By Henry Uche, Lagos
Selected clerks of some committees in the National Assembly were over the weekend trained by Yiaga Africa as part of the implementing partner of the Spotlight Initiative Project, to track and monitor programmes and projects in the budget of their respective committees to ensure they are gender-responsive.
Speaking at a workshop in Lagos recently, the Coordinator of Yiaga Africa, Centre for Legislative Engagement, Ernest Ereke, said the Clerks are expected to mainstream Gender issues into the Appropriations bills, saying: “With the workshop, clerks who are critical stakeholders and engine rooms of the legislature will know how to query gaps and loopholes as it affects specific gender in the appropriations.
Ereke stressed that the clerks (who are technical staff) are eligible to advise lawmakers and suggest ways to improve budget appropriations to reflect Gender Specifics, adding that members of NASS themselves will soon be engaged as well on the same issue under discourse.
‘We did a trend analysis of last three years, our findings showed that issues on Gender-Responsive budgeting were not given due attention. Now we want to change the narrative through the clerks and other stakeholders,’ he affirmed.
Delivering a lecture, a senior researcher from National Institute for Legislative & Democratic Studies (NILDS) Terfa Abraham, stressed that budget responsiveness is not about dividing the national or state budgets in two for men and women, but it’s about making the projects and programs contained in the budget to become more responsive to specific needs of people in various societies that are considered vulnerable.
‘We want the national budget to be all-inclusive. For Instance, one can imagine the fate of Persons with disabilities while others are running from s fire outbreak or an accident scene. So how do we make proactive provisions of mobility for such Persons? So gender-responsive budgeting cut across sectors and persons.’
He noted that gender budgeting was not about for women alone, but about ensuring that the budget is used as a tool of achieving inclusive development for all excluded and vulnerable groups especially women/girls, young people and People with Disabilities (PWD).
‘It is ensuring that the budget provides for access to gender-responsive public services, it could be women, but it also about addressing the exclusion of vulnerable men, youths and children along the different dimensions of gender. So we expect budgets to be not only sensitive but Specific. These clerks have a lot to do in this regard by critically examining the budget during defence,’ he maintained.
On his part, the former editor of National Assembly Legislative Digest, Jerry Uhuo, said urged Nigerians to rise and hold their representatives to account, saying ‘citizens should hold leaders responsible at the end of every financial year.’
He maintained that every honest leader ought to carry their constituents along before and after budget passage. He averred that, as the president presents the budget before the NASS, a legislative member who knows his onions should take that part of the budget which affect his people back to his people to ascertain if what the executive arm presented reflects the true needs and desire of the people or not. “By so doing, changes would be made during budget defence before final rectifications and approval,’ he posited.
Some of the clerks who pleaded anonymous expressed optimism on the outcome of the workshop but implored Yiaga to take the training to the lawmakers on whose shoulders rest the onus to make significant positive changes in subsequent budgets all-inclusive from inception to implementation by virtue of checks and balances and oversight functions.