By John Akubo.
Miffed by what it termed as lack of understanding of the basic knowledge of budget and implementation an NGO, the Justice, Development and Peace Commission (JDPC) has cautioned Kogi State Government not to perceive every dissenting voice as that of opposition.
It therefore urge the government to accept constructive criticisms for the development of the State.
This was contained in a statement that was signed by Rev. Fr Leonard Odomeja, the Director of JDPC, Catholic diocese of Lokoja and was made available to the Guardian in Lokoja recently.
The monitoring and evaluation unit of the JDPC, a non governmental Organisation of the Catholic Church had raised alarm over non implementation of the provisions for water, sanitation and hygiene in the 2017 budget.
Odomeja had pointed out that the 2017 budget provisions of N300 million earmarked for the expansion and improvement of the township water supply schemes and N450 million allocated for the construction of urban towns and local government headquarters water schemes have not been implemented.
He also stated that the N144. 747 million set aside in the budget for water schemes in some communities including, Ege, Idoji, Obangede, and Adogo among others were yet to become a reality.
“Despite N800 million provided for water project schemes, several communities in the Anyigba, Ejule, Idah, Agaliga lack access to portable water”, he stated.
He had punctured the claim by the Ministry of Water Resources that it has rehabilitated/ constructed 23 water projects as it could not verify them neither could they see the projects in any of the communities mentioned as beneficiaries
In reaction, the State Commissioner for water resources Barrister Salami Momodu Ozigi had berated the JDPC for being shallow minded even as he heaped the blame of the lapses on the previous administration for its failure to implement its budget.
According to Odomeja, “What I see in the Commissioner’s reactions is largely the use of ‘Ad Hominem and Petitio Principii’ arguments in response to an otherwise fact-based publication.
“It portrays an inability to accept constructive criticism. If you occupy a public office and remain closed to criticisms or pick offence at everyone who challenges your actions/inactions, it will be very difficult to make impact no matter how good your intentions may be.”
He insisted that it’s not every dissenting voice that’s an opposition voice.
Fr. Odomeja said it is equally instructive to check the background of any critical voice before responding to critiques.
Ordinarily he observed that the
2017 budget should have taken care of the non-implementation of projects by previous administrations which the Commissioner alluded to.
He indicated that the JDPC’s Press statement only pointed out the inefficiency in the Government when it did not plan ahead.
He said what JDPC observed was about the 2017 budget and not the previous administration’s non-implementation record.
“It’s logical to argue that the release of funds is pertinent to implementation. Does the government ever make information available when funds are released?
“The budget was published and citizens became aware of the content. But are they subsequently informed about further processes of implementation? Given this situation, an NGO such as JDPC will therefore work within the limit of the information at its disposal because investigations do not yield the right or desired results.”
According to him, all the line ministries connected with the Citizens’ Participation project were visited repeatedly by the Project Officer and JDPC’s Project Manager adding that entries in the log books in the ministries are evidences of the fact.
“Acknowledgment copies of correspondences between JDPC and the Ministry of Water Resources are also available in our office. Hence the Commissioner’s claim that JDPC didn’t visit the ministry for enquiries or consultation before going to press therefore was not true.”
He explained further that JDPC’s observation was about the need to implement these projects and not an indictment of a particular ministry.
“JDPC intended to sting the State government into consciousness to implement these projects and the release of funds is essential to their implementation. Thus, without providing fact on the paucity of funds, Honourable Ozigi’s response remains an indictment of Kogi State Government on the non-implementation of the said projects.”
Continuing he said even if funds are not released, budget proposals raise great expectation among the citizenry, essentially where the project is dear to them.
“Raising the issue of non-implementation remains valid, because implementation simply didn’t take place. Lack of funds may then be a reason, and this could be given with respect and not insult.”
He said the commissioner’s response raises further questions: was the State Government able to meet its revenue projection? If the government did, why were funds not released for the projects?” “If revenue projection wasn’t met, how did government decide the priority or otherwise of the projects implemented, neglecting such an essential project such as water?”
According him, the commissioner did not however disprove the fact that the claim by the government about having rehabilitated or constructed 23 water projects is untrue.
“This is a call from the Catholic Church through JDPC to the State Government to dust up its acts and learn to deliver where and when necessary. Suffice it to say that media propaganda isn’t going to help any government anymore in this social media age.”
He said People are becoming more aware of governance processes adding that they shouldn’t be taken for a ride anymore.
The clergy reiterated the fact that the state belongs to the people and not to a party or to the few in government positions.
“Democracy is for everyone and there shouldn’t be any direct or indirect effort to exclude anyone from a government that concerns everyone. Kogi is our common patrimony.”
The commissioner had earlier explained that they proposed and raised memo but there was no cash backing because of the financial situation.
“When you see provisions in the budget it is just there in paper, you cannot use that one against anybody that maybe he has budgeted Over N100m for a particular project, it is when that can be translated into money and it is released then they can ask questions that border on implementation.”
He said money has not been released for the budget adding that critics are supposed to have gone further to investigate whether the money was made available an it was expended.
“They should have come to the ministry to ascertain their facts.”