#WorldPressFreedomDay2021: NO FREEDOM WITHOUT INFORMATION – ENetSuD
The Elites Network for Sustainable Development (ENetSuD) has joined the media, government, Civil Societies and other actors around the world to commemorate the World Press Freedom Day that is celebrated on the 3rd of May annually. According to UNESCO, this year’s World Press Freedom Day marks the 30th Anniversary of the UNESCO Windhoek Declaration for the Development of a Free, Independent and Pluralistic Press. That declaration led to the recognition by the UN of the World Press Freedom Day to be celebrated every 3rd of May. After 30 years, the historic connection made between the freedom to seek, impart and receive information and the public good remains as relevant as it was at the time of its signing.
ENetSuD noted that, while the 2021 theme for the World Press Freedom Day is “Information as a Public Good”, the 9th Kwara State House of Assembly (KWHA) under the leadership of Rt. Hon. Salihu Yakubu Danladi has refused to realize and admit that making legislation that will give information access to Kwara citizens is a public good. The FOI is a right guaranteed by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, various Declarations of Principles on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, and more importantly, Section 39 of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The FOI bill was passed by the 8th KWHA members on 30th May, 2019 and transmitted to Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq for Assent on 20th June, 2019 under the watch of the 9th KWHA. Consequently, the Governor requested for minor amendment of sections 4, 5(1), and 6 where he wanted seven (7) days to be changed to fourteen (14) days. He also requested for an amendment of section 10 where he wanted punishment to become a combination of 2-year prison term and 500,000 naira fine rather than an option of prison term or the 100,000 naira fine contained in the bill. The Speaker read the request from the Governor for minor amendment of this highly important bill at the Plenary of the KWHA on 23rd July, 2019.
ENetSuD is dissatisfied to note that today, when UNESCO declared Information as a Public Good, marks the 650th Day that the Danladi-led KWHA has received the request of the Governor to do a minor amendment to the Kwara State Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill without any action to date, thereby making access to public information by Kwara citizens impossible.
ENetSuD recalls the promise of Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq to collaborate with the KWHA towards the passage of the bill. In the new year message of 2020 signed by his Chief Press Secretary Rafiu Ajakaye, the Governor was reported to have said that “Going into the new year, we would work closely with the leadership of the House of Assembly to fast-track the passage of the Freedom of Information Bill to deepen transparency and accountability”. Sadly, the Governor’s promise has not yielded any positive result after 16 months of his statement.
ENetSuD also recalled the Governor’s and the Speaker’s messages on 9th December, 2019 at the International Anti-Corruption Day Rally organized by the Ilorin Zonal Office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). In the Governor’s statement, he rightly stated that “if we don’t kill corruption, it will kill all of us” and added that “corruption is detrimental to socio-economic development of any society as it reduces government’s capacity to deliver on campaign promises”. He also rightly noted that “corruption is killing us in our schools and hospitals, hinders infrastructural development”. He then emphasized the importance of working hand in hand with the anti-corruption agencies and be part of the processes to develop our society, and also urged Kwarans to continue to support the anti-corruption drive of the government as part of the strategy to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The Speaker of KWHA also said that “it is important for all of us to partner with the EFCC to kill corruption and save our state and Nigeria in general”. However, ENetSuD is still wondering how citizens that do not have free access to information can kill corruption, work hand in hand with anti-corruption agencies and support anti-corruption drive of the government.
Finally, ENetSuD lauds the Governor for introducing Social Audit that has exposed corruption in at least five (5) projects audited by us. While calling on the Governor to ensure continuity of Social Audit and thorough implementation of the audit reports in the public interest, ENetSuD charges him to institutionalize the Social Audit in Kwara State so that successive administrations can sustain it.
Chairman, Media and Publicity Committee,
Elites Network for Sustainable Development (ENetSuD),
3rd May, 2021