Participatory budgeting and plight of women

While transparency alone is not sufficient for improving implementation of livelihood projects, inclusive community participation is crucial for realising the positive outcomes associated with greater budget transparency and accountability.

Improved livelihoods budget outcome and good governance requires the meaningful engagement of the citizens including female headed households, especially at grassroots level.

While participatory budgeting at community levels focuses on promoting social justice, transparency and accountability by providing the government with community-oriented information and facts that improve financial efficiency, it is surprising that indigenous women group like the Mothers and Marginalised Advocacy Centre’s Udi rightsholders have had little or no knowledge of the goals of government in the budget process.

Given the criticality of infrastructural facilities in enhancing its socio-economic development and well-being of the people, the growth and development of a community is determined by the quality and capability of its products from accessible roads.

Road construction projects in Nigeria are confronted with a lot of complexities and ambiguities as a result of uncertainties of not meeting project deadlines which also hinge on low quality, corruption, mismanagement, diversion and cost overruns, which invariably lead to failure and abandonment of such projects. It is seen as the live wire as well as an instrument of choice of the grassroots due to its role in providing the basic requirements for the entire people and facilitating agricultural activities.

In every project to be undertaken, planning is very important, hence the rate of abandoned road projects in the South-east including Enugu state is so alarming with specific study focusing on abandoned road projects in Udi local government area, where the roads leading from villages to markets and to other neighbouring towns like Ekeani Enugu village via Etiti via Amachala via Umuase to Nsude mission market to Orieagu and Nkwoagu markets, have remained deplorable.

As related to the capital projects, it has been revealed that whopping sums are allocated annually to various livelihood projects anticipated for the development of Udi local government area. However, the concerned communities across Udi have no knowledge of the allocation or responsible agencies paramount to enable monitoring and accountability. Lack of synergized effort at community levels to track and monitor the funds paved the way for continued abandonment of several projects or poor implementation of some completed.

It is worthy of a note that through active advocacy efforts by Udi rightsholders under the aegis of MAMA Centre Accountability for Empowerment (A4E) project supported by VOICE Nigeria, Obinagu road livelihood road project has been completed.

Studies have also questioned the degree of interventions of Udi Local Government authority to the aspirations of Udi people and communities for self-reliance and economic advancement, as it is faced with various development difficulties.

The abandonment of road projects has had precarious impacts on the agricultural activities, women empowerment and development projection of Udi and Enugu state at large. Delays in the completion of abandoned community road projects are one of the most recurring problems facing commercialisation and marketisation of agricultural productivity in Udi. It has resulted in costly, wastage, risky and undesirable consequences on small-holder famers’ (largely women also breadwinners in households) agricultural productivity.

In many parts of Udi local government area, normal gathering for interactions/synergy among women and small-holder farmers have been frustrated by the abandoned and inaccessible road conditions. Vehicles owners are in distress as their vehicles are not used optimally. Travelling across wards by road in Udi is a nightmare as the roads are in terrible conditions despites the so-called huge expenditure on their reconstruction.

This failure of the roads bugs the mind of regular users, and has resulted in accumulations of flood. Environmental pollution and erosion have completely cut off a section of lanes. In fact, these problems have become an embarrassing stigma for those who use it.

In addition, these deplorable events have also resulted in many vehicles breaking down on roads in Udi. Hence, emergency mechanics have sprung up to assist stranded drivers and commuters, sometimes with disastrous consequences.

It is worrisome that the rightsholders have had zero knowledge of instances of budget input occurring early in the process, participation being open to large numbers of people, and representatives of the community. They also denied understanding the goal of citizens’ participation in the budgetary process.

The existing gaps in the level of knowledge among the rightsholders regarding citizen participation in the budget process and right to know allocated sums to livelihood projects in their communities, are indeed worrisome.  

For effective implementation of livelihood projects and continuous improvement in budget outcomes, every well-meaning State Government should develop strategies for communities’ interaction and participation through all stages of the budget process.

Media must intensify coverage and report accurately on budgetary allocation and implementation on livelihood projects in the state, while creating adequate awareness on the socio-economic plights of the rightsholders; and Civil Society groups have the responsibility to engage more with rightsholders on budget accountability through workshops, training programs and other capacity building initiatives.

Chioma Kanu, 

Executive Director, MAMA Centre,