Governor of Delta and Vice-Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party PDP, Ifeanyi Okowa has said that an effective democratic governance helps to advance sustainable development.
Okowa disclosed this on Thursday in his remarks at the 2nd Quarterly meeting of Secretary to Government of the Federation and Secretaries to State Government held at the Unity Hall, Government House, Asaba.
He said the theme of the meeting “Democratic governance and Sustainable Development in Nigeria: Opportunities in Key Sectors of the Economy” was apt as government at all levels strive to strengthen democracy and make the idea real.
Represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Chief Patrick Ukah, Okowa commended the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, for keeping faith with the cause of advancing the Forum through continuous engagements with Secretaries to State Government.
He said public service provides incredible opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the people and urged them to use their privileged offices to improve the lives of the people in their respective states.
According to him, the opportunity given to us serve at this level of governance in the country places on us a very high sense of responsibility to deliver the dividends of democracy to our people.
“As you all know, this Forum is a very stable platform to share ideas, compare notes on the implementation of national and sub-national policies and programmes of government.
“Opportunities in key sectors of the economy must be identified and exploited fully by all tiers of government to achieve Sustainable Development Goals.
“Indeed democratic governance is paramount for the attainment of sustainable development and we must not lose sight of this focus.
“Therefore, we must uphold our democratic norms, deliberate deployment of political will and administrative expertise, values that hold us as a people and commitment in support of the attainment of sustainable development by the federal and state governments.
“We have come to listen, discuss and share ideas and to make useful contributions that will help us to achieve sustainable development for the country,” Okowa stated.
In his remarks, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, said the quarterly forum meeting strives to build the required synergy between the federal and state bureaucracies in order to enhance harmony and improve relationship between the tiers of government.
He said the Forum provides an atmosphere for critical discussions and policy articulation, experience sharing, peer review and adaptations.
“Distinguished colleagues, as you are aware, Nigeria operates constitutional democracy, which has characteristics such as guaranteed freedoms, equity, justice, transparency and accountability among others.
“Democracy also promotes an open participatory process, feedback mechanism, rule of law, thereby guaranteeing better and fairer government policies, programmes and project implementation.
“As Leaders charged with responsibility of servicing government machinery, policy coordination, monitoring implementation of programmes and policies and reporting in our respective jurisdictions, we need to address the question of how to effectively deliver democracy dividends in form of well-articulated policies, programmes and projects.
“At the Federal level, the realization of the critical role of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation office in the coordination of government policies, programs and projects led to conduct of an Institutional appraisal in 2019.”
He said the appraisal provided a better appreciation of the scope of the office mandate and functions and more innovative ways of delivering them.
“In addition, the feedback process is also in place where citizens participate to have a greater say in public decision-making as well as the desire by many governments to improve inclusivity and responsiveness led to calls for more openness in governance.
“Pursuant to this, the federal government has been collaborating with an international transparency and accountability organization known as the Open Government Partnership [OGP] “to ensure that budget planning, approval, implementation monitoring and reporting meet the needs of citizens and that citizens have open access to budget information in a format that is both human and machine readable.
“To improve accountability and transparency of government procurement process through the implementation of open contracting and public participation in the public contracting process” among others.
He encouraged state governments to key into the Open Government Partnership OGP initiative to enhance transparency and accountability in governance.
“The Federal Government would continue to give priority to high employment generating sectors, business improvement environment and youth development, adding that social investment programmes will continue to be given the required attention.
“The active support and collaboration of sub-national governments is therefore very critical as we strive to resolve the present economic challenges of our country ,Nigeria.
“The sustainable development goals are being steadily implemented and substantial progress has been attained in a number of goals, as we work towards meeting the 2030 target, States are also encouraged to partner with the Federal government in this area.
“I urge you to utilize the instrumentality of your office as the policy coordination hub of government to fast-track the initiation and implementation of policies and programmes, as well as harness, the various opportunities in key sectors of the economy, offered by the federal government to improve the lives and well-being of our people,” Mustapha stated.
Keynote Speaker and former Head of Service of the Federation, Professor Oladapo Afolabi, said to ensure good governance, rule of law, social accountability, transparency and integrity, independence and high moral values must retake the centre stage.
He charged all leaders to provide direction, maintain order and put the interest of the people above self, stressing that anything contrary will be counter- productive.
Other speakers spoke on ways federal government has been implementing its policies and programmes for the good of Nigerians as well as economic potentials of the nation.