Freedom Of Information Bill Is Under-Utilised In Nigeria

A member of the House of Representatives, Abike Dabiri-Erewa has accused the Nigerian media of a disappointing lackadaisical attitude to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) passed two years.

Noting that despite the rigours undertaken to get the bill passed and signed into law, she claimed the law has being grossly under-utilized by Nigerians and the media amidst the widespread corruption in the country.

Mrs Dabiri-Erewa made this known at the 5th Wole Soyinka Centre media lecture series on Saturday in Lagos where she challenged the media and civil society organisations to further ask questions on some of the revelations uncovered by the various committees of the House of Representatives.

Where is the money?         

Highlighting the $16billion fuel subsidy scam unveiled by an adhoc committee set-up by the House to investigate the fraudulent payment of fuel subsidy, the lawmaker asked “where is the money?”

“We (House of Representatives) brought the fuel subsidy scam to fore by revealing that there was no subsidy, that all we are subsidising was corruption and nobody has asked the question on what has happened to the money.”

The lawmaker, who sponsored the FOIA in the House, described the bill as a gift from the National Assembly stating that “the 7th Assembly has given this bill as a gift to Nigeria’s democracy,” but “nothing has happened afterwards with using the law.”

She claimed that the House Committee on the Implementation of the FOI has also just discovered that a lot of Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs) do not have a FOI Unit to address such request when they are made as mandated by the law and “nobody is asking the questions” she lamented.

“Right now, only 29 MDAs are submitting the annual expenditure and nobody is asking questions.”

She also cited an example of the Joint Admission Matriculation Board (JAMB) which according to her earns about N26billion from the sale of forms to students seeking admission into the nation’s universities, “yet 86 per cent of these students are not given admission and nobody ask what JAMB does with the money.”

She however commended the Nigerian Army for the adequate implementation of the FOIA, saying that House Committee has discovered that the Army and a few agencies have set-up the FOI Unit and also have dedicated phone lines to address any FOI request.

“Let us use this law to know how the nation’s resources are used judiciously or not” she appealed.

Take Responsibility

In his comments, the chairman of National Human Rights Commission, Dr Chidi Odinkalu, noted that “the tyranny of rights cannot make progress with citizens who want to take responsibility.”

He linked the access to information with access to education as he enjoined Nigerians to demand explanations from government and public servants, who according to him “see access to information as a way to block how government is ran.”

Dr Odinkalu, however called for caution in the expectations of the FOIA, stating that Nigeria got the FOIA in 2011 after 100years of operating a secretive policy imposed by British colonial masters in 1911 and sustained onwards.

Delivering the keynote lecture Prof Biodun Jeyifo, had earlier in his lecture titled: The Freedom Of Information Act and the Dictatorship of Corruption and Mediocrity, decried Nigerians failure to use the FOIA despite some confessions of looting by politicians recently.

He recalled the duel between President Olusegun Obasanjo and Vice-President Atiku Abubakar in 2006, when the former President asked the National Assembly to commence impeachment proceedings against the latter over the blatant looting of the Petroleum Trust Development Fund (PTDF).

The academic stated that the Vice-President did not deny the charges but confessed that the President’s cronies and girlfriends were beneficiaries of the loot and this allegation was substantiated with series of newspaper publications of incriminating documents.


“No FOI action could bring out the information that was voluntarily divulged by Obasanjo and Atiku and till today, nothing has happened to the duo” said Prof Jeyifo.

He described the nation’s type of democracy as ‘dictatorship in democracy’ which is not paranoid or unembarrassed by any allegation of corrupt practices as corruption and mediocrity reigns supreme in this country.”

The Professor of African Studies and Comparative Literature from Harvard University, decried the media for being “remarkably reticent to compel our leaders to comply with the dictates of the FOI,” as he warned that “the nation’s democracy is averse to the rule of law and on the verge of a failed state.”

By Ayo Okulaja

Subsidy Scam Funds: EFCC Gets Restraining Order On Foreign Accounts

The Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mister Ibrahim Lamorde said the Commission had secured a restraining order on the United Kingdom accounts of some fuel subsidy fraudsters.

Speaking when the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Doctor Andrew Pocock paid him a courtesy visit, Mister Lamorde explained that the EFCC was formalising ways of getting the funds forfeited and repatriated to Nigeria.

The EFCC chairman said the restraining order secured by the Commission in the UK was as a result of the wonderful relationship the Commission had enjoyed and is still enjoying from the UK in recent times.

Earlier, Doctor Pocock had observed that owing to corruption in allocation and delivery process, cost of infrastructure in Nigeria has been three times higher than it ought to be.

He, however, expressed optimism that if Nigeria got it right in the power sector privatisation, the country would be on the verge of an industrial revolution.

