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If FOI Bill becomes Law in Kwara, no politician will swindle public money–ENetSuD

…alleges House of Assembly's complacency

Comrade Aliyu Mashood Osho, Assistance Secretary of Elites Network for Sustainable Development (ENetSuD),a leading Civil Society Organization in Kwara.

Comrade Aliyu MashoodOsho is the Assistance Secretary of Elites Network for Sustainable Development (ENetSuD),a leading Civil Society Organization in Kwara. In this interview with National Moonlight reporters, AbdulAzeem Zakariyah and Ajeigbe Fatimah, Osho expressed dissatisfaction over abandoned domestication of Freedom of Information (FOI) bill by the Kwara State House of Assembly after some months it has been forwarded by Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq. Excerpts:

How did ENetSuD start and what informed its creation?

The Elite Network for Sustainable Development (ENetSuD) started in 2017, apparently 2 years ago. One of the things that encouraged and motivated us to start ENetSuD was because of the rate of injustice and mismanagement of our resources in Kwara state.

Since we started the organisation, various categories of Kwarans can give remark of what we stand for and our achievements.

Surprisingly, some people are still asking why we are just starting now believing that our operation commenced during this new administration of AlhajiAbdulrahmanAbdulrazaq. People with that assumption did not know that we have been on ground since 2017 before this new government. Since then, we have been monitoring Federal Government (Capital and Constituency) projects in Kwara State.

For instance, in terms of capital and constituency projects, I want to tell you categorically that funds for most projects are being mismanaged. They are not being well executed across Nigeria, not only in Kwara State. That is why we have infrastructural deficit in Kwara and many other states. This is what geared us up to fight against injustice. My Coordinator, Dr. AlagbonsiAbdullateef, is passionate about justice and hates injustice. I have also been personally fighting for justice since 2010 by encouraging, educating, and informing people on how they can fight injustice.

What is your interest for the organization and when did you become one of the group?

I started the newspaper vendor  joint at Ita-Nmo junction in 2010 when I discovered in my area that there was no newspaper joint there. The only places you could get newspaper around that axis were Adeta and Oloje. I used to go to University mini campus gate to read newspaper. So, I had to establish one without receiving money from any of the readers. After reading the papers, we would discuss about issues in the news and share knowledge and advice one another. So, in 2017, I became a regular columnist in national moonlight newspaper up till few months to 2019 election.

I used my page to educate and advice  my fellow kwarans on how to move our state forward. When ENetSuD started in 2017, I said yes, this is what I have been looking for and I am happy to be part of ENetSuD. I'm now a public policy analyst, columnist and activist.

What can you count as a major challenge ENetSuD faced at the inception, as a Civil Society Organization?

Thank you very much. We faced a lot of challenges because most of our people didn't understand what we were doing or they were politically docile and never ready to change. Illiteracy and ignorance are major factors that contributed to these. Some groups of people were even attacking us for fighting for the right of the masses, though some of them were being sponsored by the politicians to prevent the organization from exposing their corruption and hidden agenda.

A project called Ilorin Water Reticulation was started by the administration of BukolaSaraki in 2009. If I could remember, the late Governor Mohammad Lawal started another up Lawal Water project. But when Saraki became Governor, he abandoned the project and didn't take any step about it. He started his own new Project, Ilorin Water Reticulation project, in 2009. Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed continued the uncompleted Water Reticulation project of his predecessor and sometime last year, he completed and commissioned the project, making a total cost of the project to be 6.5 billion naira.

As a CSO in Kwara state, following Kwara money and monitoring how it is being spent, we wrote a letter to Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed through his SSA Media (Dr. MuyideenAkorede), to request for the financial details of the project, the locations of the water reticulation across Ilorin metropolis, among others. Though he later replied reluctantly by providing little information not relevant to our request by asking about ENetSuD and its  concern about Kwara projects wen the FOI bill has not been domesticated in the state and why we were disturbing ourselves.

We were surprised and asking ourselves that how can someone be working for the governor and finding it difficult to release accurate details of their projects for verification and monitoring by an NGO on how Kwara money is being spent?

Immediately we started the campaign on Ilorin Water Reticulation on media, Dr. Muyideen Akorede released the location of the water across Ilorin metropolis. We went round to interview the residents where the projects are located and to our surprise majority of the water projects were not functioning and the people were lamenting that they did not enjoy the water. We only saw mere structures and that was all. So, to tell you how far we have gone in monitoring how Kwara money is being spent and as a CSO, we are not afraid of anybody and that is why we are always at conflict with the government in power.

Even the present government has started rejecting us because of the FOI bill. Without this bill being passed into Law, we cannot monitor how our money is being spent or even follow any Kwara projects. So, every government in power is our major problem.

How are you funding the organization, or is it being sponsored by a body or politicians?

