Public participation in governance: a case-study of participatory budgeting in Lagos, Nigeria.
Muse, Sulaimon Adigun.
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Since the earliest period of human history, communities have sought to improve their lot through self-help efforts, otherwise known as community development activities. These community development activities are today organized on a broader level and are not limited to the village level alone, they have become part of citizens’ lives at the village, local government, state and national levels. This accounts for one of the reasons why they are linked with ethics such as the definitive control by the citizens, a great extent of freedom by individuals and groups, a considerate extent of governmental decentralization and wide spread citizenship participation in the mode of participatory budgeting. The main objective of this thesis is to assess the extent to which Participatory Budgeting (PB) is fostering the efficient and democratic allocation of resources and citizens’ involvement in the planning and management of their localities in Nigeria; and identify the reasons for the non-effectiveness of participatory budgeting in the country. Using largely qualitative and secondary data supplemented with primary data, the study examines the underlying assertions of the existence of participatory budgeting in Nigeria and its influence of on the vulnerable citizens of the country; it, addresses the dearth of literature on participatory budgeting particularly in Nigeria as a sovereign nation. With the achievements recorded in participatory budgeting in Brazil, it became a general device for promoting the principles of transparency and accountability in govenance. Besides, participatory budgeting mechanisms are now frequently being incorporated into many other human developmental efforts, in order to bring about the deliverance of desired services among the citizens and the communities for the achievement of the real goal of participatory budgeting, which is to bridge the gap between the rich and the vulnerable citizens in the community. However, theoretically and practically, participatory budgeting as it is, cannot be said to be adequately suitable in all intent and purpose to a single strategy, as participatory budgeting approaches signify a variety of tactics and ingenuities that are laden with their own unique features which are continuously evolving and growing in leaps and bounds. Hence, this thesis is established on the theoretical framework of representative democracy and participatory democracy. Thesis of this nature is pertinent because, a lot of literature abounds on the potentials of participatory budgeting in Nigeria, no substantive study has been carried out on the actual implementation and operationalization of participatory budgeting in the country. Findings from the thesis show that participatory budgeting process in Epe Local Government suffers from: lack of awareness by the citizens of what participatory budgeting is all about, negative perception of government initiated programmes or intervention, such as participatory budgeting and polio eradication programmes as anti-people, lack of funds and over-dependent on financial hand-outs from unreliable central government, lack of qualified personnel from the Local Government office to drive the participatory budgeting process, incoherent legal framework and political interference, non equality of representatives, (in terms of wealth, income, and dominant racial groups or ethnicity), solving different problems with the same paradigm, that is, through the CDAs, the dichotomy between city-based participatory democracy and community–based participatory democracy, and the management of scarcity, corruption-leading to extra-budgetary spending, lack of transparency and accountability, political parties- more than any other stakeholders, determine the flow of participatory budgeting, the ruling political parties always have the final say, influencing the outcome of decisions taken by the other stakeholders as far as participatory budgeting is concerned. The thesis therefore recommends that: the emergence of the representatives of the CDAs should be more democratic in nature, coupled with a better engagement of the citizens, with the use of social media platforms devoid of interference from the palace/traditional rulers and political elites, the creation of enabling and conducive environment for participatory budgeting to thrive with mass enlightenment by the government, the central government should provide sufficient resources at the appropriate time for the participatory budgeting agents to carry out their activities, regular and routine training programmes must be put in place in order to improve the level of competency and qualification of the Local Government officers, roles of civil society in terms of checks and balances on the particip atory budgeting process must be well-delineated and defined, presently they are conspicuously absent, corruption, can be reduced to the barest minimum if appropriate agencies are activated in their monitoring assignments on the participatory budgeting processes. The thesis concludes that there is potential for improvement on participatory budgeting in Nigeria with better commitment from the members of the community development associations and government at all levels of the federation. This is crucial in order for government to deliver qualitative life to more citizens, thereby bridging the gap between the privileged few and the vulnerable masses which will engender better socio- economic development of Nigeria.
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