When huge sums of money are earmarked for projects and they are not completed to the benefits of citizens, the short and long term intentions are eroded. Government of the day can change the narrative of governance if they exert and expedite effort in ensuring that uncompleted projects irrespective of who the original initiator is, are completed.

 The need to make democracy work for citizens is at the moment the only solution to myriads of development problems that Nigeria faces since the return of democracy in 1999. Democracy can work for citizens when their resources are effectively and transparently utilized to deliver the dividends of democracy. But since 1999, citizens have been lamenting over the non delivery of democracy dividends while elected representatives and appointed public officers have consistently maintained that they are delivering these dividends.

At the centre of dividends of democracy is the effective and timely implementation of capital projects which help to improve the standard of living of citizens. When the completion of capital projects implementation is delayed or abandoned, then democracy dividends have either been delayed or denied. But if the qualities of projects are poor, then the citizens have been short-changed.  When government spends public funds on capital projects that don’t get finished or is abandoned, then dividend of democracy is delayed or denied.

To ascertain what causes the delay of democracy dividends to citizens, 129 capital projects were selected and mapped in six Local Governments of Oguta, Ohaji Egbema, Ngor Okpala, Obowo and Isiala Mbano. These are projects that started between 2010 and 2014. They include projects that started earlier but work resumed again within this period covered. The projects monitored are within the core projects that could enable the improvement of citizen’s health and Knowledge – Health, education and works. Out of the 121 projects selected, only 32 were completed in 5 years being 26.4%.

The rate of capital project completion is poor and slow. In some cases they are abandoned, this outright abandonment of most of the projects is the major factors responsible for delay in delivering democracy dividends to citizens.  The underlying factors responsible for capital project abandonment, poor execution or delayed completion cannot be appreciated without vital accountability and transparency information available to citizens.

  

The reverse actions that can change the consistent delay of democracy dividend is the enthronement of the culture of accountability and participation in budget process and particularly capital projects implementation. The partnership between government, citizens and civil society is also key.  Citizens should consistently monitor budget implementation particularly projects that are being implemented in their respective communities. Again, government can help the citizens to support it to success by providing them with timely and accurate projects information to enable them monitor and report promptly.

We  have noticed one thing that makes change agents and leaders stand out in the society. It is their desire to learn and willingness to be inspired by their learning to change what appears an impossible task.

A budget is the annual statement of the expenditure and revenue of the government along with the laws and regulations that approve and support the expenditure and revenue. Put in another way, public budget is an itemized estimate of expected revenues and expenditures of the government for the year.

Poverty is multi-dimensional including economic, social, political, cultural, and geographical. Nevertheless, we define it as the inability of individuals or households to access adequate income or consumption to satisfy their basic needs such as food, clothing, water and sanitation, health care, education, and transportation. You may ask, why did I mention poverty? It is because the budget has the capacity to make the society poor once it is not effectively put to use. There is organic link between the budget and either the prosperity or poverty of the people.

The basic aim of development is to encourage sustained economic growth and structural change in the economy as it affects output and employment generation. Structural change in terms of composition of output, structure of employment by sectors, reduction in poverty and inequality and participation by all in the growth process is also considered.

Despite the fact that poverty is multi-dimensional, government through its fiscal policy can focus on certain sectors of the economy that have the highest potential to stimulate growth and ensure adequate linkages with the rest of the sectors. This will ensure structural changes that can positively impact on output, employment and distribution of benefits of growth.

Nigerians are less aware that the decisions the leaders make in the comfort of their offices affect their economic position. There is need for citizens to improve their economic literacy and be in a position to know when the governments are doing what the budget says and when they (Governments) are taking personal decisions at the expense of public resources.

Suffice it to say that the whole processes of budgeting in the Southeastern States like many other states of the federation is shrouded in secrecy, thereby shutting the people out from contributing/participating in the budget processes and this is against the principles of democracy.

Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, and Imo make up the southeast geopolitical zone of Nigeria. The population of the region is estimated at 18.9 million people (National Bureau of Statistics, 2012). The region’s population is predominantly Christians, and members of the Igbo ethnic group, who make up approximately 18% of the national population are concentrated in this area.

Two states in the region are significant producers of crude oil and natural gas (Imo and Abia States) and as well share similarities of a petrol industry and political economy. Across a range of industrialization, the southeast has the least numbers of publicly quoted companies in Nigeria. Over all, the southeast economy is more informal and employs less graduates than other regions. Unfortunately, this region of all the intellectuals is most under-developed in all ramifications because the spate of abandoned projects is high, given that the budget too is not openly accessed.

Government without citizens’ participation is private business at public expense’. Once the citizens have developed the capacity and literacy to monitor the budget, they can properly evaluate the way the elected representatives manage public resources. This evaluation will enable them to follow up projects because they have access to the budget and can understand the contents and know when a project is said to be completed.

The absence of the budget in most states, especially in the southeast has organic link with the growing poverty in the country. Except the federal government whose budget is in the public domain, one can hardly find any budget in the south eastern states, either in hard or soft copy. By the time some of the budgets are seen, the year would have gone and expenditures done with.  

Publishing the budget immediately will also help investors, local and foreign, take prompt business decisions. Unfortunately, what we have when budgets are presented is budget speech which does not give details of income and expenditure for the year.

