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Niger Delta Civic Engagement Forum Makes Case for Issues Affecting the Region

It was a huge success during the 3rd Niger Delta Civic Engagement Forum held in Uyo, the capital city of Akwa Ibom State at Emerald Event Centre. The event had in attendance, great Niger Delta Citizens in different capacities to air out their views and for the voice of the Niger Deltans to be heard.

The Chairman of the Forum, Mr. Dara Akala in his welcome remarks who described Akwa Ibom State as the most friendly places to visit in Nigeria, said the aim of the Niger Delta Civic Engagement Forum which has as its theme: Strengthening Niger Delta Institutions(NDIs) Through Citizen participation, was to prove a platform for citizens of the Niger Delta to lay bare issues that affects the region, and to chat the way forward.

“Finally, let me say a word or two about the theme of this year’s NDCEF, “Strengthening Niger Delta Institutions through Citizen Participation”, which I consider to be very apt, based on our experiences in the region. I hope through our deliberations here today, we will be able to provide very clear insights to the Niger Delta Institutions (NDIs) on how they can do three things –

1. Embed citizens’ participation in their standard operating procedure
2. Integrate citizens’ participation into their organizational culture, and
3. Create and install an effective organizational infrastructure for understanding people’s needs and expectations, proactively seeking feedback from them.

For me, these are transformative steps for the NDIs in increasing citizens’ participation to achieve inclusive economic development in the Niger Delta” He said.

The Speaker, Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Barr. Onofiok Luke on Monday in Uyo while delivering a keynote address on the topic ‘political/legislative imperative for increasing citizenship participation, ‘ at the 2017 Niger Delta Civic Engagement Forum made this known to the public that “Citizens participation in the law making process and oversight responsibilities of the legislature helps a great deal in confidence building between the citizenry and the government, and in addition enriches the law making process”. “The current assembly decided to adopt an open legislative approach in its lawmaking process in a bid to promote mass participation in the democratic process”

According to Luke

“One thing sits at the heart of Civic engagements: government’s transparency, sincerity and the political will to promote Civic engagement. You build consensus successfully if you run an open and transparent government. You encourage people to participate only in an exercise where they trust their participation would not be a mere window dressing.”

In his words,

“An open legislature encourages interaction with the citizens; and these interactions could serve as opportunity for citizens’ participation in the Strengthening of government institutions. Our experience at the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly has so far proven this to be true. A key aspect of our regular citizens engagement policy is public hearing. For instance, to carry the citizens along in the state budgetary planning, we decided to introduce a number of mechanisms to enhance citizen participation in the yearly appropriation process. We call this model-Participatory Budgeting. We were the first to do this, four years before the National Assembly adopted participatory budgeting. In engaging the citizens where there noticeable records of achievements? Yes, of course! By merely asking ordinary people (Market women, traditional rulers, students and youths, civil liberties group, industry experts) to deliberate and make contributions to the budget of the State, we found that there was areas of needs which their inputs at the public hearings revealed. The 2017 appropriation law is an instance of such”.

Explaining further on the 2017 budget, the Speaker hinted that after listening to and collating inputs submitted by representatives drawn from the different of the citizenry during the public hearing on the budget.

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