Nigerians at the grassroots especially small scale farmers and traders are usually consulted only during election periods when politicians need their votes to get into power, but are quickly forgotten thereafter. They are therefore ‘used and dumped’ while also being neglected even when policy issues that concern them are raised.
One of the policy issues that concern the rural populace is the budget document. Apart from the Constitution, the budget is the most important instrument in a country and therefore require the inputs of every citizen. At present, more than 96% of Nigerians are unaware of the contents of their State and federal budgets. For this reason, it becomes impossible to hold government accountable, poverty and underdevelopment become the order of the day while transparency is thrown to the dustbin.
To stem the foregoing tide, NANTS places premium on sensitizing citizens particularly at the grassroots and rural community levels on the need to engage the budgets, analyze its contents, make inputs therein and follow the implementation process with a view to ensuring effective budget monitoring.
For the past 5 years, NANTS has been reviewing, analyzing and tracking the implementation of the trade/investment and agriculture sector budgets of the federal republic of Nigeria. In 2016, NANTS in partnership with Oxfam extended the budget advocacy to the States by reviewing the budgets of 4 States, namely; Nasarawa, Benue, Plateau and Bauchi States in addition to the federal budget. NANTS also hosted a radio programme on Raypower 100.5 and a social media campaign tagged #feednaija2016 to sensitize the public on the need for an increase in government’s investments in agriculture as well as advocate for more investments. NANTS also built the capacity of media practitioners to advocate for increased budgetary allocation to agriculture.
A total of 250 farmers who represented farmer organizations were selected to participate at the trainings. The trainings revealed that the Plateau and Benue state budgets has a total of 2.16% and 4.17% investment in agriculture. The question is, if these states are the main producers of food in the country, will this percentage suffice? Also this does not match the Maputo benchmark. According to the Maputo Declaration signed by African Heads of State, African countries, including Nigeria, are to allocate at least 10% of their nation’s annual budget to the agriculture sector. However, for many years, Nigeria has not been able to go beyond 3% of her budgetary allocation to agriculture. The sector’s allocation for 2016 is about 1.26%.
Therefore NANTS role was aimed at building a movement of rural small scale farmers and producers that would be sensitized to continuously and concertedly advocate for increase in allocation to agriculture and transparency of budget implementation. It is overwhelmingly clear that farmers are enthusiastic and gradually ‘following the money’ (monitoring or tracking the budgetary allocations). The project’s advocacy also targets at ensuring that allocations to agriculture focuses more on small scale farmers especially women and youths as well as the vulnerable ones.
The efforts have been successful given that farmers are already carrying out advocacy visits to the State Assemblies. For instance, courtesy of this project, the Association of Small Scale Agro Producers in Nigeria (ASSAPIN) led an advocacy visit to the Bauchi State Assembly where the Committee on Agriculture received them and with commendations on their efforts that have helped in seeing and correcting gray areas of the budget. NANTS intends to expand this project and increase this knowledge to other States and Local Government Areas in Nigeria.