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Two Years of Promoting Democratic Accountability in Northern Nigeria: From Kano to Jigawa

By CDD
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Building on two years of groundbreaking intervention in Kano State, the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Abuja, in partnership with the Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD), Kano/Jigawa, announces its plan to commence a year project, starting in May 2014, in Jigawa State aimed at promoting democratic accountability.

It was quite tasking, but interesting engagement with the people and government of Kano State since 2012. From 2012 to 2014, the organisations partnered to implement a project tagged 'Promoting Democratic Accountability in Kano State.' Democratic accountability matters in achieving the development prospects of the citizenry. To ensure that public goods are delivered according to people's priorities and that those who govern provide an adequate account for their performance to the citizens and their representatives, there is a need to improve the substantive elements of democracy and its checks and balances. State resources must be properly and adequately harnessed for public benefits.

People must be empowered to demand for transparency and accountability in the business of government. Having access to reliable information on budget formulation and implementation processes is central to the empowerment of Nigerians; to know what and how much annual investments government would make to facilitate both capital and human development. Therefore, the crux of our intervention was to empower residents of Kano State through dissemination of information on the state's appropriation acts as well as government's policy statements and pronunciations.

Through the use of multiple media platforms, including web portal (www.knbudgetresponse.org), Facebook, Twitter, SMS and radio program (A Kasa A Fai Fai) the organisations communicated budget matters, raised citizens' awareness on policy pronouncements and increased participation of citizens in governance. Some of the primary beneficiaries of the project have this to say:

Initially, I do not understand what budget and its process of formulation and implementation entails, but after listening to the [radio] programme I now understand what it takes I now realized that the budget should not be drafted without the citizens' input; which means that people's priorities should come first and be considered when preparing budgets - Salisu Muhammad Indabawa, a student of the Kano University of Science and Technology (KUST)

Before now, very few of our members were able to explain well about the budget process. Some of our members know that popular participation in the budget process is very important, but the problem is that they are unaware of ways to go about participating the programme has helped us to understand how to make inputs in the budget process - Mr. Nura of Kano State Youth Stakeholder's Forum (KSYSF)

Because of your program and similar demands, for the first time in the history, the Kano State House of Assembly has agreed to conduct a public hearing for CSOs and members of the public to contribute to the making of the budget before passing it into law - Hon. Sule Hamza Bichi, Chairman KSHA Cmt of Appropriation

"This is a welcome development, the program educates the citizen on budget issues" - Hon. Yusuf Bello Danbatta, Commissioner of Budget and Planning, Kano State

This was complemented by town hall meetings to create an interface between citizen and government in Kano State. CDD and CITAD also provided audio visual evidence on the state of primary education in Kano State, to stimulate government's commitment for huge investment in her education sector, especially in the rural areas. On the supply side, the organisations wrote letters to Governor of the State to draw his attention to citizens' needs, particularly in the implementation of the 2013 and 2014 budgets.

Following a call by the state house of assembly for civil society groups in the state to submit memorandum during a public hearing scheduled for 23 January 2014, the CDD and CITAD organised CSOs Forum on the 22 January 2014 to discuss government proposals in the 2014 Appropriation Bill and produce a memorandum for the hearing. On the day of the hearing, 23rd January 2014, the organisations mobilised over 20 CSOs to participate in the public hearing.

As a matter of fact, the project has meaningfully created extensive awareness of the content and feasibility of Kano State budget amongst citizens and civil society groups in Kano State. It has facilitated the establishment of the Kano State Youth Stakeholders' Forum (KSYSF) and the Kano Budget Partners (KBP), and informed government responsiveness to some social problems. In fact, it was tagged as one of the African Best Practices in promoting democratic accountability. Towards the conclusion of the project, State Accountability Voice Initiative (SAVI) expressed a buy-in and has been sponsoring the radio program.

Given the success recorded in Kano State, CDD and CITAD would replicate the novel intervention in Jigawa State, starting from May 1 2014. The project has three key objectives:

o To raise citizens' awareness on the commitments of the Jigawa State Governor in the 2014 Appropriation Act;
o To increase and galvanise citizens' engagement with the state government to promote good governance in Jigawa State;
o To synthesise citizens opinions and perceptions regarding the delivery of services and share with the Governor periodically.