Civil Society Organizations in the South West have called on governments across the six South-Western states to establish robust and good interaction with CSOs and the private sector in their respective states with a view to achieving participatory governance.
The groups of Civil Society Organizations which consist of networks and coalitions of CSOs in all the six states in the South West made the call during the 2018 South-West Partners’ Reflection Session which was organized by Partnership to Engage Reform and Learn a DFID program.
The CSOs noted that the government have not been engaging the citizens properly as regards Planning, Budgeting and Policy Process, saying this is affecting the allocation of budget to specific issues pertaining to citizens.
Speaking, Taiwo Olalere, member of Justice, Development and Peace Movement, JDPM in Oyo state said the government does not engage CSOs at the planning stage but would only involve them once conclusions have been reached.
He explained that “The government would have made up their minds before engaging us and they are only listening to CSOs contribution must fulfil all righteousness.”
Michael Ebofin, CEO of Mowalek Centre for Sustainable Community Development from Osun State mentioned that the engagement with the government is improving but identified access to information and data as the major challenge the CSOs face when engaging the government and citizens in planning and budget process.
Ebofin added that “we have been engaging the government on the budget process through the presentation of felt needs of the citizens to the ministry through constructive dialogue. If it is included in the budget, we track it to ensure it is properly allocated and disbursed.”
Speaking from the government’s perspective, Bamidele John Daisi, Director, Development Planning from the Ondo State Ministry of Economic Planning and Budget noted that there’s an improvement in the level of engagement between the government and the citizens’ group compared to what was obtainable in the past.
Daisi explained that “I would say what we have now as regards engaging CSOs during the budget process is an improvement, there’s a significant leap from a situation where the people do not have access to the government in the past.”
Daisi who agreed that the level of engagement is limited but could be improved on added that the government cannot do it alone and promised that the Ondo State government would devise all means to engage various sector of the citizens in planning, budget and policy process.
On his part, the Deputy Clerk of the Ogun State House of Assembly, Deji Adeyemo said: “the relationship with CSOs is robust to a certain extent because the government cannot meet the needs and yearnings of every sector.”
He also identifies the challenges the government face in engaging the CSO as a conflict of interest among the various groups.
“There is usually conflict of interests on the part of the civil societies, for instance, the Harmonization of tax, bill at the state Assembly, some think it would further incapacitate the local government autonomy, while some are agitating for its passage, presently the Assembly is at a crossroad and the bill is pending.”
He noted that the government would be willing to work with the CSOs but asked that the groups speak in oneness.
The two day South-West Partners’ Reflection Session which was organized by PERL-DFID featured representatives from the Executive and Legislative arms of government, organized private sector, Civil Society organizations and Media featured discussions and reflections on issues around Planning, Budget and Policy Process.