In December 1966, the International Convention On Economic, Social and Cultural Rights was adopted by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly and on June 1993, the World Conference on Human Rights held in Vienna affirms that ‘Extreme Poverty and Social Exclusion constitute a violation of human dignity and urgent steps are necessary to put an end to them and to promote the enjoyment of fruits of social progress.
Thus it became essential for states to foster participation by the poorest people in the decision-making process by the community in which they live, the promotion of human rights and the efforts to combat extreme poverty.
This, plus the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 and the Political Rights of 1966 form an integral part of the International Bill of Human Rights.
The modern Nigerian state which came into being in 1914, has witnessed her own thick and thin, and one of the major challenges in the country which has equally brought great conflict and social catastrophe is the lack of citizen participation in the affairs of the state especially as regards governance and public expenditure.
It was in view of the above and the critical socio-economic challenges facing the Lagos state that the Lagos Civil Society Partnership (LACSOP) initiated steps to engage both the Executive Arm and the Lagos state Legislature on the need to actively involve the citizens in the entire process of budget formulation, debate and implementation.
LACSOP believed that such involvement would usher a new era of development, reduce tension and improve on welfare of the people.
The Partnership believes also that every government must accept the fact that citizens have the right to know how public finances are administered and that by denying citizens participation in decision making the government is only setting the process for abrasion, public mistrust, social unrests and political upheavals.
Barrister Ayo Adebusoye coordinator while staging the process for the engagement declared that it is isolationist to deny the people the right to participate in the budget process.
He said that history is always available to show examples where isolation of the people from decision making has led to sombre distrust and even conflicts, in the cause of the development of human civilisation.
He stated that naturally most leaders do not want to be questioned, preferring a one dimensional society but added that this has not helped sustainable human development.
According to him, ‘the lack of citizenship participation has brought calamities to our societies, in different forms and content. In our ancient societies, either in Europe, Asia or Africa, it was the wish of the leaders never to be questioned or tasked on how they administer public finances and the public trust in their custody’.
Lagos state admitted these phenomenal approaches by LACSOP and decisively opened itself to public scrutiny by entrenching Civil Society component in its budget processes.
Supported by the State Accountability and Voice Initiative (SAVI) a good governance project of the Department for International Development (DFID) LACSOP with its partners submitted a proposal to the state government for effective training and proper knowledge sharing on how the proposal would work.
Several workshops were held for those charged with the responsibility of preparing the budget, to ensure citizens input is obtained, and the House of Assembly to invite CSO’S to plenary sessions during budget debate to also make input and finally the Ministries, Departments and Agencies during implementation proper to allow full participation of the CSO’s to ensure money budgeted is appropriately utilised.
Lagos state became a role model when the Executive under this initiative further innovated a broader tripartite arrangement involving the Executive, Legislature and the Civil Society Organisations in the entire budget preparation, debate in the House of Assembly and Implementation.
During one the workshops to further strengthen the synergy, the Lagos state government admitted facing huge development gap and facing serious challenges that has further impoverished the citizens.
The workshop which was supported by SAVI provided the executive the opportunity to explain to the state members of the House of Assembly initiatives of the government to achieve prudence, transparency and accountability in budget implementation and the role of the CSO’s and the Legislature toward achieving objectives of the new vision.
The government admitted among other things the issue of resource Inadequacy and Prevalent poverty and Socio-Economic Problems.
Also huge Infrastructural Gap, High Crime rate, High Unemployment and Inadequate Institutional Capabilities as well as Influx from Neighbouring States/Countries have hampered progress and agenda of growth set by the state.
However with the new partnership energising new innovations the state came up with an agenda aimed at Making Lagos State Africa’s model Megacity and Global Economic and Financial Hub that is safe, secure, functional and productive.
The mission of the new order aims at Poverty Eradication and Sustainable Economic Growth Through Infrastructure Renewal and Development.
To achieve this, the government set an agenda for itself which will be pursued in collaboration with the CSO’s fittingly regarded as agents of change.
Under the Ten Point Agenda (TPA) the government is commit energy in pursuing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and meticulously give priority to the Lagos State Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (LASEEDS) and provide platform for successful implementation of the Resolutions of Lagos Economic Summit (Ehingbeti).
Also the Introduction of State Development Plan aims at Consolidating all High Policy Documents(TPA, MDG, LASEEDs, etc) and providing overall direction for the growth and development of the State as well as growing state gross domestic product (SGDP) to double digit by 2020 from 7.5 percent currently.
Both the State Legislature and the CSO’s are expected to key into the Planning Framework under the Lagos State Development Plan 2012-2025.
The executive has listed key sector growth through prudent budget implementation and effective monitoring to achieve economic advancement.
Government identified as economic pillars to drive the process as, Manufacturing, Service Industry, Construction (Especially housing), Agric Infrastructure Sector, Transportation and Power.
Others are, Water, Telecommunications Social Sector, Education, Health, Social Development, Security and Justice, Sustainable Environment, Drainage and Flood Control Waste Management as well as Sanitation, Pollution Control and Climate Change.
Broad Strategy For the Change Agenda will adequately identify Efficient allocation of resources across sectors, Tighter operating expenditure control, Quarterly review of budget performance and a More effective Project Monitoring.
The government has also provided that under Capital expenditure and Recurrent expenditure ratio will be 60:40, Replacing the 4-Sector Budget Classification with International Standard 9 Sector Classification, Percentages allocated to Sectors reflect Government priorities and sustenance of past trend.
In the new regime the highest priority goes to Economic Affairs Sector in line with policy thrust of Government while Health and Education Sectors are being gradually notched up to meet international benchmarks Budget performance target set at 90 percent.