This was the position of Pastor Ekarika while declaring open 5th Akwa Ibom State Open Budget Forum with the theme: ” Corruption, Citizen power and Budget Process” organised by Policy Alert with support of Actionaid Nigeria.
Pastor Ekarika who is also the Chairman, Citizens’ Budget Committee in Akwa Ibom State described corruption as endemic and institutional in the Nigerian system which cannot be eradicated but minimised with a renewed conscience.
Speaking on Open Budget and Citizens’ Budget Committee, Pastor Ekarika said it has to do with pre-budget interaction that gives citizens opportunity to interact with government through budget office and with the outcomes taken into consideration and reflecting in programmes, policies and budget of the State government in a fiscal year.
The consultant also said open budget is giving opportunity for citizens to see the models by which budget is passed, and disclosed that in Akwa Ibom State prior to this time, the State’s budget was available both in hard and soft copies but will henceforth be available in E-budget copy only.
He commended Policy Alert having gotten so deep into budget policy of the State in the past five years.
The Chairman further disclosed that Akwa Ibom State year 2020 budget has element of attracting foreign aids, with specific time frame on when to pass and publish the budget, and authoritatively hinted that the formulation of budget for year 2020 has been completed.
The SA assured that programmes, plans and projects captured in the budget estimates will effectively affect, in build, prevent and project down to earth citizens of Akwa Ibom State, adding that When the budget of 2020 shall be out, every facet of citizens’ needs of in the State shall be taken care of.
Earlier on, in his welcome address, the Executive Director, Policy Alert, Mr. Tijah Bolton-Akpan while welcoming participants to the 2019 open budget forum V, informed that Policy Alert is a Non-Governmental Organisation in Akwa Ibom state which focuses its operations on economic process, ecological and social justice.
Mr. Bolton-Akpan elucidated that Nigeria was recently announced as poverty capital of the world despite its position as the third richest country in oil and gas resources in the world.
Worried by the deplorable State of the Nation, the Executive Director deemed the reality a paradox that the nation has so much but yet citizens are unfortunately abysmally poor.
He identified corruption as the only barrier between the nation’s resources and its prosperity.
Stating that Akwa Ibom State is not immune to corruption and its effect, he said based on this, it was expedient for Policy Alert five years ago to look at the tool in which government uses to deliver her programmes, policies and projects to the citizenry which is budget.
The Organisation’s boss, went ahead to say that in the years past, Policy Alert had had focused on budget transparency and accountability as one of the organisation’s flagship intervention, through perusing the budget and promotes citizenship participation both at preliminary, implementation and post implementation stages to ensure transparency and accountability on the part of government and effective participation by citizens.
The Forum received goodwill messages from the State Accountant General, Pastor Andrew Essien and Mr. Iboro Ibarah, Vice Chairman, Nigeria Labour Congress, Stat Chairman, Akwa Ibom State, CLO, Mr. Harry Udoh among others.
The State Accountant General who was represented at the workshop gave the assurance that year 2020 budget of Akwa Ibom shall be out by January, 2020 and shall also be published on the website of Akwa Ibom State Government and called on citizens to play their roles in the budget process.
NLC Vice Chairman, Comr. Ibara on his part, commended the government for holding public hearings and pre-budget briefings for citizens participation in the budget process. He called on government to become more responsive to the yearnings of citizens by giving assent to Youth Development Fund bill and Fiscal responsibility bill, respectively.
Also, a keynote address was presented by Prof. Christopher Ekong from the Department of Economics, University of Uyo on the topic: ” Budgeting Tracking as a Strategy for Fight Against Corruption in Akwa Ibom State”
The exercise also featured penal discussion sessions on: “Budget formulation and implementation in curbing corruption in Akwa Ibom State “ and “steaming corruption in budget process through monitoring and legislative oversight “.
Participants from Civil Society organisations within and outside the State, government agencies and media from print and electronic in Akwa Ibom State were equipped with skills and finesse of monitoring and tracking budget at all stages for efficient implementation with citizens participation.