BRIEF REPORT ON NDEBUMOG ADVOCACY VISIT TO BAYELSA STATE MINISTRY OF BUDGET AND ECONOMIC PLANNING, STATE SECRETARIAT ANNEX 2, YENAGOA, ON WEDNESDAY, APRIL 22, 2015.
Again, the inclusive budget advocacy team of NDEBUMOG in Bayelsa State was taken to the state Ministry of Budget and Economic Planning at the state Secretariat Annex 2, Yenagoa,on Wednesday, April 22, 2015.
NDEBUMOG's representatives included Moses Oguara, Pauline Dauseye and Igoniko Oduma who represented the Executive Director, George-Hill Anthony.
The Commissioner in charge of the ministry, Alfred Ambrose, and the Permanent Secretary were 'unavoidably' absent. They delegated some directors in the ministry, Mr. Felix Odubo, Mr. Alege and Mr. Smart, to represent the ministry. The Administrative Secretary of the ministry was also present to take notes for the ministry. Nevertheless, they received NDEBUMOG's delegation warmly.
Mr. Smart, who led the ministry officials, introduced members of his team while members on NDEBUMOG's delegation were introduced by George-Hill Anthony, who was represented by Igoniko Oduma. Mr. Smart also explained that the Commissioner and the Permanent Secretary were unavoidably absent due to official engagements and that they had mandated them to represent the ministry in the meeting.
With the introduction over, Mr. Smart welcomed NDEBUMOG's team once again and asked us to state the object of our mission to the ministry.
Before presenting the written advocacy address of the Executive Director, Igoniko Oduma thanked the Ministry of Budget and Economic Planning for the warm reception given to NDEBUMOG's delegation. He also expressed the hope that the meeting and the resulting synergy between the ministry and NDEBUMOG would be beneficial to both sides and society in general. On the strength of those remarks, he proceeded to distribute copies of the address to the directors of the ministry. He quickly followed it up with the reading of the address.
After the reading of the address, Mr. Smart, in his response, remarked that the issues raised in the address were fundamental. But just before he could make further comments, Mr. Alege opted to make an observation. He observed that in his view, going by the aims and objectives of NDEBUMOG, it was in our position to present empirical profiles of NDEBUMOG's activities and achievements based on each of the stated aims and objectives contained in the address and not the ministry that would oblige us details of its workings. We were on the verge of offering informed clarifications but Mr. Smart politely deflected it and asked Mr. Felix Odubo, the Director of Budget, to respond to the budgetary and governance issues highlighted in the address.
Mr. Felix Odubo spoke at length. He remarked that Bayelsa operates a people-oriented budget system. He noted that the 24-member state House of Assembly approves the budget which is presented by the Executive arm of government. He said it was believed that the lawmakers who represent various constituencies always consult their constituents in order to promote and protect their interest. He attempted to juxtapose between military regime and democratic governance, noting that under military rule nobody interrogated budgets and citizens did not enjoy freedom as they are doing in a democracy. He further explained that community participation in the budget process, even in a democracy, would be difficult because a meeting of communities cannot be convoked to conceptualise a budget vis-a-vis development projects. He also said the various ministries normally interface with stakeholder groups like CSOs and NGOs, as part of pre-budgeting activities to collate priority needs, citing for instance the state Ministry of Transport which usually meets with NURTW and its marine transport counterpart, among others before compiling its budget. He assured that the doors of the ministry were always open to well-meaning groups like NDEBUMOG for collaboration and partnership to enhance budgeting process and development. He urged NDEBUMOG to assess the ministry/Bayelsa State whether it complies with basic guidelines of budgeting. He, however, admitted that capacity was low among the communities, the people and CSOs and NGOs operating in the state and suggested that efforts should be intensified towards improving capacity for effectiveness.
Head of NDEBUMOG's delegation, nevertheless, provided clarifications on Mr. Alege's earlier observation. Igoniko explained that NDEBUMOG has a huge profile of activities, accomplishments and credentials so far. He also informed the ministry officials that the beginning of budget work or budget monitoring and tracking by NDEBUMOG and any other CSO begins when the Federal Government, State Government and Local Government make their annual budget documents available to the public and CSOs. He pointed out that failure by governments to release yearly fiscal documents to the public show how deficit they were in transparency and accountability in governance which are cardinal principles of democracy. He also noted that the current administration in the state under Governor Seriake Dickson had demonstrated some level of commitment to transparency and accountability through its monthly transparency briefing on income and expenditure of the state which NDEBUMOG duly acknowledged at its Town Hall Meeting at Kaiama on Tuesday, April 22, 2015.
But just as our explanations were being concluded, Mr. Smart and Mr. Odubo were seen whispering together. At the end of the whispering, Mr. Smart informed us that Governor Dickson only signed the 2015 Budget into law recently and that copies of it would be made available in due course upon request.
The Ministry, again, thanked NDEBUMOG for the advocacy visit and re-assured us of its readiness to work us.
