March 2, 2011

FoI Bill: Presidency disowns Abba Aji

By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor & Kenneth Ehigiator
The presidency, yesterday, disowned Senator Mohammed Abba-Aji, a presidential aide, following  the denunciation of the Freedom of Information, FOI, Bill passed by the House of Representatives last week.

Presidential spokesman, Mr Ima Niboro, speaking to newsmen in Lagos, yesterday, said Abba-Aji did not convey the President’s opinion as he was not in a position to speak for him.

“Abba-Aji spoke as an individual; he was not speaking for the Federal Government. I speak for the president and the Information Minister speaks for the government.

“And in the matter of laws, the Attorney-General who is the Chief Law Officer speaks for the government. If the speech does not come from any of the three of us, then he is purely speaking for himself,” Niboro said.

Meanwhile, Abba Aji, yesterday came under fire with a cross section of civil society and lawmakers calling for his sack.

Particularly incensed were former journalists in the National Assembly with erstwhile President of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, Senator Smart Adeyemi, describing the presidential aide as a bad adviser and an embarrassment to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.

Rep. Abike Dabiri, a lead sponsor of the bill that was passed last week in the House of Representatives, called for the prompt dismissal of Abba-Aji from his position as Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly as a calculated message to Nigerians that he was not speaking the President’s mind. She blamed Abba-Aji for being the major canvasser against the FoI Bill during his tenure in the immediate past Senate.

Others who responded included erstwhile Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Mr. Emmanuel Arigbe-Osula, who described the presidential aide’s comments as despicable and Dame Carol Ajie, a leading civil rights activist.

He is a bad adviser- Adeyemi

Responding yesterday, Senator Adeyemi said: “It is reckless, unguarded and capable of tarnishing the good image of our party and I advise Mr. President not to listen to him and I hope the NUJ and other progressives will take him up on it.

Even though he is a member of our party, I feel ashamed and embarrassed by him. He is a bad adviser, Mr. President should not listen to him,” Adeyemi told Vanguard yesterday.

Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Eruwa, another former journalist, serving in the House of Representatives was equally furious as she called for the immediate sack of the presidential aide to underline the President’s distance from the comments.

Noting Abba-Aji’s long standing opposition to the FoI Bill and his role in killing the Bill while he served in the Senate, she said the presidential aide had now fully revealed himself to be a notable enemy of Nigerians.

It is despicable- Arigbe-Osula

Mr. Emmanuel Arigbe-Osula, on his part, described the reported moves by presidential aide as despicable, saying that such intentions were the lot of corrupt men who are against the transparency that the envisaged FoI law would shine on governance.

Arigbe-Osula, now a chieftain of the PDP in Edo State while commending the House of Representatives for muscling courage to pass the legislation also charged the Senate to quickly give its concurrence to the bill.

Flaying the presidential aide yesterday, Arigbe-Osula said: “It is despicable and insulting to Nigerians for any descent politician to want to frustrate the Freedom of Information Bill. Only those who are corrupt who want to perpetuate the fraud that characterized all these 12 years of democracy would want the FOI bill dead,” Arigbe-Osula said.

Civil rights activist, Dame Ajie, on her part said the counsel of the presidential aide was irrelevant, saying he failed to give any provision of the laws that would constrain the President from signing the bill.