Teddy Nwanunobi, Abuja
Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki on Wednesday said that the ineffective implementation of past budgets and abandonment of projects have led to wastages that have negatively affected the nation’s economy in the last 16 years.
Saraki who stated this in his speech during the National Assembly’s interactive session with Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) on the 2016 budget in Abuja, said in response to the unacceptable trend, the 8th National Assembly has stepped up its oversight functions to ensure that funds are spent ‘how’, ‘where’ and on ‘what’ they were earmarked for.
Furthermore, he 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.”
Saraki who commended the over 100 CSOs 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,” he said.
According to the Senate President, the maiden interactive session between the National Assembly and CSOs on the 2016 budget was convened to allow both members of parliament and the CSOs to “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 inputs on the 2016 budget made by the CSOs 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 the CSOs and Nigerians to continue to support the National Assembly, as it strives 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.
Earlier in her address, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Diaspora and Civil Society Organizations, Senator Rose Oko, urged the CSOs to work with the National Assembly to ensure that there is citizen’s 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 CSOs and NGOs attended the session. Some of the CSOs that participated in the interactive session include: PLAC, CENCOJ, BudgIT, HOMEF, ActionAid, CODE, EiE Nigeria, FEPAR, BMGF, NNNGO, Oxfam, ONE Campaign, OSIWA, YIAGA, NDI, CSR in Action, among others.