In its pursuit of holding public office holders accountable, and promoting transparency in procurement, Edo Civil Society Organization (EDOCSO), Friday, organised a day workshop on using ‘Freedom of Information Act to Facilitate Transparency in Procurement’ for community leaders, women and youths.
The workshop held in Benin was in collaboration with Social Development Integrated Centre also known as Social Action.
Speaking at the workshop, Program Director, Social Action, Botti Isaac, said the workshop was aimed at “equiping community people with ideas, strategies and tools in engaging government and government’s agency in ensuring effective service delivery.
According to him, over the years, it has been observed that community people are not able to ask the right questions such as procurement documents, contract documents of ministries and agency because they (community people) do not have the right information.
He said this lack of the right information warranted his organisation to organise the workshop with a view to enlightening and giving them the right tools to get the necessary information.
“So, our organisation saw the need to bring together these people and intimate them on strategies, approach in using the FOI as a tool to engaging duty bearers, and to ensure that they are more responsible and responsive to the people in ensuring that services are effectively deliver at community levels.
“So, the idea is to equip citizens for further action, and by action, I mean engaging duty bearers for inclusive and effective service delivery,” he added.
Asked if government agency have been complying with the FOIA which has been in existence since 2011, Isaac said: “If I am to rate government agencies and ministries, my rating will be at 50 percent, because a lot of government agency are not complying. Where we have compliance issues most is at the state level because many have argued that it has not been domesticated in their states.
On his part, a former Coordinator-General of EDOCSO, Comrade Omobude Agho, while speaking on the subtitle: ‘Introduction to Freedom of Information Act:A Breakdown of the Act’, challenged community dwellers to hold government accountable.
While re-emphasising his organisation’s commitment in continuously enlightening citizens until they are fully aware of the FOIA and demand for accountability and transparency, Agho said: “to hold government accountable is a responsibility of every citizen, but a lot doesn’t know why they are citizens and to what extent their citizenship is.
“So, we have gather people from different communities to teach them what it means to be citizens and how to use the FOIA to track project and to insist that projects are done up to specifications.”
Speaking on Making Request for Freedom of Information Under the FOI Act, a lawyer who specialises in FOI, President Aigbokhan, while corroborating other speakers’ said citizens are not enlighten enough on the FOIA, and that a citizen can query government without being a lawmaker through the help of the FOIA.
He said: “FOI has made it possible for citizens to be participatory in government. Citizens can use FOIA to track government projects and participate in governance.
“There is law that empowers citizens to query government without going the National Assembly.”
EDOCSO Celebrates World Human Rights Day; 50% Of Nigeria’s Challenges Traced To Illicit Drugs
By Joseph Ebi Kanjo
If the menace of illicit drugs and its use can be addressed in Nigeria, 50% of the nation’s challenges must have been properly addressed and settled.
Dr. Mamud Adamu, Assistant Commandant of Narcotics, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Edo State, made this assertion in Benin, on Sunday, at an event organised by Edo Civil Society Organisations (EDOCSO) to mark the 2023 World Human Rights Day with the theme: Freedom, Equity & Justice for All.
Speaking on the topic: Drug Abuse, a Societal Problem and Possible Solutions, Dr Adamu who was the Keynote Speaker at the event, attributed several challenges such as kidnapping, murder, banditry, armed robbery, etc in this country to use and abuse of drugs, insisting that no man, can with his clear eye, harm his fellow man.
The NDLEA Officer who lamented that many investors are scared of coming to the country due to these challenges of which many can be traced to drugs, further lamented that “drug abuse affects our mental health and also affects the national economic. Any country where its youths are into drugs, that country cannot prosper.”
While urging citizens to inform the NDLEA in case of any suspicious deal in their area, Dr Adamu noted: “Drugs is the root cause of why some investors are scared of investing their money in this country.
“Guide your children, pray for them. Make sure you are sure of the kinds of friends they keep.”
On his part, Dr. Moses Oshiegbu, Health Officer, Psychiatric, while speaking on the topic: Mental Health- Effect of Drug Abuse, called for laws prohibiting public advert of illicit drugs.
“There should be law punishable for parents who send their underage children to buy these substances.
There should be law prohibiting public advert of alcohol and other substances,” he added.
Earlier, the Interim Technical Executive Council (TEC) Chairman, EDOCSO, Comrade Austin Enabulele, said celebration of the Day by the organisation was to let the whole world know that every man born of a woman has a right.
“The celebration is to let the whole world know that all human beings, regardless of their colour, status, have a right. Respect my right, and I respect yours. Respect to human rights is the significance of the day.
“We are calling on government, private and individuals to respect the right of everybody,” he added.
On his part, Comrade Omobude Agho, former Coordinator-General, EDOCSO, and convener, Left Movement of Nigeria, expressed joy for the progresses the civil society organisations had made over the years in its fight for human rights.
The EDOCSO also used the celebration of the Day to award three popular volunteer traffic controllers in Benin City; a Divisional Police Officer and a Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, for their service and contribution to the society.
Alleged ₦81.2bn Tree Planting Scandal: House Committee Exonerates NAGGW
The House of Representatives Adhoc Committee set up to investigate the utilisation of Ecological Fund released to the National Agency for the Great Green Wall (NAGGW), has absolved the Agency’s management of allegations of fraud allegations leveled against it.
