By Mosunmola Ayobami, Kwara
Kwara residents have made known various requests ahead of 2020 budget planning in the state.
The residents that cut across Civil society organizations, Non-Governmental Organizations(NGOs), Government officials,Faith-based Organizations, Nigeria Union of Journalists(NUJ), among others.
The requests were made at the first of its kind town hall meeting on Citizens Engagement in the budget process held on Tuesday in Ilorin.
An NGO representative, Ade Bodunde said the government is starting on a good note and seek for the sustenance of the programme year-in-year-out.
He called for capacity building on agricultural practice as well as infrastructural development so as to attract more investors to the state.
Another NGO representative, Fadipe Ademuyi was of the opinion that the state government should let the citizens know how to help in revenue generation as part of the effort to move the state forward.
On his part, Chairman Farmers Association, requested for the purchase of tractors and stop “radio/television farming” but rather encourage real farming system.
Community development expert, Lawal Olohungbebe, however, urged the Governor to establish a Bureau of integrated rural development to cater for the needs of 70per cent of Kwarans who reside in the countryside.
However, the Head of the Mekunu Forum Agenda, Bola Olojoku, commended the government for the initiative which he said was the first in recent time in Kwara.
He urged the government to ensure that citizens are aware of contract dealings for effective follow up at the grassroots and engagement of indigenes in its execution.
In his words, a publisher, Abdulrasheed Akogun called for monthly budget implementation review after the budget must have been passed.
He also urged the governor to work on re-orientating the Civil Servants in the state so as to get the best out of them.
Chairperson, Nigeria Association of Women Journalists(NAWOJ) Kwara,Ayobola Olupinla, urged the government to do more to include women in governance.
Earlier, the Governor of Kwara state, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq said citizens’ aspirations would always drive the budget process under his administration as part of a larger strategy to deepen participatory democracy and ensure good governance.
“Democracy is all about people. It is meaningless when the people are shut out of the processes of governance which in fact revolves around them and their wellbeing.
“This is the reason we have called this meeting to allow you to make inputs into the budget process,”
AbdulRazaq said the platform would be widened next year to allow for wider participation of the citizens and promised to ensure that people’s aspirations are reflected in the budget outcome and implementations.
He also said the process would be fast-tracked to meet the January-December budget cycle, promising heavy investment in social infrastructure, agriculture and human capital development.
“While budgeting has always been an annual ritual where the government outlines its priority areas for the next fiscal year, this is the first time in our state that we are seeking the direct inputs of the citizenry to budget.
“It is the first time citizens are to say what they think the government should prioritise in the next financial year,” he said.
“This kind of citizen participation is an ingredient of participatory democracy and good governance as defined by various global bodies, including the World Bank.
“We note that the lack of such direct engagement of the citizens in budget preparation in the past was frowned at during a recent assessment of Kwara’s compliance with global best standards and our administration promised to address it immediately.”
AbdulRazaq, meanwhile, has passed a vote of confidence in the current leadership of the Kwara State Internal Revenue Service (KWIRS) which he absolved of any involvement in the recent allegations of fund mismanagement.
He said there’s an on ongoing house cleaning to ensure that such a thing never happens again, insisting that public fund is a trust that must be guided jealously.
“(The whole investigation) has nothing to do with the current management of the KWIRS. The KWIRS is waxing stronger, reorganising and moving forward. I have confidence in the leadership of the KWIRS to move Kwara to the next level. EFCC will do its jobs. We’ll allow them to do their jobs and we will all be better for it,” he said.