The Nigerian Senate, on Wednesday, held its first ever dialogue with civil society organizations on the 2016 Budget, as part of efforts to ensure increased citizen participation in the processes that govern activities in the legislature.
The Senate President, Bukola Saraki said that the ineffective implementation of past budgets and abandonment of projects had negatively affected the nation’s economy.
In response to the unacceptable trend, he said the 8th National Assembly had stepped up its oversight functions to investigate ” how, where and on what” funds were earmarked for.
He further noted that “as economic diversification is crucial to the success of the nation’s economy, the National Assembly is working to pass laws that will boost internally generated revenues by plugging the loopholes that exist in our system, and encouraging the small and medium-scale business owners in our communities.”
The Senate President, who commended the over 100 civil society organizations that participated in the interactive session, said: “we know that the work ahead of us is necessary. We also know that the road ahead of us will be lined with challenges. However, we also know that we cannot do this alone. We need all hands on deck for this one.
In this regard, in response to citizen’s concerns and public expectations, the 8th National Assembly through this platform and the various others that we have set up online, will continue to be accessible to you. We will work tirelessly to address your concerns’ after all we are only here because of you.”
The maiden interactive session between the National Assembly and civil groups on the 2016 budget, was convened to enable them “explore new angles, consider fresh opinions and weigh new suggestions on the reasonable changes that need to be made, and on the best way to forge ahead with the 2016 appropriation process.
This is not only an opportunity for you to air your views, it is also a window that has presented itself that will allow all of us to work together to pass a budget that we can all be proud of. Therefore, I urge you all to feel free to point out your genuine concerns about the budget. Know that your relevant input is crucial towards ensuring the efficiency and effectiveness of the National Assembly to pass a document that we can all be proud of.
When the civil society of a nation is strong, loud and empowered – we are all better off for it. When the civil society is a part of the process – with seats of their own at the decision-making table – governments become more responsive and accountable,” he said.
The Senate President also pledged that the observations and input on the 2016 budget, at the session, would form part of the report of the Senate Committee on Diaspora and Civil Society Organizations to the Senate Committee on Appropriation for onward submission to Senate in plenary.
He called on Nigerians to continue to support the National Assembly, as it strived to “acquire and execute critical and suitable programs that are highly beneficial to every citizen of this nation.
These sessions might be baby steps to some, but know that little steps are the beginnings of greater outcomes that lead to the positive change that Nigerians voted for at the polls,” he said.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Diaspora and Civil Society Organizations, Rose Oko, urged civil society organizations to work with the National Assembly to ensure citizens’ participation in the 2016 Appropriation Bill.
“Through your capacities of reach, advocacy and data collection, your contribution to this document (2016 budget) will not only enhance our mandate of appropriation for government, but also to ensure that there is citizen participation in the decision making process of government at this crucial level,” Senator Oko stated.
Over 300 participants representing different civil society organizations and non governmental organizations attended the session at the new Senate building in Abuja.