T Ugo Aliogo and Afolabi Lawal
The Advocacy for Societal Rights Advancement and Development Initiative (ASRADI) has filed two separate Freedom of Information (FoI) applications, demanding to know how much President Muhammadu Buhari spent on medical vacation in the United Kingdom recently.
The applications signed by the groupâ€™s Executive Director, Adeolu Oyinlola, also demanded to know how much it cost to station an aircraft at Stansted Airport for 103 days, who defrayed the aircraft parking charges, how many crew members operated the aircraft and how much it cost to accommodate the crew in the United Kingdom for the length of time they were there. The application which was also sent to the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, said: â€œPlease note that the FoI Act 2011 stipulates that a response to this our application must be forwarded to us within seven days of receipt.â€
In the application to Buhari, which was issued to THISDAY wedyesterday by the group stated: â€œKindly furnish us with information on the amount of foreign exchange that has been released so far (cash/cheque/bank transfer or whichever other payment mode) in respect of President Buhariâ€™s medical treatment, and aircraft parking charges at Stansted Airport in the UK.â€
In a related development, ASRADI has forwarded a protest letter through Oyinlola to the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, concerning what the group believes amounts to spitting in the eye of transparency.
In the petition, titled: â€˜Freedom of Information Act: Central Bank of Nigeriaâ€™s Habitual Non-complianceâ€™, the group expressed dismay over what it described as the CBNâ€™s failed attempt to respond to an application it forwarded to it (CBN) since March 29, 2016.
The group complained that its request for information on appointments made by the CBN between July 1, 2014 and March 1, 2016, as well as advertisements relating to those appointments or waivers from the Federal Character Commission in lieu was ignored by the body
According to ASRADI, â€œIn point of fact, we have approached the Federal High Court for an order of Mandamus. However, rather than volunteer the information, CBN curiously decided to adopt the expensive option of retaining Senior Advocates of Nigeria to push the position that our request had become statute-barred. As we all know, our courts have become a graveyard for cases; as mere preliminary objections sometimes take up to 20 years to determine when they go as far as the Supreme Court.â€
ASRADI concluded its protest letter to the AGF with a warning: â€œSir, it would be a tragedy of monumental proportions, if the Buhari administration sits idly by as institutions of the state such as the CBN undermine its (the administrationâ€™s) cornerstone of transparency and accountability by complying with the FOI Act in breach. Please use your good offices to ensure compliance.â€