The convener of the of the Brandish Meeting of Minds Colloquium, a socio-political engagement platform, Ikem Okuhu, has revealed Abuja was chosen as venue for the 2020 edition of the event owing to the city’s strategic importance to national unity.
Okuhu, who spoke to AbujaCityJournal on the sideline of the annual event, which was also used to present his book ‘Pitch: Debunking Marketing’s Strongest Myths’ said the need for more citizen engagement in democratic governance informed his decision to connect and collect notable Nigerians from across the six geo-political zones to rub minds on pressing national issues.
Okuhu spoke: “I love my country Nigeria and I love her people. Over the years, I have been consistent in my advocacy for good governance and national cohesion in a good democratic setting. Brandish Meeting of Minds Colloquium is a conscious effort towards driving the process that would lead us to that ideal democratic environment where both the leaders and the led will be mutually accountable to a corporate goal."
He had earlier announced plans to Kickstart a quarterly initiative, “Conversations on a New Nigeria”, which he said “will oil the wheels of building a united and prosperous Nigeria.”
Guest Speaker at the event, former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, harped on the need to incorporate the participation of the citizenry in Nigeria’s budgeting process, towards achieving which
he advocated a public hearing system in the budget appropriation process between citizens, lawmakers and heads of Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
Ekweremadu clarified public hearing with citizens being involved would enable them have more direct input and influence in the budget appropriation process.
His words: “The Appropriation Act is the single most important legislation by any parliament. But what has happened over the years is that the government sits down to articulate what it believes the people need without relating with the people or their representatives.
“That is why the Federal Government can go to a village to site a primary healthcare centre without bothering about equipping it or factoring in availability of power or human capital to run it.
“That is why the government can afford to build a housing estate in the middle of nowhere without factoring in the communal ways of life of the people or the relationship between such projects and the people’s market, worship centres, etc. At the end of the day, such projects fail and rot away,” Ekweremadu said.
He explained he had initiated the concept for a public hearing on budget appropriation process to the 8th assembly, noting that the process could not continue this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Said he: “In one of my engagements with the UN in the 7th Senate, I was exposed to the concept of public hearing on budget. I shared the idea with the then President of the 8th Senate, Senator Bukola Saraki, who bought into it.
“So, in addition to the usual process where heads of Ministries Departments and Agencies, MDAs, face only the lawmakers to defend budgets of their respective MDAs, we introduced an elaborate hearing where members of the public and Civil Society Organisations can interrogate and make inputs into the budget proposals. Unfortunately, this could not continue this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We need to do more on this to improve it so that the people can have more direct inputs and influence in the appropriation process. I suggest we allocate more time to public hearing in the appropriation process because the money being appropriated belongs to the people and the expenditure is to their benefit,” Ekweremadu said.