KADUNA STATE: ADVANCING CITIZEN’S ENGAGEMENT IN LOCAL GOVERNMENT DEVELOPMENT PLANNING PROCESS

By YUSUF ISHAKU GOJE

It was one of American’s founding fathers and statesman, Benjamin Franklin, who rightly and famously posited that, “if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” The foregoing statement aptly captures the significance of the ongoing preparation of the revised Local Government Development Plan (LGDP, 2021-2025) for the 23 local government areas of Kaduna state. This is the succession plan to the just ended one that was in place from 2018-2020.

The importance of having a medium term plan to provide an aspirational overarching goal and strategic framework for achieving local government developmental outcomes cannot be overemphasized. Moreso, that it provides a framework for effective allocation of scarce resources to strategic priorities, a basis for objective monitoring and evaluation of government’s performance using the result framework and citizen’s engagement in achieving the developmental outcome targets.

For a development plan to serve its purpose it is key to design it not just with the end beneficiary in mind but also involve them in the process. This gives credence to the popular saying that anything for us, without us cannot be for us. From the first preparation workshop in August this year, followed by the consultation on the revision of the development plan at the 2022 budget town-hall meetings in the 23 LGAs and the ongoing technical session to enhancing policy and budget linkage, citizens and civil society representatives are being carried along.

Though more can be done to improve the number and quality of participation, citizen’s engagement in the ongoing preparation of the revised development plans of the 23 local governments is encouraging. This aligns with the aspiration of the drafters of Section 14 (2) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Section 56 of the Kaduna State Local Government Law, 2018. Commendably, the Ministry for Local Government Affairs with support from the Planning & Budget Commission and Partnership to Engage, Reform & Learn (PERL-FCDO) have continued to expand civic spaces and support for citizens’ participation in the development plan preparation.

This was also evident in the just ended plan (LGDP, 2018-2020), as there was noticeable citizens’ participation in the plan preparation town-hall meetings held across the 23 LGAs in 2018. More importantly, there was evidence of citizen’s engagement within the implementation period. The budget being the financial vehicle for actualizing the planned results had witnessed citizens’ participation through the Community Development Charter (CDC) process.

Furthermore, citizens had actively participated in the annual budget town-hall meetings and had gone ahead to track influence of the CDC, a tool used to capture community prioritized needs, into the local government annual budgets, and with support of PERL participated in annual budget performance review and budget finalization. Citizens’ groups were also represented in the performance assessment of reform program (that seeks to support policy and budget linkage, budget preparation, revenue generation, procurement process and service delivery in Health and Education) – the Local Government Fiscal Transparency, Accountability & Sustainability (LFTAS).

The result of which are evident in the increase in citizens’ participation in the development plan implementation, largely during annual budget formulation and implementation; using the CDC Influence Tracker, across the 23 local government the CDC over the past three years has inform on average 50% of the local government budgets; and civil society facilitation of the establishment of the Local Government Accountability Mechanism – which provides a dialogue and co-creation platform, to deepen ongoing governance reforms in the LGAs, with an equal membership of both government and citizens’ group representatives.

However, this is not without a number of challenges that had not allowed the ended local government development plan to substantially translated into improved quality of living standard for the residents in the various local governments. A few of these are: apathy by community stakeholders towards participation; mutual suspicion between citizens’ representatives and government officials; low adherence to plan and budget linkage – as many of them did not consult the plan through-out the implementation period.

Others are: non-activation of the community engagement component in both the implementation strategy and Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) framework of the development plan; low revenue generation; low performance in the implementation of the CDCs; and delayed disbursement of performance assessment grants to the 23 LGAs under the Local Government Fiscal Transparency, Accountability & Sustainability (LFTAS) program.

As the preparation for the revised development plan (2021-2025) is ongoing a number of recommendations need to be factored in. They include: the buy-in of the incoming local government Councils; improved revenue generation coupled with timely and adequate remittance by the state government; need to integrate and strengthen the Local Government Accountability Mechanism with focus on strengthening the procurement process, project monitoring and performance tracking; and the need to replicate and cascade the State Fiscal Transparency, Accountability & Sustainability (SFTAS) Program for Result’s Citizens’ Accountability Reporting (CAR) Mechanism.

In conclusion, timely and adequate funding coupled with citizens’ engagement, efficient and effective implementation are key to the success of the revised local government development plan. Thankfully, lessons learnt from the just ended development plan is being integrated into the revised one, alignment of the new development plan with the State Development Plan (SDP, 2021-2025) has been prioritized, and the development plan and budget and the budget and CDC linkages are clearly being articulated for better tracking.

Note: The Ministry for Local Government Affairs in collaboration with the Planning & Budget Commission with support from PERL is presently (14th-21st September, 2021) facilitating a Technical Session on Enhancing Policy and Budget Linkage between the State and 23 LGAs, holding in Zaria. In line with the OGP, Civil Society representatives from both the State and Local government level are in attendance.

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