We also thanked the ministry for the audience. We mentioned the fact that we are looking forward to getting copies of the state government's 2015 Appropriation Bill for budget work and more collaboration. The meeting ended with a warm handshake between the ministry officials and members of NDEBUMOG’s delegation.
BRIEF REPORT ON NDEBUMOG ADVOCACY VISIT TO THE AMANANAOWEI (PARAMOUNT RULER) OF KAIAMA TOWN, CHIEF J. O. BURUTOLU, EKPEIN THE II, ON TUESDAY, APRIL 14, 2015.
The train of Inclusive Budget advocacy team of the Niger Delta Budget Monitoring Group (NDEBUMOG) in Bayelsa State landed at the palace of His Highness, Chief J.O.Burutolu, Ekpein the II, paramount ruler (Amananaowei) of ancient Kaiama Town, Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government Area of the state, on Tuesday, April 14, 2015.
On the delegation of NDEBUMOG were Alagoa Morris, Moses Oguara and the Executive Director, George-Hill Anthony, who was represented by Igoniko Oduma.
WE WANT TOWN HALL MEETING, NOT ADVOCACY VISIT
The advocacy meeting was scheduled for 4pm at Chief Burutolu's palace. NDEBUMOG's delegation departed Yenagoa, the state capital, and arrived Kaiama at 3:25pm. Shortly afterwards, our contact man in Kaiama, Ebiye Ogidiga, joined us. We had been communicating with him on the advocacy visit to the palace.
At 3:37pm, we arrived at the palace. However, NDEBUMOG' delegation met the monarch and members of his council of chiefs in a formal meeting. While we waited outside, Ogidiga walked into the palace, greeted them traditionally, and informed them that the NDEBUMOG team had arrived for the scheduled advocacy visit. Ogidiga came back and informed us accordingly. We waited.
From the vantage position that we stood and waited to be ushered in, we overheard the Chief-in-Council briefing his subjects in native Izon dialect on NDEBUMOG's planned budget sensitization visit to the palace and the advantages of the subject matter.
After conferring with his subjects, he asked that we be ushered in. He welcomed us into his palace. He went straight to the point. He sought NDEBUMOG's understanding and remarked that the advocacy visit to his palace would not take place. He explained that as we could see, the palace was in a crucial meeting ahead of the rescheduled state Houses of Assembly election in eight state constituencies of the state, including Kolokuma/Opokuma Constituencies 1 and 2, for Saturday, April 18, 2015. He, however, pointed out that the palace would prefer a Town Hall Meeting for the people of Kaiama instead of the budget advocacy visit. He, therefore, quickly proposed that the Town Hall Meeting be held on Tuesday, April 28, 2015, at Kaiama Community Town Hall, by which time they would have been through with issues of the election. He also mentioned that the people of the community would be mobilised towards the Town Hall Meeting. We respectfully accepted the monarch's proposal.
But just as NDEBUMOG thanked him and departed the palace, the Treasurer of the chief's council, walked up to us and inquired to know what time would be appropriate for the Town Hall Meeting. He also told us that the palace had appointed its representatives, including himself, to the Town Hall Meeting. We agreed 10 am and that ended the interface with the palace.
BRIEF REPORT ON NDEBUMOG ADVOCACY VISIT TO THE PENTECOSTAL FELLOWSHIP OF NIGERIA (PFN), BAYELSA STATE CHAPTER, ON WEDNESDAY,APRIL 8, 2015.
The Niger Delta Budget Monitoring Group (NDEBUMOG) Inclusive Budget advocacy project continued in Bayelsa State on Wednesday, April 8, 2015, with a sensitisation visit to the state chapter of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) located along the Commissioners' Quarters Road, Opolo,Yenagoa.
Representatives of NDEBUMOG including Alagoa Morris, Moses Oguara and the Executive Director, Anthony George-Hill,who was represented by Igoniko Oduma, were cordially received by the PFN Chairman, Reverend Washington Agala. Other PFN officials present were Rev. Tony Prefa (Secretary), Rev. Barr. Godfrey Otiotio (Legal Adviser) and Rev. Million Dogimugha.
After the warm reception of NDEBUMOG representatives, the meeting commenced formally with the PFN Chairman's welcome remarks. He also introduced the executives of the Fellowship present. He moderated the meeting.
Representative of NDEBUMOG Executive Director also introduced members on the delegation. He informed that the Executive Director had mandated him to stand in for him and also present his written address titled, "Inclusive Budget as an Instrument for Massive Growth and Poverty Reduction". Copies of the written address were distributed to the PFN officials.
