WELCOME REMARKS AT THE OPENING OF THE INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON SECURTIY BUDGET IN NIGERIA
THURSDAY, 3RD Of May 28, 2018
Distinguished guests, it is my pleasure on behalf of the board, management and staff of CLEEN Foundation to warmly welcome you all to this very important conference on security budget.
The budget is the principal instrument of fiscal policy. Budget policy exercise control over size and relationship of government receipts (revenue) and expenditure. In Nigeria, return to civil rule has given budget its proper status, because the due process of articulating it is guided jealously by the legislature. During military rule budget was only prepared and read to the nation. But under civilian rule budgeting involves wider consultation because of its importance towards nation building and developmental issues. The role of budget in an economy cannot be overemphasized. A budget is an important economic instrument of national resource mobilization, allocation and economic management. It is an important economic instrument for facilitating and realizing the vision of government in a given fiscal year. A budget is expected to be well-designed, effectively and efficiently implemented, adequately monitored and its performance well evaluated also in a very transparent manner.
The recent ranking of Nigeria by the Transparency International (2018 report) wherein the country’s rank actually decreased by nine spots, shows an increase in corruption despite the efforts of the government to rid the nation of the social menace. This is also a clear evidence of lack of accountability from public officials and a lax system of governance in the country. As the country progresses on the path of democratization and having adequate civil society participation, prompt response to development coupled with an aspiration to eradicate or reduce poverty level in the country have altogether caused the focus on budget to assume a greater importance.
On a global barometer, Nigeria ranked 90th in the world and 23rd in Africa on budget transparency index out of 115 countries globally and 38 African countries in the 2017 Open Budget Index (OBI) survey which was released in February 2018. The Open Budget Survey (OBS) is the world’s only independent, comparative assessment of the three pillars of public budget accountability: transparency, oversight and public participation. Nigeria’s score on the index dipped from 24 percent in 2015 to 17 percent, and currently ranks behind Rwanda, Zimbabwe and Liberia in Africa while South Africa has been ranked first alongside New Zealand globally.
The Open Budget Index (OBI) is a global independent, comparative measure of central government budget transparency. Countries covered by the survey are given a transparency score between 0 and 100, used to construct the index which ranks the assessed countries. OBI assesses the comprehensiveness and timeliness of budget information that governments make publicly available. The OBI survey also examines the extent of effective oversight provided by legislatures, the independent fiscal institutions and the supreme audit institutions, and the opportunities available to the public to participate in national budget processes even on issues relating to public safety and security.
In Nigeria, the renewed conversation and effort by both state and non state actors have stirred public debate over the right of the country’s security and defense institutions to retain information on their budgets from public display, which accordingly does not hold such security forces accountable before the citizens. With all sense of fairness, this is not a localized phenomenon unique to Nigeria alone. Many defense and security institutions around the world keep their budgets away from public scrutiny. While many western democracies have taken the bold step that brought about transparency in the area of defense and security budgets, other new democracies are wobbling along. Levels of transparency vary between western and non-western countries; some countries such as: the United States, Costa Rica, Germany, and New Zealand make many budgetary defense details available to the public, while others such as China and Saudi Arabia make very minimal to zero display of their budgets. On this note, suffice to say Nigeria aligns perfectly with the latter category of nations. A global ranking exists in the area of transparency and defense budgets. Thus, class A countries being the most transparent, Class B being less, and class C and D ranked at the bottom of the pyramid of such index. Countries also vary in their degree of defense budget publicity on the internet, with some countries’ budgets being electronically accessible, others less to zero. Needless to say, no institution, even the military, should be above public review, which is a crucial component of our fledgling democracy.
The CLEEN Foundation is of the opinion that avoiding excessive, wasteful and corrupt security expenditures and procurement requires high levels of transparency and accountability in security budgeting and procurement processes. Such processes should adhere to government-wide financial management and oversight practices, within a rigorously-observed security policy and planning framework. This includes adherence to Public Expenditure Management (PEM) principles of comprehensiveness, discipline, legitimacy, flexibility, predictability, contestability, honesty, information decratization, transparency and accountability. Thus, in the light of the growing insecurity situation in the country and the attendant resource mobilization (manifesting in increased regular and supplementary budgets), the CLEEN Foundation has convened this conference towards the reviewing of budget implementation, identifying accountability issues on public safety and security resource allocation and utilization in Nigeria. This conference brings together government agencies, security institutions, academia, media and civil society to foster thematic exchange of ideas and discuss the imperative of security budgeting process and implementation within the framework of transparency, accountability and effectiveness in Nigeria.
On this note, our theory of change is predicated on the belief that improvements in public safety and security, and the justice sector in general are only possible and sustainable if our activities engage stakeholders in government, civil society and organized private sector through combined strategies of supply and demand. The supply side addresses capacity deficits that impede effective and efficient response to citizens demand for improved service and accountability; while the demand side empowers citizens and disenfranchised stakeholders to demand and advocate for better services. These changes will occur as we implement this relevant program in the areas budgeting as it relates to public safety and security in Nigeria.
In conclusion, it is my hope that this conference would inform the state actors and educate the citizens along the theme of transparency, effectiveness and accountability in security budget in Nigeria, with a view to promoting robust interaction and cross-fertilization of ideas as we suggest some policy options towards an improved regime of security budgeting in Nigeria
Thank you all and may God bless Nigeria.
Benson Olugbuo, PhD