BudgIT Nigeria, a civic tech organisation, working on fiscal transparency has demanded the Lagos State Government to respond to its numerous letters supported by the Freedom of Information Act, requesting for details of the Ikeja Bus Terminal and details of the contracts awarded by the Lagos State Government from May 2015, to May 2018.
According to Oluseun Onigbinde, CEO BudgIT, “It is imperative that the Lagos State Government which generates the highest revenue in Nigeria at almost N40bn monthly becomes accountable to its tax-paying citizens.”
In a statement from the organization on Monday, BudgIT noted it’s committed to getting information on public funds utilisation and helping government become accountable to those it governs.
“Despite being an entity mainly funded by taxpayers, Lagos State Government shrouds the information on procurement, and capital projects cost in secrecy further eroding good governance traits in the state. The Organisation wishes to state that the lack of transparency breeds corruption and there is no room for opacity in the fight against corruption. Therefore, all Ministries, Departments and Agencies with mandates to change current government status quo to a more reformed one must ensure that its books are open to the public,” the statement read.
Explaining its rationale for the demand, Budgit said: “Following the judgement on the Ondo State Appeal Court by Ridwan Maiwada Abdullahi, Hon. Justice JCA, which compels state governments to respect the Freedom of Information Act 2011, BudgIT sent a freedom of information request for details of the Ikeja Bus Terminal and details of the contracts awarded by the Lagos State Government between May 2015 to May 2018 to Ade Akinsanya, the honourable commissioner of works and infrastructure for Lagos state, on May 3rd, 2018 asking for the details of the cost for the public projects execution of the Ikeja Bus Terminal.
The Court of Appeal, Akure Division on March 27, 2018, ruled that the requests for public information under the Freedom of Information Act, are made in public interest and should be honoured by all states in Nigeria. The bus terminal, which was commissioned by Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria’s president on March 29, 2018, was stated to be a world-class infrastructure that will cater to 4 million Lagosians per day.
BudgIT says although it understands the project is now completed and demands that the cost of the project should be made public, Akinsanya is yet to respond to the request and has thereby flouted the provision of the FOI Act Section (4), which mandates a public institution to respond to a request within seven days. Also, In the advent that the public institution feels the information should be denied, Section 4(b) provides that the public institution gives a written notice, stating reasons for the denial, and the section of the FOI Act under which the denial is made. The Lagos State Ministry of Works and infrastructure has refused to provide neither the information to the request nor a response for refusal there utterly disregarding the FOI Act.”
Following the lack of response from ministry of works and infrastructure, BudgIT said it sent a reminder on the subject to the ministry and distributed copies to the offices of the Executive Governor, Deputy Governor, Attorney General, Commissioner for information and Strategy and the Office of Civic Engagement. “The letter dated May 31st, 2018 reiterated the requests made by the organisation on the cost of executing the Ikeja Bus Terminal.
In addition to the request on details of Ikeja Bus Terminal, on May 31, 2018, BudgIT submitted another FOI request for the details of contracts awarded between May 2015 and May 2018. The FOI request sought for comprehensive information on projects executed and completed with information on the financials for each project within the current period. Copies of the letters were also sent to the offices of the Executive Governor, Attorney General, Commissioner for Information and Strategy and the Office of Civic Engagement.”
With the ruling on FOI application to states, BudgIT urges the Lagos State Government to disregard its former opaque and non-transparent ways around government expenditure and project execution and embrace openness.
By Afolabi Oluwaseun