Fuel Subsidy Scam: Trial of Bamanga Tukur’s Son, Others To Commence In May

Trial of the fuel subsidy fraud case filed by the Economic & Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against Mahmud Tukur, son of the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Bamanga Tukur and others, is to begin in May, after a failed attempt to settle out of court.

Mahmud Tukur, Alex Ochongor, their firm, Eterna Oil and Gas, and Abdullahi Alao, son of Ibadan-based businessman, Abdulazeez Arisekola-Alao, are facing nine counts of fuel subsidy fraud amounting to about N1.2 billion before a Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja.

Counsel for the EFCC, Mr. Tayo Olukotun, told the presiding judge, Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo, at the resumed hearing of the matter on Wednesday that the settlement talks had “hit brick wall” and the lead prosecution counsel, Mr Rotimi Jacobs had asked him to pick a date for trial.

His position is, however, different from that of the counsel for Mahmud  Tukur, Mr. Tayo Oyetibo (SAN), who told the court that the talks were awaiting the input of Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde, the chairman of the  EFCC.

When the Judge sought clarification on the actual status of the talks, Mr Oyetibo said the lead prosecuting counsel, Mr Jacobs had told him that the chairman of the EFCC was not available last week and so the defence was looking at picking a date in early March to meet him and continue the talks.

Mr Oyetibo, however, expressed dissatisfaction over Mr Jacobs’ failure to communicate the latest development to the prosecuting team.

At the previous proceedings of December 13, 2012, the defendants, Mahmud Tukur and Alex Ochonogor had, through their counsel, sought for time to conclude the settlement talks with the EFCC.

Justice Onigbanjo has, however, fixed the 6th and 7th of May for the commencement of trial following the disagreement of the parties in the settlement talks.

The Judge also granted Abdullai Alao permission to travel to the United States of America for the treatment of his son.

The documents are to be returned to the custody of the EFCC on or before the 24th of February.

The other two defendants, Tukur and Ochonogor have also indicated to the court that they would be filing similar application to embark on a business trip to South Africa.

It will be recalled that Justice Onigbanjo had on December 13, 2012 granted similar application to the duo for business trips to the United Kingdom and France, asking them to return their passports to the EFCC on or before January 25.

Fuel subsidy scam: Court fails to sit for Mamman Ali’s trial

The Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja on Monday failed to sit on the scheduled re-arraignment of Mamman Ali, son of former Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Ahmadu Ali, along with three others for alleged fuel subsidy fraud.

No reason was given for the failure of the court to sit but the court registrars announced a new date of Monday the 26th of November 2012 for the re-arraignment.

Present in court were the duo of Mamman Ali and Christian Taylor, who had initially been arraigned along with their company Nasaman Oil on the 26th of July for fuel subsidy fraud totaling about 2.23bn.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has however said that following further investigations, the defendants would be re-arraigned on an amended charge along with some other persons whose names were not originally on the charge.

EFCC declares fleeing oil marketers wanted

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Friday declared three oil marketers implicated in the fuel subsidy scam wanted.

This was disclosed in a press statement signed by the acting head of media and publicity of the commission, Wilson Uwajuren.

The Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Lamorde

 The trio of Abdul Afeez Olarenwaju Olabisi of Fargo Petroleum and Gas Limited, Abubakar Peters Ali Jeldi, managing director of Nadabo Energy Limited and Ikechukwu Onuabuchi Nworgu of Star Inspection Services Nigeria Limited were declared wanted by the Commission for offences various offences including Criminal Conspiracy, Forgery, Obtaining Money by False Pretences and Money Laundering running into several billions of naira.

The statement described the trio as “Olabisi, 31, hails from Kwara State and speaks Yoruba, Hausa and English languages fluently. His last known address is Fargo Petroleum and Gas Limited”.

“Jeldi, 34, is of the Igala stock from Kogi state, North Central Nigeria. He speaks his native Igala, Hausa and English languages fluently.  His last known address are 4B Louis Solomon Close, Victoria Island, Lagos and 15 Ogbunike Street , Lekki, Lagos”.

“Nworgu, 46, hails from Abia State . He speaks Igbo and English fluently. His last known address is Star Inspection Services Nigeria Limited, 4A, Lander Close, Off Liverpool Road, Apapa – Lagos .

The statement further said “The trio allegedly obtained billions of naira as subsidy payments from the Petroleum Support Fund under false pretence, and disappeared in the wake of the Commission’s investigation of the subsidy regime”.

“The Commission enjoins anyone having information as to their whereabouts to contact its Enugu, Kano, Lagos, Gombe, Port Harcourt and Abuja  offices or through these numbers: 09-4604620,  070-26350721,070-26350722,070-26350723,070-6350724, 070-26350725; or by e-mail to: [email protected] or the nearest Police Station”.