of all, and called on all citizens to shake off their docility and lethargic apathy.
The Fiscal Responsibility Forum for the South-east geopolitical zone was convened by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), headed by Mr. Eze Onyekpere, with the support of the Heinrich Boll Foundation.
306 participants drawn from the South Eastern States of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo attended the forum, including representatives of community and faith based organisations, professional associations, the media, non-governmental organisations and the Fiscal Responsibility Commission (FRC).
The forum, according to a communiqué signed by Onyekpere and Princewill Okorie of the Association for Public Policy Analysis, was convened to build capacity, raise awareness and sensitise core stakeholders on topical issues in fiscal responsibility so that they can become change agents for the enthronement of sound fiscal governance practices at all levels of governance in Nigeria.
It reviewed the “undue appropriations” in the 2012 federal budget and participants declared that they will “never again” allow the abuse of public resources in the name of appropriation.
It was also an opportunity to recruit more organisations into the Citizens Wealth Platform and provide coordination for various groups working on fiscal governance and budget interventions in the South East geo-political zone. It further reviewed the federal capital budget pull-out for the South East Zone.
The forum observed that fiscal governance was inherent in the task of leadership at all levels of governance. To the participants, “it is the most important process and instrument deployed by governments to influence the lives of the population. Sound fiscal governance leads to development and economic growth.
“Fiscal malfeasance has become part of the governance landscape from the federal, state to the local governments and the poor management of public resources has led to massive poverty, unemployment and decay of infrastructure.
“There is the need to mobilise and raise a street army of fiscal enthusiasts ready and willing to work for fiscal change through diligent engagement of the system. This street army must come from civil society and willing to engage the blow by blow activities of budgeting especially at the formulation, approval, implementation, monitoring and reporting stages.
“The Fiscal Responsibility Act envisages a Nigeria where individual citizens and groups take active interest in issues of transparency, accountability and value for money in fiscal governance.
“The mischief in the previous legal regime that led to the enactment of the Act still persists. There are still several cases of budgetary corruption, unrealistic forecasts, poor capital budget implementation, and lack of the political will to involve the people in the budgeting process especially by the executive arm of government, etc”, the participants added.
To them, the poor implementation of the 2012 federal capital budget and the disagreement between the Executive and the National Assembly on the percentage implementation of the capital budget shows the disconnection between the government and citizens.
“Certain projects in the South East have become permanent fixtures in the federal budget in the last eight years. These include the Enugu-Port Harcourt and the Onitsha-Enugu Expressways. There seems to be no political will to execute the projects. It is either the funds provided are insufficient or the funds provided are not released or incompetent contractors are brought to work on them.
“The idea of making poverty reduction interventions to focus on the distribution of tricycles, sinking of boreholes in communities where various boreholes already exist or the installation of solar powered street lights that cannot work more than six months after installation cannot in any way alleviate poverty”, the forum noted in a communiqué.
Participants resolved that massive awareness raising and campaigns should be undertaken by CSOs to arouse the peoples’ consciousness on the inextricable link between the budget, its priorities, implementation and the level of development and the standard of living.
According to them, “Fiscal malfeasance should be linked to the massive poverty, unemployment and decay of infrastructure. The Citizens Wealth Platform offers a legal and legitimate opportunity as a Platform for engaging the authorities for improvements in fiscal governance. CSOs in the South East should endeavour to join the Platform and participate actively in its activities.
“Budgetary corruption should be fought to a standstill. Nigerians should consider using the provisions of section 51 of the Act to fight unaccountability and lack of transparency to a standstill. CSOs from the South East geopolitical zone should mobilise and in future join national protests against corruption, impunity and fiscal malfeasance.
“President Goodluck Jonathan and the Coordinating Minister for the Economy should take urgent and expeditious steps to ensure the full implementation of the capital component of the 2012 federal budget. Engaging the National Assembly in an unnecessary argument would not solve the problem of poor capital budget implementation”, the communiqué added.