The coordinator of the Elites Network for Sustainable Development (ENetSuD), Dr. Abdullateef Alagbonsi, has raised concern over the silence of Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq on the highly important Freedom of Information (FOI) bill pending before the 9th Kwara State House of Assembly.
During the meeting of representatives of selected CSOs with the Governor on 11th May, 2020 that was held via Zoom, Dr. Alagbonsi commended the Governor’s position on the bill and raised serious concern on the inaction f the government on the bill after 11 months of sending it to the House of Assembly for amendment.
“The only area I’ll like to empathize, having had this opportunity to discuss with His Excellency, is particularly on the area of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill. ENetSuD, being the major sponsor of the FOI bill, will still like to commend the Executive Governor of Kwara State, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, for his position on the bill”.
“When the bill was sent to the Governor for assent, we were privileged to see the content of your response to the House of Assembly. Your requests for a minor amendment to ensure that 7 days is increased to 14 days, and 100,000 naira are increased to 500,000 naira fine is commendable. These are indications that you are interested in ensuring that the FOI is strengthened in Kwara State”.
“Auggesting a stiffer punishment for anyone who destroys documents, or suggesting an increase in time to enable (Ministries Departments and Agencies) MDAs to comply are signs that you want the FOI to have some level of strengths to promote transparency and accountability. The first and second paragraphs of your letter made us happy”.
“It is still worrisome, Your Excellency Sir, that having written the House of Assembly, the letter was read on the 23rd of July, 2019 on the plenary of the House of Assembly by the Rt. Hon. Speaker, but it is still something that is surprising that when we count from July 23rd to date, that is about 11 months”.
“It is worrisome that your request to the House for minor amendment of just 100,000 to 500,000, and 7 days to 14 days has taken almost a year and the House has not done anything on the bill”.
“We are still surprised that His Excellency has not deemed it fit to write a reminder to the House of Assembly on why the amendment has not been done”.
“I believe there is no need to remind His Excellency on the importance of Freedom of Information. We have been using FOI to track how public funds are spent by the Federal Government. We have been tracking Federal Government projects since 2017. We have dragged many MDAs to Court. We have dragged many MDAs to EFCC and ICPC under the past administration”.
We believe that with what we have done with tracking of Federal Government budget, we should be able to monitor how the public fund is spent in Kwara state and the local governments. So, my concern is just on the Freedom of Information bill, urging Your Excellency to fast-track process on the amendment of the Bill”.