Chairman, Daily Trust Foundation, Malam Bilya Bala, has charged the media to investigate national and state budgets to fulfil its constitutional role of holding government accountable as specified in Section 22 of the Nigerian Constitution.
He spoke in Abuja at the commencement of a three-day training workshop for journalists from various media organizations on ways to understand and analyze budgets.
- 10 things you probably did not know about the new EFCC boss
- How bandits are turning Kaduna communities to ghost towns
Organised by Daily Trust Foundation, the workshop, entitled ‘How to Understand National and State Budgets’, was sponsored by MacArthur Foundation.
Bala charged journalists to diligently track the promises made by governments in annual budgets, stressing that national budgets should be considered the next most important document after the constitution.
He said: “Budgets provide the direction for the country’s prosperity and the well-being of its people. Over the years, however, the media has not treated the country’s budget with the seriousness it deserves.
“More often than not, after reporting the capital and recurrent expenditures, and what sector gets the lion’s share of the budget, journalists would go to bed, thinking that they had done their job and that was all what the people would need to know.”
He noted that the workshop was the first in a series meant to deepen journalists’ understanding of not only the budget, appropriation and implementation, but also that of various sectors as a way of enhancing their reportage.
A member of the Foundation’s Board of Trustees and former Managing Director/Chief Operating Officer of Media Trust Limited, Alhaji Isiaq Ajibola, noted that the weakest link of investigative journalism is the lack of critical reports on the incubation stage of the budget.
“The media is devoted to the process of spending money, but focusing in that aspect alone will not enable us to get to where we want,” Ajibola said.
Director-General, Budget Office of the Federation, Dr Ben Akabueze, who facilitated an elaborate session on the national and state budgetary process with examples and critical data, urged journalists to investigate revenue shortfall as that is responsible for inability of government to meet its annual budgetary targets.
The Editor-in-Chief of Media Trust, Malam Naziru Mika’ilu, said: “As journalists, we should not report only what government wants the public to know, but we should endeavour to follow the processes and contract awards and execution.”