Pressure on Abdulrazaq to sign FOI Bill tears social media apart

By Nimi Princewill.

Divergent opinions have trailed the non-committal, cold and distant reception given to the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill by Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq of Kwara State, as his administration continues to drag its feet on ratification of the bill.

To a cross section of Kwarans, for a governor who rode to power on the goodwill of the people by enticing them with overtures of transparency, assenting to the FOI bill will be a crucial appraisal of his genuine intentions to be any better than his predecessors.

To others, who hang on the premise of pardonable common sense, added to their vested interests in the present government, the governor’s perceived apprehension about the build up and passage of the bill by the immediate past ‘opposition’ House of Assembly is justified.

In the absence of straightforward and satisfactory correspondence from the state government to ascertain its true position on the bill, a pro-democracy group, Kwara Must Change, which has arrogated to itself the licence to speak on behalf of the government (who neither debunks nor acknowledges its assertion) maintained that the FOI bill be returned to the 9th Assembly for fresh scrutiny.

The KMC group, in a statement by its State Coordinator, Comrade Yusuf Olatunji, questions the “strange” and speedy passage of the bill which was presented to the 8th Assembly on 5th May, 2019, few weeks to its exit.

The group did not shy away from disclosing its view that the 8th Assembly was a “discredited assembly with discredited members”, hence, the process adopted to pass the bill was discredited and the end product also stands as such.

The statement by KMC reads in part: “Kwara Must Change had earlier urged the Kwara State Governor, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq to return the FOI bill to the 9th Assembly for fresh scrutiny over credibility issue and we maintain that the 3 weeks bill is alien to our legislative practice in its 20 years of existence.

“We would like to state that, democracy is all about due process and when due process is compromised, whatever product that comes from such process will always be questionable. Even in human engagement, such questionable process is probed.

“The same can be said of this current FOI. The bill was produced by a questionable process and Kwara Must Change demand a fresh scrutiny by the new Assembly to remove any doubt.

“It is important to state, long before any group saw the need for FOI to be domesticated in Kwara State, Kwara Must Change had been on it, in as far back as 2017.

“We must also add that, we didn’t only advocate for the FOI bill, we also called for the domestication of the newly enacted Administration of Criminal Justice (ACJA).

“However, due to political consideration, the past administration didn’t see the need to pass it at the time. It is an irony that the same administration, which didn’t see the need to look into the bill almost 3 years ago when they had all the time, suddenly woke up after they had lost election to bastardize the process.

“We are of the view that the 8th Assembly was a discredited assembly, most of its members were discredited individuals, the process adopted to pass the bill was discredited and the end product also stands as such.

“We therefore reaffirm our position that the FOI bill be returned to the 9th Assembly for fresh scrutiny.”

The FOI bill which seeks to make public records and information freely available, continues to generate controversy among Kwarans, as many took to social media to share their thoughts on its delayed ratification.

See social media reactions:

Dr Alagbonsi Abdullateef: “I expected the outgone PDP administration to even resist the Bill, not the current APC government.”

Greenstone: “I’m beginning to think there are cabals preventing AA from assenting to the bill. The AA they sold to us during the electioneering period would have signed the bill if not for the handiwork of the cabals.”

Bolton Boyan: “Why the ‘rush’ in the passage of the bill? Why carrying placards? Why not lobby? Why not give AA and his team at least, 6 months to scrutinise the 16-page document?”

MDM elegance: “What ENetSud and other well meaning Kwarans are demanding is that the FOI bill be signed into law. The civil organization, ENetSud won’t be able to do anything tangible without the bill getting signed.

“I have been following Senatorial and Federal Constituency money and their projects ever since the existence of the civil society in Kwara. It’s our responsibility to individually and collectively ensure we follow our money and how it’s being utilized.

“Meanwhile, if AA won’t sign it, there is no need for unwarranted delay. He can relay his message by making his stance on it. Delaying it is already giving us the doubt of his government even though it’s still at its infantry.”