The Honorable Ismaila Dabo-led Adhoc committee was set up in July, to investigate allegations of mismanagement of funds released to the agency from the Ecological Fund.
This followed a motion titled: “The Need to Investigate the Utilization of Ecological Funds Released to the Great Green Wall by the International Organizations from 2015 to Date; and All Federal Allocations to the National Agency for the Great Green Wall as well as all Contract Awarded to Various Contractors for the Project from 2019 to Date.” which was sponsored by Honourable Ali Lawan Shettima.
The House panel, in a report obtained by Vanguard, on Sunday, revealed that it reached the conclusion after considering oral evidence and reviewing documents made available to it by those who testified before the 15 member committee.
At the inaugural sitting of the Adhoc Committee, the management team of the agency was invited to shed light on allegations that it spent ₦81.2 billion on the planting of 21 million trees across 11 frontline states.
The States listed were: Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina, Kano, Jigawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Adamawa, Yobe and Borno.
The House Committee equally queried the agency over discrepancies in some of its expenditures.
Director General/CEO of National Agency for the Great Green Wall (NAGGW), Dr. Yusuf Maina Bukar, in his presentation before the Committee in September, denied the allegation while making clarifications on budgetary allocations to the agency.
He informed the committee that he assumed office in April 2022, and that berifiable records show that the sum of ₦53,425,423,874.34 was the amount released to the Agency from inception to July 2023, as against the sum of N81.2 bn which the Agency was alleged to have spent.
Bukar insisted the Agency has not acted outside its mandate in the implementation of its mandate.
According to him, not all of the ₦53,425,423,874.34 received were directly spent for tree planting activities as some uninformed persons would want Nigerians to believe.
He said, “The NAGGW cost of planting, from inception in 2015 to July 2023 is ₦5,145,735,470.15
“That the approximate sum of ₦7.2 billion balance in the Agency’s account are liabilities already committed to ongoing contracts that have already been awarded.
“All unutilized funds from capital appropriation are refunded to Federal Government TSA account at the end of the financial year where applicable.”
The Honourable Dabo fifteen-man Committee in its report also faulted the claim that the agency received the sum of ₦81.2 bn noting that, “Evidence from the Hearing indicates that the NAGGW received a total sum of ₦53,425,423,874.34 (Fifty-three Billion, Four Hundred and Twenty-five Million, Four Hundred and Twenty-three Thousand, Eight Hundred- and Seventy-four-naira, Thirty-four Kobo) only from inception in 2015 to July, 2023.”
In the course of its investigations, the Committee also discovered that the Agency didn’t receive budgetary allocation for 2015; and that ecological funding was not released to the agency until 2019.
The House panel also discovered that, “the percentage of ecological funding going to the Agency was reduced from 15% provided for by the Act to just 5% with effect from January 2020 to date.”
The report acknowledged the paucity and untimely release of funds, inability to access foreign assistance and absence of a Governing Board as some of the factors hindering the performance of the agency.
The lawmakers equally expressed displeasure over the unilateral reduction in the statutory allocation to the agency by fiat, and urged government, as a matter of urgency revert the Ecological Fund releases to the agency back to 15 percent as provided for by the NAGGW Act.
The report further read in part, “That the total sum of ₦20,168,363,662.18 (Twenty Billion, One Hundred and Sixty- Eight Million, Three Hundred and Sixty-Three Thousand, Six Hundred- And Sixty-Two-Naira, Eighteen Kobo) only being the shortfall of the reduction from Ecological Fund for January, 2020 to date, be immediately released to the Agency to fund its activities;”
Other recommendations contained in the report read : “Similarly, the Ecological fund office should calculate remit to the NAGGW the total sums due to the agency from the Ecological Fund from 2015 to 2018;
“Urge the National Agency for the Great Green Wall to as a matter of urgency include the frontline states of Adamawa, Bauchi and Gombe States in the fourth phase of the a forestation projects which is to commence soon.
“There is urgent need for the agency to undertake recruitment of staff, especially for its offices at the front line states;
“Need for a greater collaboration and synergy between the NAGGW and the Federal Ministry of Environment;”
“Urge the Federal Government to constitute a Governing Board for the National Agency for the Great Green Wall;
“Need for extensive enlightenment of the general public on the sustainable use of the forest for preservation.”
Aside from submissions by the Federal Ministry of Environment, the Central Bank of Nigeria, Office of the Accountant General of the Federation and the Ecological Project Office, the Committee also undertook on-the-spot assessment visit to projects sites in some of the frontline states, namely; Kano, Jigawa and Sokoto State.
UNILORIN Extends POST-UTME Registration
The University of Ilorin, Unilorin, has approved an extension of POST-UTME registration by one week to cater for days of technical hitches.
This is contained in a statement issued in Ilorin on Sunday by Mr Mansur Alfanla, the Registrar of the university.
He announced that the new deadline for registration is Dec. 17, 2023.
It would be recalled that the deadline of the POST-UTME registration was December 10, before the extension.
The registrar therefore advised intending candidates to register within the extended period as there would not be further extension.
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