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FCT Minister Not Committed To Anti-Graft War- HURIWA: *May Drag FCT Minister To Court Over Refusal Of Freedom Of Information Act Request On Jonathan’s Contracts

By Emmanuel Onwubiko
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A pro-transparency Non-governmental organization - HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has accused the Federal Capital Territory minister Alhaji Mohammed Bello of obstructing the enforcement of the Freedom of Information Act in the quest by civil society organizations to join President Muhammadu Buharito wage relentless war against breaches of the National Procurement Act and sanitization of procurement mechanisms and make them zero-tolerance to corruption.

The Rights group has begun talks with likeminded human rights groups and legal practitioners to institute a matter at theFederal High Court soon against the FCT Minister for constituting a stumbling block in the enforcement of the freedom of information Act request which was sent to his office since last November demanding information on series of multibillion contracts awarded to a personal friend of erstwhile President Goodluck Jonathan Mr. Robert Azibaola and the legal import of change of company's name at the middle of the execution of the alleged construction contracts.

The group said the FCT Minister bluntly refused to reply to our request which has passed the mandatory 21 working days. HURIWA said it hasn't accused the friend of erstwhile President and big time contractor with many Federal ministries of any corrupt acts but only wrote to obtain some information following information available to us that the company that was hitherto linked to the same person underwent a sudden change of name. "As pro-transparency campaigners we only wanted to know if there are some suspicious reasons behind this change of company identity and whether there is any trace if fact to support the allegations made by some persons that most multibillion jobs have been abandoned by contractors in the FCT. We will also follow through to get information on other major construction jobs offered to other companies. "

In a statement signed jointly by the National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media affairs Director Miss Zainab Yusuf, HURIWA said the FCT Minister is under legal and moral obligations to assist Mr. President in the current war against procurement misdemeanors and corruption and must provide all information relating to contracts for public works awarded by his predecessors and himself before and after he assumed office given that there is widespread allegations that some of those jobs may have been abandoned and the Nigerian people shortchanged.

HURIWA had on November 30th 2015 sent a strong worded FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST to the FCT ADMINISTRATION titled "FOI REQUEST ON JOBS AWARDED TO KAKATAR CONSTRUCTION AND ENGINEERING LTD KNOWN BEFORE AS MANGROVETECH NIGERIA LIMITED SINCE THE LAST FOUR YEARS BY FCT ADMINISTRATION" .

HURIWA had in that FOI REQUEST TO FCT MINISTER ALHAJI MOHAMMED BELLO stated thus: "We are the foremost Non-Governmental platform that champions nationally the respect for the constitutional tenets of transparency and accountability."

"Aware that your good self is knowledgeable about the pivotal role that information on public procurement if made available in line with extant freedom of information law can do towards promoting good governance, we are therefore approaching you to request all relevant information on the scope of jobs awarded to Kakatar Construction and Engineering Ltd prior to a change of name as was known as Mangrovetech Nigeria Ltd which is reportedly linked to Robert Azibaola who is linked to the erstwhile presidentGoodluck Jonathan."

HURIWA had told the minister that the request was predicated on the provision of the FOI ACT in section (2) subsection (2) and (3) which provides that: "Notwithstanding contained in any other Act, Law or Regulation, the right to any person to access or request information, whether or not contained inany written form, which is in the custody or possession of any public official, agency or institution howsoever described, is hereby established. Any applicant herein need not demonstrate any specific interest in the information being applied for. Any person entitled to the right to information under this Bill, shall have the right to institute proceedings in a court to compel and public institution to comply with the provision of this Act."

"We are making this request following a groundswell of allegations of abandonment of jobs awarded and already mobilized by the last government just as this information when provided will help us achieve our drive to partner with the current federal administration to wage unrelenting war against corruption as a good corporate citizen of Nigeria."

"Kindly avail us this information within the next 21 days as prescribed by law".

HURIWA said that regrettably the FCT Minister is yet to comply compelling the group to begin consultation with partners on strategies for instituting a case as soon as possible this week against the FCT Minister.

HURIWA said it's objectives are : To deploy the members’ creative talents as writers to promote, protect and project the human rights of all Nigerians and other law abiding citizen’s resident within Nigeria; To organize periodic seminars and training workshops locally for human capital development specifically on the tenets and ideals of Human Rights and the rule of Law; To attend International Workshops and Seminars targeted at the promotion and protection of human rights;

To conduct periodic studies on ways, means and strategies for promoting and protecting human rights of law abiding citizens; To highlight human rights challenges confronting the persons in conflict with the law and seek for constructive modalities for redressing such violations; and To recognize excellence and good governance standards in the polity through yearly award ceremonies for exceptionally good, tested and trusted leaders in both the corporate and public sectors. The process of selection would be by transparent mass participation strategies.