Updated: The Lagos State Government through its Office of Civic Engagement held a meeting with Civil Societies and Non-Governmental Organizations on Thursday, 24th March 2016.
Enhancing Participatory Democracy in Today’s Governance was the theme of the gathering which was held to promote collaboration between the State Government and the Civil Society Groups so as to promote participatory governance. The Special Adviser to the Governor on Civic Engagement, Hon. Kehinde Joseph said as much in his opening speech.
The gathering was graced by important personalities from the State Government and also representatives of Various Civil Society Groups.
“Ever since soliciting your votes prior to the 2015 general elections we haven’t met this way again. We are meeting, first to thank you for your votes and also to ask for advice from you on how to move Lagos forward and I assure you that we will pay attention to your suggestions if they will positively impact the State.” Hon Kehinde Joseph stated. He also mentioned that ignorance is not an excuse in law, reminding residents of the State to be knowledgeable about the functions of the State and their responsibility as citizens.
Dr Sylvester Odion who was supposed to give a speech on Enhancing Participatory Democracy in Today’s Governance came much later, apologizing and citing the terrible traffic situation as the reason for his lateness. He informed that traffic has become a serious challenge and told Civil Society groups that it was part of their duty to proffer to the government alternative solutions that are workable to problems such as the traffic situation.
According to Dr Odion, “Civil Society Organizations have a responsibility to interface between the government and the people. It is your responsibility to provide viable alternatives to commuting in Lagos State.”
The responsibility of the Civil Society was highlighted by Mr Felix Obanubi, the State Team Leader (STL) of the State Accountability and Voice Initiative (SAVI).
“It is the duty of the Civil Society to hold the government accountable. It is also our duty to get the government to reveal information, like the budget, and work with that information to promote good governance. Civil Society Groups need to collaborate with the government to ensure that there is feedback mechanism, both from the citizens to the government and back again.”
Mr Obanubi also advised that the nature of conversations between citizens and the government need to change from confrontation to dialogue so as to bring about results.
Also present at the meeting was the Commissioner for Home affairs, Honorable Abdulkareem Abdulateef. He addressed the questions surrounding the Lagos State Budget for the year 2016.
“The budget you are asking to be made public is already in the public domain. There is a reason why budgets are not signed secretly anymore, without involving the public.”
He promised to get a copy of the budget across to the Civil Society Groups. He also went further to remind the Civil societies that their first duty is to limit and control the power of the State.
According to Him Abdulateef, “The organ of government above all others is the Civil Society because they check the government.”
He also opined that it is his belief that there should be a conscious effort by every State to set aside in their budget funds to sponsor the activities of Civil Societies, stating that the fund will assist them in carrying out their duty of problem diagnosis.
He mentioned how blessed Nigeria stating that the problem we are suffering as a nation is as a result of mismanagement.
“The story of Ajaokuta Steel is a story of having a brand new car, brand new engine and a very bad driver. Lack of proper management is what led us to where we are today.” He reminded the Civil Societies of the need to sit up in its duty to hold the government accountable so as to end mismanagement.
Question and answer session followed afterwards and the meeting ended, just as it began, with the Labour anthem.