By Peter Duru
Makurdi – A consortium of Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, have urged governments at all levels to involve CSOs in project monitoring activities to check cases of abandoned projects and also ensure transparency accountability and prudence in the execution of government projects.
The CSOs made call yesterday in Makurdi at the presentation of Project Monitoring Report and joint press briefing on project implementation with the theme “Ensuring Effective Implementation of Programmes, Policies and Legislations, That Contribute Towards Achieving Gender Equality in Nigeria by 2030.”
Speaking on behalf of the consortium, which includes Nigerian Association of Women In Agriculture, NAWIA, Community Links Human Empowerment Initiative, Environmental and Climate Change Amelioration Initiative, ECCAI, and Initiative for Women’s Health Development and Right Protection, WRAHI, the Executive Director of ECCAI Mrs. Victoria Essa said one of the key components of the project was the preservation and protection of the rights and privileges of the female gender.
She said, “increasingly gender equality rooted in human rights, is recognized both as a key development goal on its own and as a vital means to helping accelerate sustainable development.
“And while the field of gender has expanded exponentially over the years, with programmes focused exclusively on women and girls and greater mainstreaming of gender into many development activities, a range of challenges remain.
“Women are still facing unequal access to political, economic, policy and decision making and financial resources. In fact they often face numerous barriers linked to clear discrimination as well as bear the burden of low wages or unpaid work and are susceptible to gender-based violence.
“So despite the significant advances for women, the fact is that unless women and girls are able to fully realize their rights in all facets of society, human development will not be advanced.
Continuing, Mrs. Essa said “the beginning of the year 2016 marked a crucial year to further equality and if the new Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, development agenda is to be truly transformative, women must be at the front and also at its center.
“The SDGs contains a stand-alone goal on achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls. All the goals are intrinsically interrelated and interdependent and ideally gender will be addressed and mainstreamed amongst all goals.
“SDG 5 calls on governments to achieve, rather than just promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.
“Based on the foregoing, the Kingdom of Netherlands made funding available to Women Environmental Programme, WEP, for the implementation of the project titled ‘Ensuring Effective Implementation of Programmes, Policies and Legislations that Contribute Towards Achieving Gender Equality in Nigeria by 2030.’
“This project is being implemented in Benue and Zamfara States over a period of 5 years, targeting Legislators, Legislative Aides, States’ Executives; Civil Society Organizations (CSOs); Traditional and Religious Leaders.”
According to her, the objectives of the project includes “to advocate for policies and legislations that promote women participation at all levels of decision making, and remove all obstacles (social, political, cultural and economic) hindering women’s empowerment and participation in decision making and infringing on their rights.
“Secondly the project will ensure effective implementation of programmes and projects through capacity building of CSOs, budget monitoring and information sharing. And to raise awareness amongst stakeholders on the fundamental rights of women.”
Speaking further, Mrs. Victoria Essa said a consortium of the four organizations carried out an assessment of the performance of the Benue state 2017 budget on capital projects implementation in 3 local governments of the State namely; Gwer-East, Tarka and Ado.
She said after that, another round of monitoring of the projects took place over a period of two months from February to March 2019 “and a total of 40 capital projects were monitored across three local government areas of the state namely; Ado, Gwer-East and Tarka.
“The projects which were selected at random from the 2017 Benue State appropriation document domiciled in only two Ministries of the State including the Bureau of Rural Development and Cooperatives, BRDC, and The Ministry of Works, Transport and Energy, MoWTE.
“The Focus was on capital projects in the areas of Roads construction, Bridges and High Culverts, Electrification and Water Infrastructure, including Dams.
“Another focus was on projects specifically aimed at benefitting women and youths including schools, community healthcare centres, skill acquisition centres and others.
“The essence of the monitoring/assessment was to help government prioritize issues in their 2020 budgeting process as well as inform the public about the intervention of the government in their communities.”
She said from the data gathered, 38 out of the 40 projects monitored were those of the Bureau for Rural Development and Cooperatives, while two were from the Ministry of Works, Transport and Energy.
“Out of the 40 projects monitored across the three LGAs 40 percent of them or 16 projects had no evidence of any work done of commencement of work on the projects.
“30 percent or 12 projects were incomplete and abandoned based on our classification. 17 percent or seven of the projects were completed and in use, while work on 13 percent or five of the projects was ongoing.”
Mrs. Essa explained that in their recommendation they resolved that “since these projects as encapsulated in the 2017 budget were people oriented and worthy of execution as the projects are targeted at easing the challenges of the electorates, we therefore advise that all the abandoned projects in the identified communities be included in the 2020 budget or 2019 supplementary budget.
“Contractors should be immediately mobilized to site for the execution of the projects, as this will hasten the ease of the sufferings of the benefiting communities.
“Government should also involve CSOs in projects monitoring activities to balance perspectives and ensure transparency, accountability and prudence,” she added.
In his remark, the acting Director, Rural Roads and Electricity, Ministry of Rural Development, Engr. Wuam Terkura commended the consortium for doing a thorough work on the assessment and monitoring stressing that it was worthy of emulation by government.
He pointed out that projects the consortium report indicated were abandoned were not abandoned in the true since of the word assuring that work would resume on the projects whenever funds were released for that purpose.
Engr. Terkura also explained that where a project was captured in a budget and not executed it meant there was no funds to execute it but such projects were usually carried over to the next fiscal year for executive if funds were available.
On her part, the State House of Assembly Member representing, Ado State constituency, Mr. Agnes Uloko urged women to take advantage of the gender friendly disposition of the Governor Samuel Ortom led administration in the state to participate in politics and embark on activities that would promote, protect and project the wellbeing of women in the state.
She said, “if you look closely you will discover that many states in this country are not implementing the 35 percent affirmative action but in Benue state Governor Ortom’s administering is doing well in that regard and we need to take advantage of that to assert ourselves.
“We all know that women are known for participating fully in politics in this part of the country because we are the ones who come out in our numbers to votes.
“Therefore we must be up and doing to make ourselves relevant in the system and we can achieve that by being submissive to the men who would not hesitate to give us what rightly belongs to us politically, economically and socially.”
The stakeholders who attended and spoke at the meeting including traditional and religious leaders, youths, women, rural dwellers and farmers commended the consortium for embarking on the assessment and monitoring of budget implementation in their localities and appealed for sustenance of the project since it helps to expose the achievements and failures of government in the area of budget implementation as it affects project execution in rural communities.