By Destiny Ugorji
Two Northern Nigerian States, Kano and Adamawa, have expressed their readiness to adopt and operationalize the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2011.
Kano State Head of Civil Service, Alhaji Mohammad Auwal Na’iya, made the state government’s position known while delivering a goodwill message on Thursday at an FOI Assessment and Awareness joint Roundtable of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and Civil Society organisations in the State.
According to him, the Kano state government is in the process of adopting the Freedom of Information Act, with a view to empowering the citizens to participate actively in governance.
“Kano State government is committed to transparency and accountability and is in the process of adopting the Freedom of Information law in the State. The state government has initiated a number of processes to promote transparency, accountability and prudence in governance.
“The Kano State government has agreed to adopt and implement the Freedom of Information Act through the Open Government Partnership (OGP) process which the State has signed unto. The adoption of the FOI Act in the State is being subjected to wide consultation and will go through the legislative process and passed into law”, he disclosed.
Adding his voice, Executive Chairman, Kano State Public Complaints and Anti-Corruption Commission (PCACC) Alhaji Muhuyi Magaji Rimingado further highlighted the efforts of the present administration in the state to entrench transparency and accountability.
“The government of Alhaji Abdullahi Umar Ganduje in Kano State is doing so much to ensure that governance is transparent. We are interested in the implementation of the FOI Act in Kano State and the government at the highest level in the state is committed to it, since it will promote openness in governance. The State has signed up to the Open Government Partnership, which is a transparency initiative. Access to Information is one of the pillars of the OGP and we are committed to it. The present administration created the Public Complaints and Anti-corruption Commission, among other reformatory initiatives. The present administration is sincere and wants the citizens to participate actively in the business of governance.”
The Roundtable was a 3-day event, organized by the Freedom of Information Coalition, Nigeria (FOICN) and Media Initiative against Injustice, Violence and Corruption (MIIVOC), with support from the European Union, through the Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (RoLAC) Programme, managed by the British Council.
The event which took place at Tahir Guest Palace Hotel, Kano, had participants drawn from state and non-state actors in the state. The primary objective was to assess the level of awareness and implementation of, and compliance with the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, 2011 in the State.
In his presentations on: Understanding the Freedom of Information Act 2011 and Making Requests for Information Under the Freedom of Information Act, Chairman, Board of Governors, Freedom of Information Coalition, Nigeria, Dr, Walter Duru described the Freedom of Information Act as a veritable tool for the entrenchment of transparency in the state, even as he called on stakeholders to collaborate to ensure its effective implementation.
He commended the Kano State government for committing to FOI implementation, even as he urged Civil Society organisations in the state to take advantage of the development to participate actively in governance, by testing the Act in the state.
Also, in his presentation on: What is Freedom of Information and its importance, Secretary, Board of the Freedom of Information Coalition, Nigeria, Ayode Longe described freedom of Information as the bedrock and foundation of all human rights, urging citizens to participate actively in the drive towards the operationalization of the FOI Act in the state.
Earlier in his presentation, Anti-corruption Programme Manager of the ROLAC programme, Mr. Emmanuel Uche described the Freedom of Information Act as central to every anti-corruption initiative, even as he commended the Kano State government for embracing the Act.
He reiterated the readiness of the ROLAC programme to support further steps that will enhance FOI implementation in the state and beyond.
The roundtable recorded various sessions, comprising presentations, situation assessment through administration of questionnaires, feedback through questions and comments and viewing of a video on how members of a rural Indian community called Rajasthan successfully used the country’s FOI law to hold their elected officials to account for funds that they administered, and the ripple effect it had in the State which entrenched transparency.
Other highlights of the Roundtable are the development of Action Points, outlining next steps, interactive sessions, advocacy visits and a Communique issued at the end of the event. Other important persons at the event are: Anti-corruption programme officer, Pwanakei Dala, head of ROLAC Kano Office, Ibrahim Bello, among others.
Kano is one of the four focal states of the RoLAC programme. The other three are: Adamawa, Lagos and Anambra states.