The economic sense of completing old projects before embarking on new ones is manifold especially that when they are completed with quality, the services they are meant to provide will still be available.

CCIDESOR did mapping of abandoned project in Imo State which was taken from 2010-2014, where about 121 capital projects were mapped. Out of the 121 capital projects, 32 were completed without quality, 51 projects were ongoing/uncompleted, while 34 projects were abandoned. 4 projects were not identified nor started. Most of the projects are still not completed.

Completing old projects by building them up in the 2020 budget will stop the use of more lands that could be used in agricultural purposes, since when they are completed, they will serve the purposes for which they were started in the first place. Any government that does this, would have scored a political capital goal that generation next to come will remember, irrespective of who started the projects. The southeast region is the lowest in terms of public spending since their annual budget has been the lowest among all the six regions in Nigeria. This means that if the spate of abandoned projects continues, the region will suffer, especially more economic hardship.  

Once the old projects are completed with quality, leaders will be free from the chains of shame, unnecessary anxiety and unjust actions. The essence of political leadership which is provision of security, peace, development, welfare, and happiness of the people would have been achieved. It attracts people’s confidence and admiration to leaders.

Completion of projects will serve as a stepping-stone to raising or getting more funds from sources: government, donors, the masses, voluntary donations, and others. The unemployment ravaging the country would have been fought. No society can be said to be thriving whose budget is not open and accessible as the old projects are not completed. The need for state government to open up their system, especially Imo State by signing into the Open Government Partnership (OGP) becomes the joker for more development institutions to come into the state and invest through the prism of OGP/Good Governance, upon which the three tripod of Accountability, Transparency and Participation it stands.

In the words of Adams Smith, no society can surely be flourishing and happy of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable. Great leaders never set themselves above their followers excerpt in carrying out responsibilities. The governments should understand that they are holding the positions in trust for the people. The only way to return the trust is to cause the budget to address some of the scattered old projects that could have provided employment for the teeming unemployed youths.

During the celebration of nine years of introducing abandoned projects tracking strategy in the lexicon of accountability advocacy strategies in Nigeria, the Board, Management and Staff of Citizens Centre for Integrated Development and Social Rights (CCIDESOR) wish to commend partner CSO organization, networks and coalition for replicating and expanding the frontiers of public accountability through Abandoned Project tracking in Southeast and entire country.  Abandoned projects tracking is an idea which CCIDESOR muted in 2011 but got a major support from USIAD’s SACE (Strengthening Advocacy and Civic Engagement) landmark project to scale it up leading to the huge achievements and the first publication of the outcome of over 300 abandoned projects monitored in Imo state in 2014/2015.

 As CCIDESOR expanded the frontiers of abandoned projects monitoring and tracking, we trained additional 60 CSO representatives and partners across the entire southeast.  The published outcome was titled “What delays Democracy Dividends in Nigeria”. After the completion of the abandoned projects monitoring across the entire southeastern region, CCIDESOR also published “Abandoned Projects: Factors of Delayed Development in Southeast Nigeria”. These series of publications serve as a formal documentation and tends to contribute to the emerging database of abandoned projects in Nigeria, which unsettles those (government, politicians and contractors) to want to complete them. The replication of this public accountability strategy in the five states of southeast Nigeria made Abandon Projects Tracking the major tool for public Accountability and public sector corruption reduction in line with the anti-corruption mantra of the current administration.  During the same period of extension in the entire southeast, CCIDESOR trained over another ninety CSO members and partners on the act of abandoned project monitoring without getting entangled in the bad waters of politics and politicization of its outcomes.

The strategy adopted by CCIDESOR was to train residents and supervising partners who in turn confirm the status of the projects that are domiciled in their locality. With the information, CCIDESOR approaches the bodies responsible for such projects to demand explanations why the projects are abandoned. In doing this civic task, many abandoned projects got hurriedly completed while our office was burgled with vital equipment stolen and staff threatened and attacked, which could simply be described as the sacrifice for creating a better society. Since the introduction and publicity of abandoned projects tracking strategy, it is heartwarming to celebrate those CCIDESOR Partners and CSOs that have not only replicated the idea successfully (though without acknowledgment from few) but sold the strategy to their Local and International partners for further civic engagement of public officers, politicians and elected representatives.   CCIDESOR’s board, management and staff are happy the abandoned project tracking idea is fast gaining more acceptability among CSO and development practitioners.

CCIDESOR has since been working to also enable other creative ideas like “Elected Representatives Performance Assessment Scorecard”, “School to skill” and “Community Social engagement strategy”  to become popular and effective. CCIDESOR however called on CSOs using the same public accountability  strategy to always related with each other and compare notes for more effectiveness and uniformity of purpose noting that the deeper the understanding and mastery of the strategies the cheaper and eerier to implement it becomes. CCIDESOR also used the occasion to commend USIAD, PIND and all SACE project staff for supporting the idea to gain acceptability in Nigeria. It has reduced the spat of abandoned projects drastically in Nigeria. CCIDESOR is using the same opportunity to call on other organizations to adopt the strategy as it is easy, cheap and impactful. Our target is that by collective effort abandoned projects will be history before 2023 political year.