By Abubakar Jimoh
The need for civil society engaging the legislature to develop common grounds from time to time on the nation’s key issues led to a Quarterly Forum on Tuesday organized by Civil Society Organisation Liaison Office in collaboration with National Institute for Legislative Studies (NILS) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The Forum which took place at the National Assembly Complex in Abuja spelt out for exhaustive brainstorming, four thematic issues affecting the country such as Government/CSOs relation, Local Government Autonomy, Minimum Wage and 2015 General Elections.
While the forum stressed the need for civil society to form synergy and maintain timely and informed position on the national burning issues, it urged the government to maintain a constructive working relationship with civil society and encourage their input in government’s programmes and activities, primarily to fast-track growth and development of the country.
The Forum lamented the dearth of capacity by some CSOs to effectively engage government on issues; and charged CSOs to explore mapping, data collection, evidenced based advocacy, exchange and mentoring programmes, partnership and networking for capacity enhancement.
Discussing issues around the local government autonomy, the Forum revealed absence of rule of law, which has hampered transparency and accountability in budget allocation and procurement process at state level, giving unwarranted excuses to local governments for development. It thus, agreed on autonomy to the local governments in order to ensure transparency and accountability at the grassroots. The Forum emphasized the importance of CSOs in the states to properly engage their respective state governments through budget information, information sharing, content analysis, networking partnership with national CSOs and capacity building.
In terms of proposal for the removal of minimum wage from exclusive to concurrent list, the Forum observed that some states are reluctant to pay the formalized N18, 000 minimum wages; and have argued in sides of different population size and inadequate allocation from federation account. It advised the states to avoid over-reliance on federation account and harness their endowed resources to boost their Internal Generation Revenue capacity.
The Forum further charged the CSOs on effective election monitoring, voters and civic education, non-partisanship, good working relationship with INEC and the media in order to achieve free, fair and credible elections in 2015 and beyond. It also encouraged CSOs to maintain spirited independence and shun election monitoring for any political party.