ENetSuD is not for Kwara state alone but across the 36 states of the country. But because of financial constraint, we are only based here in Kwara state for now. As our financial strength improves we shall extend to other states in the future. On the financial challenges, it has been a big burden on us. But we thank God, today nobody is sponsoring us. We are 100% self-sponsored organization. Each and everyone of us always contribute to the organization every month for running of ENetSuD activities.

We do not take money from politicians because it can cause conflict of interest. We do not want to be used against the masses and we do not want to compromise on our values that we are known for. We shall soon start pursing foreign grants because we are Non-Governmental Organization.

On the FOI bill, how do you persuade the Governor and the state legislature as an integrity government?
I will want to urge the state Governor and our legislators to corporate with the organization in its course of monitoring all projects for the benefits of all. For instance, before this government came on board, there was a federal government programme called Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) that gave loan to every state. Kwara received 2 Billion naira, and other state received similar amount from Central bank of Nigeria (CBN). 

We wrote the former Governor Abdulfatah Ahmad through his SSA Media, Dr. MuyideenAkorede, to request for the list of beneficiary of grants and the business they engaged in across the state and their addresses, phone number of every beneficiary, etc. But, again, he wondered why we were disturbing ourselves because there is no backing of FOI in the state and that we should continue dealing with the Federal Ministries and Agencies.

Though, he later released the figures given to various groups like traders, motorcyclists, popularly known as okada, etc.  But going through the response, it didn’t add any value to what was being requested for. Our Coordinator wrote a letter to the Central Bank of Nigeria in Abuja to account for how the money was disbursed in Kwara State. CBN later asked us to go back to our state for more details but we are constrained because FOI is not yet domesticated in Kwara State.
Our major problems are the MDAs because they always try to frustrate all our efforts on any of the activities. They don't want us to excel in exposing their corruption and we are also fully prepared for them because all our lawyers are on ground to meet them in court. The moment we take those MDAs to court, majority of the contractors and ministries will be frustrated and be ready to cooperate with us. They may even want to settle it out of court and agree to do the necessary things on the projects they are handling.
Like now, we are in court with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD). Right now as I’m speaking with you, the FMARD has been running around to cover up their dirty jobs and settle it out of court. This end of November, we would be going to court for our ongoing litigation on all 2017 constituency projects executed by the Ministry.

We wrote Federal Ministry of Environment on Baraka community erosion control project which was a project facilitated by former Senate President, Dr. BukolaSaraki and executed by the Ministry. We started the tracking after the Ministry’s reply and we discovered that the erosion project was not properly executed to standard. We wrote a petition to Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) and immediately they directed the contractor to restart the work at the site.  Presently they are still working there. Similar thing was done on Abata Sunkere drainage project, Peke-Temidire road project, etc. We proudly can say Kwara money is working for Kwarans as far as Federal Government projects are concerned.

In 2018, we were tracking Federal Government projects that worth about 50 billion naira in Kwara State. If we are able to successfully track Federal Government projects in Kwara state, most especially capital and constituency projects, how difficult will it be for us to track KWSG and LGAs projects that are very close to us? But without FOI bill signed into Law, it will be hard for us to track them, write petition against any ministry or agencies, and political office holder that mismanage masses' money.

We are told to stop advocating for the FOI domestication in Kwara state. The present governor sent the bill to the State House of Assembly and requested for amendment of sections 4, 5(1), 6 and 10. Sections 4, 5(1), and 6 provided 7 days for reply if an FOI letter is written to Government. The Governor requested that the 7days should be 14 days. Section 10 says if anyone should destroy or doctor document, or violate the FOI Law, he/she will pay the sum of 100,000 naira as fine or sentenced to 2 years imprisonment.

The Governor also suggested the penalty to be combination of fine and imprisonment, while requesting that the fine should be 500,000 naira instead of 100,000 naira. Unfortunately, the Kwara State House of Assembly is frustrating the Bill as nothing has been done on it after 2 months it was given to them by the Governor.

This is a bill that will promote accountability and transparency in governance because without the bill, ENetSuD or other stakeholders won't be able to track Kwara money and drag anyone that swindles public funds to EFCC or ICPC.

As we all know, the former President, Chief OlusegunObasanjo declined the FOI Bill two times during his tenure as president. Former President Goodluck Jonathan signed it into an Act in 2011, which gives freedom that gives the citizens power to ask the government how public money has been spent and to also know about other government activities.

I want to urge the state House of Assembly to act on the amendment of the sections which the governor has transferred to them since 23rd July, 2019. Since then, many bills, motions, resolutions and executive requests have been worked on by the Assembly. On 20th September, 2019, public hearing on anti-poverty bill was done, telling you that the present State House of assembly intentionally abandoned the FOI bill since they understand what the bill is all about. We urge that this administration's promise to promote transparency and accountability be fulfilled by providing a legal platform for citizens to ask question from government through the Freedom of Information Law.

If FOI Bill becomes Law in Kwara, no politician will swindle public money–ENetSuD Reviewed by nationalmoonlight on October 05, 2019 Rating: 5

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