Posted by News Express | 14 April 2014 | 3,006 times
The Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC) has asked a High Court in Nassarawa State sitting in Lafia to compel the state government to disclose the subventions and allowances paid to members of the state House of Assembly.
The legal step by CSNAC, a coalition of over 150 anti-corruption organisations, was a result of the failure of the Speaker of the House of Assembly to respond to the request made by the Chairman of the coalition, Mr. Olanrewaju Suraju, demanding for the information.
The defendants are the Speaker of the Nassarawa House of Assembly, Nassarawa State House of the Assembly and the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Nassarawa State.
According to CSNAC, a letter was written to the Executive Governor of the state on September 9, 2013 requesting for the official information on payment for new State House of Assembly complex. It said that the Permanent Secretary Government House Administration, Usman I. Abu, on October 29, 2013 replied partially but directed the anti-corruption group to ask House of Assembly for the remaining information.
Mr. Suraju on behalf of CSNAC on November 13, 2013 relied on the reply of the state government wrote the Speaker of the house for the official information on subventions and allowances of the house members. Responding, the Clerk of the House, Ego Maikeffi Abashe, on December 9, 2013 wrote that '”the information cannot be released to the plaintiff owing to the fact that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is investigating the matter regarding the said information.”
Terna Agerzua, counsel to CSNAC, in his written address asked “whether the fact that information requested is under investigation by EFCC is a ground for refusal to supply same under the Freedom of Information Act 2001.” He submitted by citing Sections1(1) and (2) and 12 of the Act that, “from the above, it is clearly shows that investigation by the EFCC cannot be said to be grounds or reasons for refusal of information as it is done by the defendants. The Plaintiff’s application was made on the 13th day of May, 2013, clearly 30 days has since lapse necessitating this application. See section 20 of the Freedom of Information Act.”
Not satisfied with this reply the group headed to court to ask for a declaration that the act of the state House of Assembly by withholding the said information on the ground that the said piece of information being demanded is subject of investigation is not within the exceptions contemplated by the Freedom of Information Act 2011 and for an order compelling the legislators to release the information together with an order for one million naira general damages.
•Photo shows CSNAC Chairman, Olanrewaju Suraju.
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