EFFORTS to apply the 2011 Freedom of Information Act, FOIA and 2003 Child Rights Act, CRA, nationally, indicate that Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and All Peoples Congress, APC, – Nigeria’s major political parties – reject these laws primed on accountability and Nigeria’s future.
Cases across the country prove unwillingness of States to abide by a law they contested during the legislative process, which was why its passage took more than 10 years. CRA was passed 11 years ago.
According to Section 4 (5) of the Constitution, “If any law enacted by the House of Assembly of a State is inconsistent with any law validly made by the National Assembly, the law made by the National Assembly shall prevail, and that other law shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void”.
States do not have CRA and FOIA laws, but they are un-making federal laws with abandon, calling it domestication. Domestication, according to Section 12 (1) of the Constitution, applies to treaties between Nigeria and other countries.
Snippets of FOIA battles:
*Justice S. O. Itodo of Makurdi High Court ruled that the Freedom of Information Act, 2011 is applicable to all the States of the Federation. His decision was on objection Benue State Commissioner of Finance raised that the State (PDP) had not domesticated FOIA. Maj-Gen India Garba (rtd) sued after Benue refused to provide information on federal allocations to Vandekiya Local Government Area Council.
* Last February, Lagos State Attorney-General, Mr. Ade Ipaye, told a Federal High Court that FOIA was a federal law, not binding on the State (APC). The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, sued after Lagos refused to provide information on a $90m World Bank facility the State procured to improve its schools.
* A Federal High Court in Benin City awarded N20,000 against the National Assembly (PDP/APC) for “unnecessary argument and delay of application” in a suit between the National Assembly and Chief Patrick Osagie Eholor, who wanted information on allowances, salaries, emoluments and constituency allowances of two federal legislators from his constituency. It is ironic that the National Assembly is among parties diminishing FOIA it made.
Additionally, Section 22 of the Constitution states, “The press, radio, television and other agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this Chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people.”
States’ moves to stop implementation of FOIA and CRA are illegal and should stop. Nigerians should press for legal resolution of breaches of these laws. Battles against constitutional breaches are more profound engagements than playing PDP or APC, parties that discard our laws.