The PFN Chairman explained that the Fellowship has a national spread and that it is made up of established Pentecostal churches across Nigeria. He recalled that NDEBUMOG had earlier written a letter to the PFN seeking audience on the subject matter. He remarked that the PFN and Civil Society Organisations and Non-Governmental Organisations are partners in progress for the betterment of society. He emphasized the need for collaboration to strengthen advocacy on issues that would improve the society. He also disclosed that the PFN operates an open system in which well-meaning individuals and organizations are always welcome for meaningful partnerships. He, however, prayed for NDEBUMOG to succeed in its activities.
After the PFN Chairman's remarks, NDEBUMOG Executive Director's representative read the written address. The PFN officials also followed the presentation with the copies of the address earlier distributed to them.
As expected, the meeting took a more serious dimension after the reading of the written address. The PFN Chairman spoke first. He appreciated what he described as the good works NDEBUMOG has been doing. He went further to fire the first salvo. He asked to know if NDEBUMOG had, in course of its field work, uncovered discrepancies in annual budgetary allocations for projects by governments. He also wanted to know if NDEBUMOG had encountered scenarios where projects claimed to have been completed or near completion were proportional or not disproportional to the budgeted sums of money or otherwise. The Legal Adviser also asked to know where NDEBUMOG office is located. The Secretary also asked questions on how NDEBUMOG sustains itself and its advocacy programmes and staff. He also wanted to know what NDEBUMOG intends to do with the advocacy visit to the PFN. For Rev Million , he was specific in his inquiry, asking what steps would NDEBUMOG take if the outcomes of field works are not 'adopted' by governments and their agencies for policy formulation or policy re-direction,among others.
After listening attentively, the Executive Director provided constructive answers and clarifications to all the questions asked by the PFN executives and also cited instances where necessary to buttress and drive home the points made.
The PFN Chairman expressed delight at the responses to their questions. The Secretary also made similar encouraging remarks. The Legal Adviser, however, noted that if the issues of inclusive budget and governance highlighted in the address were being promoted and propagated in the manner so explained, then society was on the path to redemption. Although the meeting did not start with an opening prayer, the PFN Chairman gave a closing prayer to formally bring the meeting a close.
BRIEF REPORT ON THE ADVOCACY VISIT TO THE NIGERIA UNION OF JOURNALISTS ( NUJ), BAYELSA STATE COUNCIL, BY REPRESENTATIVES OF NDEBUMOG ON TUESDAY, APRIL 7, 2015.
The Niger Delta Budget Monitoring Group (NDEBUMOG) on Tuesday, April 7, 2015, took the advocacy on "Inclusive Budget" to the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) Bayelsa State Council at its Secretariat on Azikoro Road, Ekeki,Yenagoa.
Officials of the Council led by the Chairman, Comrade Tarinyo Akono, warmly received the representatives of NDEBUMOG, including Alagoa Morris, Moses Oguara and the Executive Director, Anthony George-Hill, who was represented by Igoniko Oduma.
The meeting was moderated by the Secretary of the Council, Samson Opokuma. He began with a welcome remark thanking NDEBUMOG for the visit to the NUJ. He also introduced officials of the Council who were present at the advocacy meeting. He, thereafter, offered an opening prayer to kick-start the meeting.
Leader of NDEBUMOG representatives also introduced members on the delegation. He disclosed that the Executive Director had mandated him to represent him on the advocacy visit. He also explained the essence of the visit. He further stated that he would also deliver the written address of the Executive Director titled, "Inclusive Budget as an Instrument for Massive Growth and Poverty Reduction". Copies of it were distributed to all present.
After the reading of the Executive Director's written address, the NUJ Chairman, Akono, responded. He remarked that issues of budget and budgeting were critical to society. He expressed dismay that over the years governments at all levels had been treating budget documents as secret documents and that public office holders need to know that the budget (Appropriation Bill) is a law that must be obeyed to the letter. He also complained that budgets were being passed into law without public hearing and that budgets passed and assented to were not made public. The NUJ chairman noted that development in society had been stifled by duplication of projects in annual budgets by governments and lack of needs assessment. He called on the state House of Assembly to make budget documents public. He implored governments to carry out community needs assessment before budgeting. He equally assured that the Council was ready to collaborate with NDEBUMOG in the advocacy for "Inclusive Budget".
The 'matters arising' from the Executive Director's written address sparked off a robust and constructive interaction between the NUJ officials and NDEBUMOG representatives on issues bordering on the inability of yearly fiscal appropriations to address developmental needs of society, government income and expenditure vis-a-vis transparency, accountability, community development and participation in budget processes. Also, some NUJ officials asked questions on the challenges faced by NDEBUMOG and its operational pattern regarding advocacy which were carefully answered by the representative of NDEBUMOG Executive Director. Morris also made valuable contributions that broadened understanding on the issues of budget advocacy and government's poor attitude to inclusive budget and governance.
NDEBUMOG suggested that the NUJ should set up an advocacy desk in the Council, which will, among others, liaise with Civil Society Organizations’ on various issues of advocacy to advance the cause for real societal development. The meeting commenced with an opening prayer and it was also ended with a closing prayer given by Moses Oguara.