By Chinonso Alozie
OWERRIi— Civil society organizations in Imo State, have asked the state government to include citizens as well as the town unions in the budget process to enable them contribute their quota in choosing priority projects that would impact on the lives of their people. This was one of the resolutions during their stakeholders’ participatory/ strategic meetings in Owerri.
According to Mr. Chidi Igwe, programme director of Citizens Centre for Integrated Development and Social Rights, CCIDESOR, “Citizens can get involved through budget fora organized by state government, involving town unions, President Generals of communities, CSOs, community based organisations, women groups, traditional institutions and people with disabilities among others.”
Igwe attributed the lack of government presence in the rural areas to the inability of the state House of Assembly, to involve rural dwellers in the process of budgeting by organising public hearings before the final passage of budgets. “If Imo State, key into the practice of open budget system, it will surpass other states in the Southeast region in terms of development and improved partnership with international bodies.
Imo is one of the oil producing states in the country but among the 36 states of Nigeria today, Anambra State, is the most viable state. How did they do it? They have run an open and sincere budget system since the regime of Mr. Peter Obi. He ended up being the only governor that left billions of naira in cash and equity investments to his successor.
“Enugu State, uses the Visit Every Community,VEC, approach to identify the needs and get citizens involved in prioritising their annual expenses. As a result of this development, we call on the state government to see the need and significance of an open budget system in the current dispensation. We are also calling on the media to step up their campaign for the enthronement of open budget processes in Imo state,” he said.
Also, Mr. Tony Osuoha, of the Citizens Accountability Assembly, CAA, said that the legislature which was the third arm of the government had a crucial role to play in the struggle to enthrone good governance and the practice of participatory budgeting.