COMMUNIQUE ISSUED AT THE END OF THE 3-DAY CAPACITY
BUILDING WORKSHOP FOR COMMUNITY LEADERS ON STRENGTHENING COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION IN LOCAL GOVERNANCE IN NIGERIA BY COMMUNITY LIFE PROJECT (CLP) AT POPE JOHN PAUL II PASTORAL CENTRE. CATHOLIC DIOCESE OF EKITI FROM MONDAY 12 – 14, AUGUST, 2013.
A 3-day capacity building workshop for community leaders on strengthening community participation in Local Governance in Nigeria organized by Community Life Project (CLP) was held between August 12th and 14th at Pope John Paul II Pastoral Centre, Ekiti State. The workshop was organized by Community Life Project (CLP) to address the gap between the governance institutions at Local Government level and grassroots citizens which manifests in poor services and neglect of grassroots and rural communities.
The workshop was attended by 74 participants from Community Based Organisations, Faith Based Organizations, and government institutions from 9 states in the country that cut across the six (6) geo-political zones. The States are: Adamawa, Benue, Edo, Enugu, Kebbi, Kwara, Lagos, Ogun and Rivers as well as the media. The main objective was to enhance the capacity of the grassroots people, community-based organizations and local institutions to participate effectively in promoting Transparency and Democratic Accountability through Participatory Budgeting at the local government level. The workshop also aimed to equip community development officers and grassroots leaders with knowledge and skills to demand for better services and community participation in the management of public funds. The trained community leaders will go back to their communities to organize community stakeholder to engage with Local Government Officials on how to get their needs into the Local Government budget.
Participants made the following observations:
- Both the Federal and State governments have jointly eroded the powers of the grassroots-local government by hijacking their statutory roles as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
- Budget preparation by the Government is not inclusive of citizen’s views and needs and budget items are faulty, with a lot of frivolous, inflated and repeated line items.
- The concept of efficiency, effectiveness, equity, inclusiveness, rule of law and consensus opinions as principles of good governance have been totally set aside giving room to mediocrity, impunity and political rascality, thereby putting the grassroots people in perpetual servitude and denying them their civic rights.
- Local government councils themselves have failed to strive to exercise their roles and functions given to them by the Constitution. There is also lack of participation in local governance by citizens (failure of citizens to exercise their civic rights and responsibilities).
- Unbridled corruption and looting of public treasury by public officers both elected and civil servants is further impoverishing the already predominantly poor population of the country.
- There is an absence of real autonomy for local governments manifested in the absence of democratically elected councils and manipulation of local government funds by state governments.
We recommend the following to ensure greater citizen participation and inclusiveness in the local Governance:
- Citizens should demand transparency and accountability as well better services from their elected leaders at local levels.
- Grassroots communities and citizens should make conscious effort to participate in budget preparation and execution to ensure that public funds are properly channelled to meet the real needs of the people.
- There should be greater collaboration between the local government and the communities such that the dividends of democracy would come to the grassroots.
- The National Assembly and the State Houses of Assembly should respect the demands and aspirations of the majority of Nigerian for Local Government Autonomy as expressed during the public hearings of the National Assembly.
- State Governments should stop interfering in local government administration and desist from using the Joint State-Local Government Account as a ‘stick’ for controlling the Local Governments.
- Citizens and grassroots leaders should use all relevant laws that empower their participation in governance such as the Freedom of Information Act (2011) as tools for engagement with public officers and institutions.
- Citizens should mobilize and sensitize people at the grassroots to create safe and independent spaces for engaging with government officials to ensure that the real needs of citizens are included in the budget and funded.
In conclusion, participants commended Community Life Project (CLP) and the ReclaimNaija partners for their efforts in promoting community participation in local governance.