Social Action is working with citizen groups to mobilise community activists towards tackling corruption at the sub-national levels of government in Nigeria.
In the last quarter of 2016, activists and volunteers connected with Social Action’s Community Budget Advocates Committees (CBACs) went around monitoring the implementation of budgets in six states of Nigeria. In Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, Kano and Nasarawa States, community budget advocates in the various locales visited project sites, interviewed project beneficiaries and government officials with the aim of ascertaining whether public funds were being deployed as appropriated in the budget.
While many states and local governments are currently finding it difficult with declining earnings to generate adequate revenues to tackle the numerous development challenges confronting them, available resources are not utilized judiciously. Social Action believes that opening up economic and political governance at state and local government levels for the participation of all stakeholders will lead to citizens’ empowerment that will manifest in more active and positive political participation, leading to greater demands for transparent and sustainable use of public resources. It is for this reason that Social Action has identified the monitoring of how states and local government areas generate and utilize resources as a critical tool for addressing the problem corruption, mismanagement and underdevelopment in Nigeria.
The failure of governments at the state and local levels to bring about the type of development which they routinely promise electorates is made possible by citizens’ alienation from the budget process, neglect of local development in budgets, poor prioritization of infrastructure and welfare needs of citizens, opaque fiscal processes that incubate corruption and a high propensity for fiat and mismanagement. To confront these issues, Community Budget Advocate Committees are being established in different states in Nigeria to promote accountability in the management of public budgets.
Community Budget Advocacy is a public accountability and citizens’ participation strategy pioneered by Social Action in 2009. Through research and regular interaction with communities, Social Action had reached the informed conclusion that creating grassroots resource hubs was a good way to synergize with communities and local interests. In 2012, Social Action began creating local hubs for transparency and accountability advocacy, as well as a platform for citizens to engage political office holders- at least at the local level. This new thinking was piloted in Brass local government area of Bayelsa state and Khana local government area of Rivers state where 25 community activists in each local area, with varying passions, from women groups, youth groups and faith-based groups volunteered to become budget advocates. Armed with targeted training in budget analysis, monitoring of public expenditure and report writing, the Budget Activists are supported to carry out targeted advocacy for transparency accountability and prudent use of resources. They also pressure local government officials to create civil spaces for citizens to engage and participate in budget processes.
In December 2016, 30 CBAC members from the six focus states participated in a two-day training workshop in Abuja. The capacity building workshop was designed to provide a select group of activists working in the area of transparency, accountability and citizens’ participation with needed budget analysis, monitoring and advocacy skills. The meeting also provided an avenue for campaigners in six states across four geopolitical zones in Nigeria to share experiences on transparency and accountability initiatives undertaken. Social Action’s Public Finance Accountability, Programme Officer Prince Ekpere captures the goal of the training workshop thus: “currently the campaign for transparency, accountability and the prudent use of resources seems to be restricted to the federal government alone. We hardly see an equal measure of activism around the same principles at the state and local government levels. The reality is that states and local government together take a large share of revenues. They need to account for these revenues and use it in manners that promote the commonwealth. Our budget intervention is meant to contribute significantly to the start of a movement centered around participatory fiscal governance as well as prudent and accountable use of public resources at the sub-national level”
A group of community budget monitors from Kano and Nasarawa States at a training workshop in Abuja, FCT.
With enhanced skills from the training workshop, grassroots activists returned to the field to monitoring the implementation of their various state budgets. Detailed report of the monitoring exercise and the analyses of the budgets of the states will be published by Social Action, and will form the basis of advocacy campaigns for greater openness in budget development and implementation.
Social Action will consolidate work through the CACs to mobilise community members to participate in advocating for better management of public revenue particularly at the local government level.