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NGO Helps Open Nigerian Budgetary Process to Public Scrutiny


Development experts say corruption has kept Nigerians poor even though the country has abundant mineral and human resources. But ActionAid says it is working to curb the problem. One way is by improving public support for measures to fight corruption, like a recent protest in the capital, Abuja.

ActionAid joined the Nigeria Labor Congress for the rally against corruption. Joining the call were market men and women, students, farmers, artisans, and professional bodies.Oweh Lakemfa is the head of information for the Nigerian Labor Congress.

"The essence of the rally," he says, "is to draw attention to the problems of corruption in Nigeria, to ensure that government does its own part by establishing a judicial commission of inquiry, So far, the government has taken administrative steps so we want something that can compel people and to provide all information available, and also to ensure that people are punished and we think only a judicial commission can do that."

The government has yet to comment on the suggestion to create a commission of inquiry.

ActionAid spokesman Otive Igbuzor describes other steps the group is taking in the fight against corruption and mismanagement.

"We have been doing a lot of work on promoting citizen participation in the budgetary process." he says. "One of the ways to deal with corruption is citizens' participation: if they are aware of what is going on, they can prevent corruption."

ActionAid is helping public officials and NGOs do that with a Center for Budget and Policy Advocacy in Abuja and manuals to help train government officials and NGOs to monitor public expenses.

For example, the manual on public finance analysis was used successfully by the Chugwui community in Jos south local government area of Plateau State. With it, activists tracked one million naira, equivalent to $8500:00 US dollars given to their elected counselor to buy a transformer to provide electricity.

Igbuzor says ActionAid also wants better laws to help fight corruption. Those already on the books, he says, must be enforced.

"It is a complex phenomenon," he explains, "and fighting corruption has to be comprehensive starting from education through legislation, it has to include components of enforcement and rehabilitation."

He says ActionAid is promoting a comprehensive strategy and a new law to reduce fraud in Nigeria. A lot of laws are on the books, but because of a lack of staffing or a lack of political will, many are ignored.

ActionAid and other NGOs take credit for helping the National Assembly pass laws to make public spending more transparent. Among them are the Fiscal Responsibility Act, the Procurement Act and the Neiti Act.

These Acts require due process and transparency in business deals by oil producers and other extractive industries, and in government run companies; they also call for accurate reporting of revenues by the companies.

The NGO strongly supports the passage of Freedom of Information Act, which guarantees the press access to government budgets and other information involving public spending.

ActionAid hopes the fruits of its efforts will be available for all to see: better governance, and economic growth.

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