Similarly, the Adamawa State government has expressed its readiness to operationalize the Freedom of Information Act in the state.
Adamawa state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Bala Sanga disclosed this while delivering a goodwill message during a similar Roundtable for Ministries, Departments and Agencies, as well as Civil Society Organisations in Adamawa state, recently.
He affirmed that the FOI Act was germane to democracy and good governance, even as he described the present Adamawa state government as transparent. He emphasized that government officials serve the people and should therefore be accountable to them.
“The present Adamawa state government is transparent and willing to do things right. We are in total support and willing to operationalize the Freedom of Information Act in the state. Apart from the FOI Act, public officials have a responsibility to be transparent. If public officials have nothing to hide, then they have nothing to fear about an access to information law.”
He further promised to advise the state Executive Council to ensure the operationalization of the Freedom of Information Act in the State, even as he urged the organisers of the event to transmit the Action Points from the meeting to his office for necessary actions.
The next port of call for the FOI Assessment Roundtable is Anambra State, expected to hold in the next two weeks. The FOI Assessment Roundtable is a prelude to further interventions aimed at pursuing the vigorous implementation of the FOI Act, with a view to entrenching transparency in governance, while empowering citizens to take advantage of the Act to hold the government accountable.
Apprehension Over AMCON MD’s Visit to EFCC
By Aduragbemi Omiyale
The visit of the Managing Director of Assets Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON), Mr Ahmed Kuru, to the office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is already causing apprehension.
Mr Kuru was reportedly grilled by the anti-graft agency on Wednesday after he was invited by the organisation for questioning.
Already, it is being speculated that his ordeal with the EFCC may be connected with the plans by AMCON to name and shame chronic debtors, who took loans from commercial banks but refused to repay as promised.
Yesterday, the AMCON MD was grilled by the agency over allegations bordering on the diversion of assets and the sale of the properties to his associates at ridiculous prices.
According to reports, Mr Kuru allegedly sold properties valued at billions of naira belonging to Atlantic to another despite a court case on the assets.
Atlantic was accused of loan default with Skye Bank and the properties in collateral were seized and allegedly sold below the prevailing market value while the action was instituted in court.
Amid these accusations, the EFCC is yet to comment at the time of filing this report.
AMCON is an agency set up by the federal government to acquire all toxic loans of commercial banks, with the aim of recovering them.
In November 2021, the agency submitted a list containing its top 1,000 obligors owing N4.4 trillion to the National Assembly.
Mr Kuru had said with the support of the parliament and the Judiciary, recovering the total current exposure on all Eligible Bank Asset (EBAs), which stands at N4.4 trillion, may be possible before the sunset period.
He had lamented that more recently, due to the socio-economic downturn, the market values of assets have significantly reduced, lower than the valuation at the point of EBAs purchase, making it extremely difficult to consummate sales transactions.
“To enable AMCON to succeed in its national call to duty, AMCON solicits the continued support of this Distinguished Committee. The Judiciary must be encouraged to respect the provisions of the law that require them to fast-track cases before them, issue certificates of judgement on properties, which the Corporation has no collateral and demand debtors to deposit Judgment sum before proceeding to appeal any judgement,” he had stated.
NSCDC Denies Operating Illegal Oil Bunkering Site
By Adedapo Adesanya
The Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) has debunked the rumour that its marine exhibits yard in Ogbogoro jetty, Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State, was an illegal oil bunkering site.
This was made known by the Rivers State Commandant of NSCDC, Mr Aliyu Bature, who explained that the Ogbogoro jetty has remained its marine exhibits yard for over 10 years.
He added that every marine exhibit like boats, vessels, barges drums, arrested by or handed over to the Corps by sister agencies for oil theft are usually detained at the yard, pending investigation and court prosecution.
This follows claims made by Obio/Akpor LGA Chairman, Mr George Ariolu, that the NSCDC marine exhibits yard in Ogbogoro was being used for illegal bunkering activities.
In the reaction to the allegation, Mr Bature disclosed that the NSCDC Commandant General, Mr Abubakar Audi, in December 2021 visited the said yard, maintaining that it was a known fact that the yard has been the Corps’ marine exhibits yard.
