The increasing demand for human capacity advancement of the Area Council to align with the international best practices, makes it our concern as an organization-DEAN Initiative to conduct an approved free In-House training for selected 10 staffs, nominated by the Abaji Area Council, FCT-Abuja.
The Executive Director of DEAN Initiative- Mr Semiye Michael started introducing has retreat the fact that it is wrong and unacceptable for Area Councils not to be open especially noticing that none of the area councils have their presence online in form of website, activities on social media which makes it difficult for citizen to access information about their respective area council without having to visit the area council. In most cases, citizens are denied access to see officers or members of the area councils to provide public document such as proposed/approved budget. It is in this lite that dean initiative have continue to advocate for openness in how the area councils deals in their administration especially in their area of funding. Although the staff of Abaji Area Council who have been attending the training provided by DEAN Initiative on the contrary are at the complain that they are willing to always make the finances of the area councils open especially the budget and the revenue as they are been received, but that it is the corruption of the politicians In the area council that denies them the right to do so, because most times it is an executive order by the area council chairmen not to make some of this document public and even when citizens or civil society organizations write through the freedom of information act to demand for such information they are still been denied.
So this training has become an important tool for the area councils to understand that budget document are not actually secret document and are not supposed to be kept secret because the budget is a public document that should be owned by the citizens, after all the budget is prepared to serve the interest of the citizens. And examples with me during this training of how in 2018 AMAC as an area council became the first area council to make public budget through a request made by dean initiative to the area council and tracking the performance of the area council through the budget that was released, it became obvious that though not all the project were accomplished but most of the project that were named in the budget were actually implemented and reported by dean initiative and our partners. Which further open up the performance of the area council chairman who eventually recontested and due to the openness seen by citizens in the budget release and tracking encouraged the citizens to vote for him one more time, this is part of the benefit that has been reiterated to the Abaji area council staff in encouraging the executives members to know the benefit of open governance to their own advantage and to the advantage of the citizens. It was further said that budget are not even supposed to be cooked without the input of the citizens because building budget on assumption, helping the citizens to think what they need may not always be the case as citizens may need something different from what the politician will on their behalf input in the budget, so part of the training emphasize the need for politicians and members of the area council to engage with their constituency, especially citizens in local communities while they prepare the budget, this will help them know exactly what the citizens needs in form of needs assessment and would help the budget reflect the exact need of the people.
The participants’ at the training praised dean initiative for such a timely project and urge them to ensure that other area councils in FCT and other part of the country benefit from such training as it is seen as the only way that the area councils in Nigeria which also are the local government can be access and eventually be responsive to the need of the citizens.