Rufai Ahmed: “I hope you remembered my post on this FOI bill. I hinted that AA might not likely sign.

“The issue is that most in government do not like prying (that is the way they see it) eyes into their activities. Even the federal law was signed reluctantly.

“Public outcry may put a bit of pressure on them. But seriously, even without external advise, a chief executive will be evasive in signing (not even, when spending had been on, without budgetary approvals). I quite understand your position and situation and can only admonish to continue. One day, it will come pass. Don’t be dettered.”

Pressman: “Due process was followed. If you guys don’t want AA to sign, it’s fine. Alhaji Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq is the Governor of Kwara State today, he can use executive powers as it pleases him.

“We can’t force him to sign the bill but faulting the process of passage is not on point. I am a media person, FOI Bill will be useful for me and other kwarans.”

Issa ayobami: “The domestication of Freedom of Information (FOI) in Kwara has come to stay, dear Governor AA, please, kindly assent!”

Comr. Bolakale: “Nobody is saying the bill must be assented to hurriedly, the reason the governor has a grace of one month to study the bill.

“The bill has spent 27 days on the table of His Excellency and it’s not out of order if the public make louder voice about it.

“It’s not a must that the governor signs every bill passed by the House, but the silence of the executive over the priority of the public is what’s debated today.

“Some of us have appealed that the governor should be governor some times to study the bill but it appears the action of the governor over the bill doesn’t regard the interest of the public and that birthed the heated argument of today.

“It’s sad to note that, the bill that has been on the governor’s table for almost 30 days hasn’t been sighted by the Chief Press Secretary who is the only mouthpiece until today.”

Comrade Tajudeen: “None of them have been able to fault the process. They are just saying due process.

“Let the governor communicate his stand, lobatan.

“Why are they making excuses for the governor, so he won’t sign it? For whose interest?”

Dr Ali Ahmad (Former Speaker, KSHA)

“I single handedly moved 11 Bill’s in 7th NASS. You can pass a law in 4 or even 3 days. Quote me. Just follow the process.

“On whether it’s a booby trap for incoming administration, why do you think majority of my members and even staff were against it. It was a trap, they would willingly sign on.

“Ask Enetsud, the day we were passing it, there was a gang up. Ask them. I only used my legislative experience by appealing to them that we did not have to pass laws that only us like or disliked.

“We put this to kwarans. They approved it. We were their reps, who were we to override our principals.”

Solace: “Let’s be objective about this bill issue. We have so many laws in Nigeria with several loopholes just because they were hurriedly passed.

“Politically, what’s the assurance that a House of Assembly with 90% of members who had suffered electoral defeat and entire party wiped out at the poll will pass a bill in the best interest of their successor under a democratic system of government as practised in Nigeria? Knowing fully well that a politician thinks about the next elections.”

Abdulrasheed Akogun: “While Enetsud has a legitimate right to push for the governor’s assent, the governor also has a right to either assent or withhold as guaranteed by the law and both rights must never be criminalised under any guise.”

Pressman: “I will advice Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq to address the issue, may be by signing, reject or forward FOI Bill to State House of Assembly for adjustment, if any, before the expiration of constitutional deadline.

“Without mincing words, assent to FOI Bill will fast track Kwara development, promote active citizens participation in governance and help government deliver more dividends of democracy to the people.”

Kazeem Shuaib: “Why are we scared of FOI bill when the bill would supply adequate and necessary information to the public.

“It is quite unfortunate that we found ourselves in this kind of hullaballo that made some of us believe that having access to basic information about how our affairs are being run is another way of undermining the government of the day.

“Yes, the Ali Ahmad led 8th Assembly didn’t pass the law in good faith because they never meant better for the kwarans.

“Notwithstanding, that should not render the contents of the bill useless in as much as it is to benefit Kwarans to be well informed.”

Reacting to the heated social media debates, Rafiu Ajakaye, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, said: “The Governor’s position will be communicated soon. Thank you.”


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