Abia To Institutionalise Data Bank System For Information Dissemination

The new E-library complex being built by the Abia state government is almost 80 percent complete.

In view of this, machinery has been put to work for an institutionalised data bank system that would allow journalists and citizens of Abia state from any location to access projects, governance and achievements of the government.

Commissioner for Information, Dr Eze Chikamnayo while briefing journalists at the Nigerian Union of Journalists Secretariat in Umuahia, disclosed that this system would make their job easier.

He credited the efforts made so far to the determination of the government to enhance social development for the good of its citizenry.

Nigeria Army Sets Up Freedom of Information Office

The Nigerian Army has set up a Freedom of Information Office in line with the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 2011.

According to the Director Army Public Relations, Brigadier-General Ibrahim Attahiru, the implementation of the act is aimed at ensuring transparency, accountability and professionalism in the Nigerian Army.

Attahiru assured Nigerians that prompt responses for access to information relating to the Nigerian Army will be given whenever it is needed.

Meanwhile he assured Nigerians that the Nigerian Army remains resolute and dedicated to dislocating and disrupting terrorist activities in the country.

Court Fixes Hearing On Asset Declaration Case

The National Coordinator of the Legal Defence And Assistance Project (LEDAP), Chino Obiagwu has said that the hearing for the case filed by the organisation against the Code of Conduct Bureau has been fixed for April 4 2013 by the Federal High Court Abuja.

LEDAP had filed a suit in July 2012 against the Code of Conduct Bureau demanding copies of the asset declarations of all federal ministers, state governors, the President and Vice President.

LEDAP had filed the suit to enforce its request to the bureau under the Freedom of Information Act.

However, the bureau claimed in its response that the Freedom of Information Act exempted it from disclosing declaration of assets of public officials because the asset declaration forms contain personal information about the assets of the officials and of their spouses and unmarried children.

In a letter signed by the Chairman of the bureau to LEDAP in July 2012, the agency said that it would not allow the public to know about the personal information of public officials because it has been exempted under sections 13(1)(v) and 15(1)(ii) of the Freedom of Information Act.

The Code of Conduct Bureau in the letter stated that “we note that Section 1 of the Freedom of Information Act, as a general principle, guarantees the right of any person to access or request for information whether or in written form, which is in custody of Code of Conduct Bureau or indeed any public agency.  However, by Section 13(1)(v) of the Act, the Code of Conduct Bureau has power to decline your request as it will constitute an invasion of the personal privacy of the honourable ministers under section 15 of the Act. The asset declaration forms contain personal information about them and their properties, assets and liabilities and those of their spouses and unmarried children under the age of 18 and consequently comes under the exemption
under Section 13(1)(v) and 15(1)(ii) of the Act.”

In a statement released to Channels Television, LEDAP’s lawyer, Chino Obiagwu says that the claim by the bureau is not correct under the law. The information that the Bureau says are exempted under the FOI Act are the main target of the asset declaration law.

According to Mr Obiagwu, “the purpose of assets declaration laws is to enable the public and citizens know the worth of its public officials and their close relations so as to monitor how they acquire assets while in office and whether or not public funds are used for such acquisitions. This purpose cannot be achieved if the declarations are not accessible to the public. There is nothing private about the assets declaration. Any person who assumes public office must be ready to face public scrutiny”

LEDAP has now called on the judiciary to decide once and for all on the right of citizens to know the assets of their elected leaders and their spouse in order to monitor and report unlawful acquisitions. There is no way we can tackle corruption in this country if the civil society and indeed the citizens cannot have access to information on assets declared by the public officials and their dependants who they can use for unlawful acquisition of assets from misappropriated public fund”.

Accountant general objects to disclosing recovered funds

The Accountant General of the Federation, Mr. Jonah Otunla has filed an objection against the suit by the rights advocacy group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) seeking information on stolen funds recovered by the federal government since 1999.

Counsel representing the Accountant-General, Mr Gbenga Sheba, informed the Federal High Court sitting in Ikeja on Tuesday that he had filed his preliminary objection to the suit but was yet  to serve it on the plaintiff(SERAP).

The second respondent in the suit, the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN), is also yet to be served with the processes of the preliminary objection.

SERAP had filed the suit December 2011, seeking for the said information on the strength of provisions of the Freedom of Information Act (FoI) 2011.

The rights advocacy group claimed that it filed the suit following the “failure to release information and documents on the spending of recovered stolen funds.”

But the Accountant-General, in his preliminary objection, is challenging the competence of the suit, saying it was filed out of time as stipulated in the FoI Act.

The FoI Act provides that any applicant who has been denied access to information requested can file such an application at the court for a review of the matter within 30 days.

Other grounds of the Accountant-General’s objection includes the fact that the FoI Act, which only came to force in May 2011, could not be applied retrospectively, in requesting for information concerning years before the enactment of the law.

Counsel to the accountant general, Mr Sheba has therefore sought for an adjournment to enable him to serve SERAP and the office of the Attorney General with the processes of his preliminary objection to the suit.

Presiding judge, Justice Steven Adah adjourned the matter till the 8th of May for hearing of the preliminary objection.