It is worrying that at the sixth month of the fiscal year, Rivers state, Akwa Ibom state, Bayelsa state and Delta state have not deemed it appropriate to make copies of their annual budgets available on the state official websites or otherwise for public access. This is the high point of a tradition of executive and legislative secrecy which has become common practice in the aforementioned states.
The non-availability of the budget has made it impossible for citizens and organizations to monitor public expenditure and provide critical feedback to the government. It has also made it impossible for citizens of the various states to know what capital projects of importance to them will be implemented. This practice has alienated citizens from playing any role whatsoever in their fiscal governance.
Social Action makes bold to state that, “for governments that lay claim to transparency and accountability in the management of public resources, it is worrying that they will choose to keep the budget secret from citizens. This is a negation of that principle and also a negation of the very ethos of democracy. Citizens have a right to know how the government intends to spend their money. Having a legislature and an executive arm of government does not equate to annihilating the role of citizens in governance”.
On the above premise, Social Action, the Niger Delta Citizens and Budget Platform as well as its partners, call on the governments of Rivers, Delta, Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom states to immediately make the state 2016 budget available on the official websites.
As a follow up to this, we have presented Freedom of Information, FOI Requests to the various state budget offices, requesting the documents. As the Freedom of Information Act 2011 stipulates, we expect the said information to be made available within seven days of getting this request. We hope the governments stay true to their professed commitment to transparency, accountability and prudent use of public resources by availing citizens of the 2016 budget.