The agency said some of the exhibits, including 220 drums of AGO and eight Cotonou boats in the yard were seized by the Nigerian Navy and handed over to the NSCDC last week, while other vessels were taken by operatives of the Corps.
He disclosed that the agency has got an intelligence report that hoodlums were planning to attack the yard, by setting it ablaze in order to destroy the exhibits, assuring that such plans will be strongly resisted.
“This place is our marine exhibits yard and not an illegal dump. Most of the exhibits here were arrested by the Navy and handed over to us, while some of the arrests too were made by us.
“The commandant general was here in December and he’s aware that this place is our exhibits yard.
“The Commandant General has deployed personnel to ensure the place is secured, Ogbogoro jetty is a no-go area for anybody because destroying this place means destroying the exhibits to prove that these products were all stolen.
“We had it on good authority that hoodlums were planning to attack this place in order to destroy the exhibits and we will not allow that,” the statement said.
The NSCDC also urged members of the public to report any personnel of the organisation who is involved in the business of aiding and abetting oil theft, illegal bunkering and vandalism, warning that the agency will not hesitate to show such person the way out.
“If any of our personnel is caught, please report the person to us and we will discipline the person accordingly.
“The NSCDC leadership does not in any way condone acts of indiscipline. We are charged to protect critical national assets and if any of our personnel is involved, we will not take it likely.
“That is why those who were in charge of the anti-vandal unit have been disbanded, and are being investigated currently by the committee set up by the Commandant General,” the statement said.
Senate Re-amends Electoral Bill, Okays Direct, Indirect, Consensus Primaries
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
The Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which passed by the National Assembly on November 18, 2021, and sent to President Muhammadu Buhari for assent but was rejected, has been re-amended.
The President declined assent to the bill because the parliament inserted a clause that makes it mandatory for political parties to elect candidates for elections only through direct primaries.
On Wednesday, the Senate adjusted this clause and approved direct, indirect primaries or consensus as to the procedure for the nomination of candidates by political parties for the various elective positions.
The upper chamber of the legislative arm of government, in a statement signed by Mr Ezrel Tabiowo, the Special Assistant on Press to Senate President, Mr Ahmad Lawan, said the recommended Clause 84(3) was also approved.
The section stated that “a political party that adopts the direct primaries procedure shall ensure that all aspirants are given equal opportunity of being voted for by members of the party.”
Clause 84(4) further provides that “a political party that adopts the system of indirect primaries for the choice of its candidate shall adopt the procedure outlined below; (a) In the case of nominations to the position of Presidential candidate, a political party shall, (i) hold special conventions in each of the 36 states of the federation and FCT, where delegates shall vote for each of the aspirants at designated centres in each State Capital on specified dates.”
The clause provides that a National Convention shall be held for the ratification of the candidate with the highest number of votes.
The amendment followed a motion for its re-commital to the Committee of the Whole, which was sponsored by the Senate Leader, Mr Yahaya Abdullahi.
In his presentation, the lawmaker noted that the rationale for Mr Buhari withholding assent bordered on his observation in Clause 84.
President Buhari in the letter dated December 13, 2021, and addressed to Mr Lawan had explained that his decision to withhold assent to the electoral bill was informed by advice from relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Government after a thorough review.
According to the President, signing the bill into law would have serious adverse legal, financial, economic and security consequences on the country, particularly in view of Nigeria’s peculiarities.
He added that it would also impact negatively on the rights of citizens to participate in government as constitutionally ensured.
Mr Abdullahi, however, explained that the motion for re-commital of the bill to the Committee on the Whole was against the backdrop of the “need to address the observation by Mr President C-in-C and make necessary amendment in accordance with Order 87(c) of the Senate Standing Orders, 2022 (as amended); and relying on order 1(b) and 52(6) of the Senate Standing Orders, 2022 (as amended).”
Accordingly, the chamber rescinded its decision on the affected clause of the bill as passed and recommitted same to the Committee of the Whole for consideration and passage.
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