By Philip Yatai

Citizens in Kaduna state on Tuesday presented their concerns and recommendations to the State Assembly for consideration into the 2022 Proposed Budget size of N233.6 billion laid before the House on Oct. 12 by Gov. Nasir El-Rufai for appropriation.

The citizens, represented by various accountability mechanisms in the state, made the presentation in Kaduna, at the Public Hearing on the 2022 Budget Proposal organised by the State Assembly.

The accountability mechanisms are Kaduna Maternal Accountability Mechanism (KADMAM), Kaduna Basic Education Accountability Mechanism (KADBEAM), Local Government Accountability Mechanism (LGAM), and Kaduna Social Protection Accountability Coalition (KADSPAC) 

Others are Network of Civil Society in Environment (NCSE), National Agricultural Seeds Advocacy Group (NASAG)/Coalition of Associations for Leadership, Peace, Empowerment & Development (CALPED), Civil Society Coalition on Infrastructure, the Academia, and media.

The state government had over the years established a tradition of holding a budget town hall meeting for citizens to engage the budget and make inputs before presenting the budget proposal to the State Assembly..

This is parts of citizens’ engagement and the fulfilment of the state government commitment to open the budget to citizens under the Open Government Partnership (OGP).

However, the 2022 draft budget was presented to the house without holding the town hall meeting ritual, a development that was largely condemned by citizens because it robbed them of the opportunity to engage the budget and make their inputs.

But to restore public trust and strengthen citizens participation in the governance process, the Partnership to Engage, Reform and Learn (PERL) an FCDO governance programme, worked with the State Assembly to provide a platform for citizens to engage the budget and make inputs.

To ensure quality engagement, PERL supported citizens through various accountability mechanisms to analyse the budget, make observations, recommendations and harmonise their requests for presentation at the public hearing.

In her remark at the public hearing, Citizens Co-chair, OGP, Mrs Hadiza Umar thanked the State Assembly for opening its doors and providing the needed opportunity for citizens to make inputs into the proposed budget.

Represented by the OGP Citizens Co-Chair on Open Budget, Mr Joshua James, Mrs Umar pointed out that the OGP platform provides the needed avenue for citizens and government to co-create and jointly implement policies and programmes that would improve the wellbeing of the people.   

She stressed that the civil society would always be available to support, collaborate and partner with the government to deliver quality service to the people and engender public support to government policies and programmes for sustainable development.

Presenting concerns on the health sector, KADMAM Co-chair, Malam Mustapha Jumare, said that the amount proposed for capital expenditure in the health sector was inadequate and urged the State Assembly to consider increasing the amount.

Jumare said that budget analysis further shows that the government intends to spend N11 daily on the health of every citizen based on the N35.13 billion proposed for the health sector in 2022, representing 15 per cent of the total N233.6 budget size proposed for the year.   

“We are appealing to the state government to sustain the culture of dedicated budget lines for Family Planning and Routine Immunisation and strengthen transparency and accountability in the utilisation of the funds.

“The state government should also sustain the 15 per cent allocation to the health sector and ensure timely release and cash backing of the funds,” he said.

Mr Martins Dangwa, Chair, Evidence Committee of KADBEAM, who made a presentation on the education sector, stressed the need for the education budget to be refocused, to address issues of access, ICT, electricity and water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities in schools.

Other critical areas that need to be looked at, according to Dangwa, include school enrolment, retention, and completion, friendly learning environment for persons with disabilities, staff welfare, and increased funding of the tertiary institutions in the state among others.

On the Ministry for Local Government budget, Mr Yusuf Goje of Local Government Accountability Mechanism, urged the state government to increase the allocation for rural feeder roads from proposed N398.57 million to at least N1 billion.

According to him, prioritizing public investment in rural feeder roads will have a multiplier effect in reducing poverty, creating employment, boosting economic activities, and addressing insecurity.

Goje added that Local Government Fiscal Transparency and Accountability under Planning and Budget Commission should be sustained by ensuring timely release and cash-backing of approved funds.

“The reform program will strengthen fiscal discipline and improve service delivery at the grassroots.

“The state government should allocate 50 per cent of the projects in the ministry’s budget to fund projects captured in Community Development Chatters, especially under rural electrification, feeder roads and purchase and installation of transformers,” he said. 

Mr Smith Waya of the Coalition of Associations for Leadership, Peace, Empowerment and Development (CALPED) who represented KADSPAC at the event, thanked the government for allocating over N20 billion for social protection interventions in various agencies.

Waya, nonetheless urged the assembly to create a budget line to fund the targeting and enrolment of Poor and Vulnerable Households across every community in the state.

Also, the disability community led by Mr Rilwanu Mohammed, thanked the state government for signing the Disability Bill into law and appealed to the government to make funds available in the budget for full implementation of the law.

..also urged the Assembly to consider upward review of the N88.2 million allocated for the completion of the construction of three Ultra-Modern Rehabilitation Centres at Soba, Birnin Gwari and Jaba LGAs.

Earlier while declaring the public hearing open, the Speaker of the House, Mr Yusuf Zailani described the public hearing on the budget as a “critical” democratic process for the public to make input to areas of concern.

Zailani said that the Assembly would sustain the public hearing on budgets for citizens to ask questions, seek clarifications and make inputs.

On his part, the Chairman, House Committee on Appropriation and Implementation, Mr Aminu Ahmed said that citizens’ observations and recommendations would improve the quality of the budget that speaks to the needs of the people.

In his closing remark, the Commissioner, Planning and Budget Commission, Muhammad Abdullahi, said that government would continue to ensure citizens engagement in the budgeting process.

Abdullahi said that all the concerns and recommendations of the citizens were noted, adding that efforts would be made to reprioritise some budget lines to capture the interests of citizens based on available resources.

He said that the state government was working hard to fund its budget from Internally Generated Revenue.

“We must understand that getting more revenue in the state is the most important thing to do as the government is focused on running the government and providing developmental projects entirely from tax collection,” he added.