A former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, has called for a public hearing system in the budget appropriation process between citizens, lawmakers and heads of Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
Mr Ekewremadu made this call on Wednesday while speaking at the 2020 edition of the Brandish Meeting of Minds Colloquium, and the presentation of a book ‘Pitch: Debunking Marketing’s Strongest Myths’, authored by Ikem Okuhu in Abuja.
The event was also attended by the Chairman board, Premium Times Services Limited, Nasir Abdullahi; Publisher and Editor-In-Chief, 365 daily newspaper, Victor Ogene, among others.
Mr Ekweremadu said public hearing with citizens being involved would enable the citizens to have more direct input and influence in the budget appropriation process.
“The Appropriation Act is the single most important legislation by any parliament. But what has happened over the years is that the government sits down to articulate what it believes the people need without relating with the people or their representatives.
“That is why the Federal Government can go to a village to site a primary healthcare centre without bothering about equipping it or factoring in availability of power or human capital to run it,” he said.
“That is why the government can afford to build a housing estate in the middle of nowhere without factoring in the communal ways of life of the people or the relationship between such projects and the people’s market, worship centres, etc. At the end of the day, such projects fail and rot away,” Mr Ekweremadu said.
Speaking further, he explained that he had initiated the concept for a public hearing on budget appropriation process to the 8th assembly, noting that the process could not continue this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“In one of my engagements with the UN in the 7th Senate, I was exposed to the concept of public hearing on budget. I shared the idea with the President of the 8th Senate, Senator Bukola Saraki, who bought into it.
“So, in addition to the usual process where heads of Ministries Departments and Agencies, MDAs, face only the lawmakers to defend budgets of their respective MDAs, we introduced an elaborate hearing where members of the public and the Civil Society Organisations can interrogate and make inputs into the budget proposals. Unfortunately, this could not continue this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We need to do more on this to improve it so that the people can have more direct inputs and influence in the appropriation process.
“I suggest that we allocate more time to public hearing in the appropriation process because the money being appropriated belongs to the people and the expenditure is to their benefit.”
President Muhammadu Buhari had, in October, presented a budget of N13.08 trillion to a joint session of the National Assembly.
The budget proposes recurrent expenditure of N5.65 trillion, personnel cost of N3.76 trillion and debt service of N3.12 trillion.
Since the president’s presentation, lawmakers of both the Senate and House of Representatives have held separate or joint committee meetings to engage representatives of heads of MDAs to give a performance of their 2020 budget as well as defend their 2021 proposed appropriation.
Meanwhile, the convener of the colloquium, Mr Okuhu, emphasised the need for more citizen engagement in democratic governance.
He announced a quarterly initiative, “Conversations on a New Nigeria”, which he said “will oil the wheels of building a united and prosperous Nigeria.”
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