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Don tasks Nigerians on FoI Act

Posted: Apr 30, 2015 at 2:10 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Emmanuel Nzomiwu, Enugu


A Senior Lecturer in the Department of Geography, University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), Mr. Arinze Tagbo, has urged Nigerians to take advantage of Freedom of Information (FOI) Act of 2011 to get required information on the running of government in their areas.

Tagbo threw the challenge at a town hall meeting organised by a human rights organisation, Human Development Initiative (HDI), in Nsukka for community stakeholders in the Enugu North Senatorial District.

In a paper entitled, ‘Reasons for Grassroots Participation in Budgeting’, Tagbo noted that the Constitution vested sovereignty of the state on people which means that every citizen has the right to ask questions on how government of the day spends tax payers money.

According to the don, from constitutional point of view, those who exercised government authority are servants and not masters.

“The budget is a public document and you can get a copy of it to enable you to know if projects listed in the budgets in your area are executed or not,” he said.

Earlier, a Senior Programme Officer of HDI, Ms Bolanle Dare, had said they want the local governments to publish their annual financial reports as a way of showing transparency.

She said council chairmen must be transparent and accountable to the people, for the people to benefit from the main objective of the establishment of 774 local government ares in the country.

“We demand that council chairmen publish annual financial reports of their councils and make it accessible to the grassroots so that people will know the income and expenditures of their council areas.

“We believe this will ensure transparency, give people sense of belonging, and enhance grassroots development as well as overall national development.

“The present situation people do not know the income of their councils and how they are expended encouraged corruption and embezzlement, “Dare said.

She said one of the aims of HDI was to monitor council budgets, but expressed disappointment that most times the process of budgeting preparation and its implementation in many local councils were shrouded in secrecy resulting in gross mismanagement of funds.

“It’s indisputable fact that the sums of money that get to our local governments are never accounted for, the whole process of budgeting preparations and its implementations are shrouded in secrecy.

“People at grassroots should give monitoring of LG budget in their areas the required attention to ensure strict implementation of budgets by council chairmen.

“It’s not a welcome development that rural areas where 80 per cent of populace reside lacked basic amenities and developmental infrastructures,” Dare said.

In another paper entitled, “Input of Community Stakeholders in LG Budget Preparations”, Mr. Felix Adimorah, Assistant Director, National Orientation Agency (NOA), said for local governments to have positive impact on the rural people, all relevant community stakeholders should make required input during budget preparations.

“It’s non-involvement of community stakeholders that results in some LGA’s approving the construction of a bridge for a community in budget even when that community has no river.

“It is the community that will tell the council what it needs and not council imposing one elephant project on them.

“If the budget fails to address the real needs of people it becomes an exercise in futility as well as a waste of tax payer’s money,” Adimorah said.

The town hall meeting was attended by traditional rulers, councilors, town union executives, civil society organisations among others.

Some participants at the meeting in an interview said it had opened their eyes to what should be their roles in budget preparation as well as its implementation.

They pledged to educate other members of their communities on the need to monitor the implementation of council’s budget in order to remind the executive arm of the council of projects listed in the budget but had not been executed.

The traditional ruler of Ihe-Owerre community in the Nsukka Local Government area, Igwe George Asadu, was among the dignitaries that attended the town hall meeting.