One fundamental aspect of democracy is inclusiveness -a veritable approach to seeking input and feedback directly from the people at the grassroots who might not have the opportunity to project their voices loud enough to be heard.
The technique of all-embracing and inclusive governance was brought to play in Ebonyi on Friday 29 October, 2021, when the peoples’ Governor, Engr. Dave Umahi, convoked a citizens’ consultative forum, a platform that provided a medium for the people of Ebonyi, regardless of class or status, to come together to scrutinize and discuss the 2022 budget estimate of the state government.
Rohini Nilekani, was very much on point and must have had Gov. Umahi in mind when he stated that “we cannot be mere consumers of good governance, we must be participants; we must be co-creators.” True enough, the Chairman, South-East Governor’s Forum, has acted on the words.
Reacting to the public parley, former Technical Assistant to Gov. Umahi, Lady Monica Chidinma Ada Eze, said such initiative is central to entrenching a culture of shrewdness in the administration and management of public finance by government officials at all cadres.
A notice of the 2022 budget confab termed “Citizens Inputs/Consultations for the State 2022 Budget Estimate,” Circulated by the State Commissioner for Information and State Orientation, Barr. Uchenna Orji, contained a lengthy list of participants drawn from the province of critical stakeholders, political office holders, judicial officers, representatives of political parties, the business community, non-governmental organizations, trade unions etc.
According to the list, those who were invited for the event are:- the State Deputy Governor, the Speaker of Ebonyi State House of Assembly and his Deputy Speaker, the State Chief Judge, President, Customary Court of Appeal, both Present and former National Assembly members from the state
Other invitees are Former Governors, Founding Fathers, Elders Council, State Executive Council members, Principal Officers, Senior Special Assistants, and Special Assistants, APC Chairman and his State Working Committee members, and the Leadership of other Political Parties, IPAC Executive members, Chairmen of Local Government Areas, Permanent Secretaries, Development Centre Coordinators, Chairmen and Members of Boards, Commissions and Parastatals, Traditional Rulers Council. 18 Ohaneze Ndigbo, Ebonyi State Chapter, Akubaraoha Youth and Women Assembly, Rachel Umahi Women for Akubaraoha, Market Women Association
Also invited are the Governor Umahi Empowerment Beneficiaries Association ( GUMEBA), Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC), Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Nigeria Society of Engineers ( NSE), Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Nigeria Medical Association ( NMA), Joint Association of People with Disabilities, Students Union Government of EBSU, FUNAI, Federal College of Agriculture etc
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Ebonyi State Chapter, Muslim Community, Civil Society Organizations, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), NULGE, Town Union Presidents, Nigeria Youth Council, NACIMA, Ebonyi State Chapter, National Council of Women Society of Nigeria, Legal Aid Council and FIDA, National Union of Road Transport Workers, Development Partners and Donor Agencies, National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM), Other accredited NGOs and CSOs were equally invited.
Lady Monica Chidinma Ada Eze who is also the President and Founder of DUNAETA quoted Governor David Umahi, in his remark during the historical event as describing the budget proposal as “Budget of Latter Rain”
He identified key issues in the proposed budget bordering on employment, citizen’s empowerment and increased infrastructure, adding that those issues affected both the proposed capital and recurrent aspects.
His Excellency further said: “There are key issues to note.
“One of the key issues is our effort to give more employment to our people from January 2022, and that has increased our recurrent expenditure. We also have very committed plans towards empowerment of our people, not just cash transfer, but also setting up a number of SMEs for our people. That has also increased both our recurrent and capital expenditure. We also have plans to build more roads in each of our Local government areas…”
To accomplish this Governor Umahi however, stated that there was going to be an increase in the School fees payable in the State University which was reduced in the year 2021 to ameliorate the negative effect of COVID-19 pandemic. He urged the stakeholders to boldly make their reasonable inputs into the proposal for resubmission to the State Executive Council before presentation to the State Assembly.
Lady Monica Aka Ada Ebonyi highlighted that the Commissioner for Finance and Economic Development, Mr. Orlando Nweze while analysing the proposal to stakeholders, the maintained that the proposal was designed to provide the assurance of the Governor’s political will and commitment to driving the State’s economy to enviable heights.
The budget proposal which Commissioner Nweze christened ” Budget for Sustained Development and Commitment” has a total proposal of One hundred and forty- eight billion, Six hundred and fifty million, Six hundred and fifty-eight thousand, eight hundred and seven naira and forty-one kobo (N148,650,658,807.41). It reflected a 21% increase from the 2021 budget. Nweze further explained that the total proposed recurrent expenditure stood at N49, 098,835,018. 33 while that of capital was put at N99, 551, 823, 789. 26 representing 66.97 percent of the total proposed budget.
Some Commissioners, including those of Education, Works and health, among others, laid emphasis on the achievements of the governor in their various sectors and expressed optimism that the proposed budget would surpass that of the previous year in performance..
The Chairman of Nigeria Labour Congress in the State, Comrade Leonard Nka, said the organised Labour was pleased with the capturing of payment of gratuity and other worker-friendly proposals in the Budget.
Commending Gov. Umahi for the bold initiative, Monica said the Governor has set the pace in inclusive leadership and thus will continue to win the support of Nigerians people of goodwill across boards.
She called on other Governors who have turned the budgets of their states into private documents to learn the ways of Umahi, who has continued to carry his people along by way of regular consultations in all critical decisions of public importance.
Monica Ada Chidinma Eze Aka Ada Ebonyi is the President DUNAETA & Ex TA on Media to Gov Umahi. 13th November, 2021