“It is heart-warming that the 2015 Nigerian States budget transparency survey report declared Ekiti State as the most transparent state in Nigeria.
When in 1996, I prepared and defended the memorandum for the creation of Ekiti State before Mbanefo Panel, I was asked, what qualified Ekiti for a state. Part of my answer was the manpower in Ekiti which is populated by the highest number of educated people who are known for hard-work, quality education and integrity”.
It is a notorious fact that lack of an open, transparent and participatory budget as well as procurement process by both the state and federal government was one of the problems which have affected economic development in Nigeria. The question that has always remained unanswered is where all the funds which the Federal and State government budget every year end up. Every year, the executive and legislative arms of government go through the ritual of forwarding, considering and passage of budget proposal on the coming fiscal years. We hear of billions of naira being appropriated from one end of expenditure or the other. Where does it all go?
The recent crusade of President Buhari seems to have shown how easy it has been to misapply the funds budgeted by state and federal governments. It is for this reason among others that I congratulate the Civil Resource Development Documentation Centre (CIRDDOC) headed by the Executive Director, Mrs. Oby Nwankwo which recently concluded the 2015 Nigeria States Budget Transparency Survey. In her address, Mrs. Oby Nwankwo at Sheraton Hotels and Towers in Abuja advocated the need for an open, transparent and participatory budget and procurement process so as to end the misappropriation of public funds that could otherwise be used for development purposes.
It is heart-warming that the 2015 Nigerian States budget transparency survey report declared Ekiti State as the most transparent state in Nigeria. From the Survey, Ekiti State was rated the highest with a score of 79. It was closely followed by Cross Rivers, Lagos and Jigawa States with scores of 73, 60 and 49 respectively. States like Oyo and Kaduna performed badly with scores of 7.
The process of budget preparation and implementation is always shrouded in secrecy. It is this level of secrecy that enables politicians and corrupt civil servants to corruptly enrich themselves at the public expense. Kilometres of roads have been constructed in Nigeria and also periodically refurbished or reconstructed only in the files of such officials while in reality the said roads are untarred, muddy, potholed filled death traps for commuters. The same thing applies to hospitals which have been equipped and reequipped only on paper. Transparency International notes on its website that in relation to budget openness there is scant or no access available to the public in Nigeria. It is for this reason that the efforts of the Civil Resource Development Documentation Centre (CIRDDOC) as contained in its mission statement quoted below must be lauded.
“Since state and local governments are closest in proximity to citizens, the need for an open, transparent, and participatory budget and procurement process is crucial to ending the misappropriation of public funds that could be used for development purposes.
While state governors are entrusted to develop the budget, honourable members of the State Houses of Assembly, Auditors-General, citizens, civil society organisations (CSOs), and the media have a role in not only determining what gets included in the budget but how it is executed as well. This accountability ecosystem depends on each accountability actor playing their role.
To play a constructive role in the accountability ecosystem, citizens, civil society, and the media need to have access to budget information.
Access to budget information should not be limited to a select few individuals. All citizens should have access to how State Governments plan to raise revenue, spend public resources, and incur debt necessary to finance programmes.
It is with this in mind that CIRDDOC developed the Nigerian Sub-national Budget Transparency Survey, the first independent assessment investigating transparency and public participation in the budgeting and procurement processes in Nigerian states. This report compares the performance in all 36 Nigerian states, identifies best practices, and recommends how state budgeting and procurement systems can be more open and participatory.”
The outcome of the survey is as follows:
I must congratulate Ekiti State for being rated highest with a score of 79. When in 1996, I prepared and defended the memorandum for the creation of Ekiti State before Mbanefo Panel, I was asked, what qualified Ekiti for a state. Part of my answer was the manpower in Ekiti which is populated by the highest number of educated people who are known for hard-work, quality education and integrity. I quoted with relish the fact that when in 1966, eighteen ministers were charged with corruption and tried by the erudite Justice Kayode Esho of blessed memory, Chief Osuntokun the Minister of works was the only one discharged on no case submission made by me. It is to the credit of Ekiti State government and Ekiti people that Ekiti State has again been rated highest in budgetary transparency. I hope that other states and even the Federal government would borrow a leaf from the Ekiti example and make budgetary transparency the norm rather than the exception.
AARE AFE BABALOLA, OFR, CON, SAN, LL.D, D.Litt