By Balkis Tijani.
Undeterred by the wranglings of sponsors of the FOI bill, Elites Network for Sustainable Development (ENetSuD), Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq of Kwara State has declined assenting to the Freedom of Information Bill which was passed by the 8th Kwara State House of Assembly.
Speaking in defence of the state government, a civic group, Coalition for Good Governance and Accountability, disclosed that Governor Abdulrazaq is indisposed to ratifying the bill, until it goes through the 9th Assembly all over again, adding that the FOI Bill passed by the 8th Assembly is now “statute-barred”.
According to Hassan Omoiya, secretary general of the group, “The FOI Bill passed by the 8th Assembly is now statute-barred since the bill wasn’t assented to by former Governor Abdulfatai Ahmed whose Assembly passed the bill. The bill would have to be represented to the new Assembly. That is the democratic practice all over the world.
“Anything short of that would be against the time-tested parliamentary tradition. The only thing the governor may also do is to urge the new Assembly to fast-track work on it. But he cannot sign it as it is”, he said.
Omoiya further criticized ENetSuD’s insistence in seeking for immediate ratification of the bill, enjoining the group to channel their advocacy to the new Assembly.
“The FOI Bill has our support as a coalition of Kwarans who desire transparency. However, we are disturbed by the needless pressure on the new Governor to sign a bill that is already statute-barred.
“That is not how things work in constitutional democracies. The appropriate place for the group to go is the new Assembly. As it is, the governor cannot assent to the bill because it is statute-barred.
“Activism is good for a better society but it should be backed by fair understanding of how things work, especially the law and conventions”, he stated.
Meanwhile, the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Mr Rafiu Ajakaye, in a statement titled “Our position on FOI Bill”, made the governor’s stance on the issue known.
He said, “HE the Governor of Kwara State has decided to refer the bill to the Office of the Attorney General/Justice Ministry (Kwara) for legal opinion. Thank you.”