Lagos – NIGERIA, In a dramatic development, marking a positive change in the advocacy for the respect and promotion of Freedom of Information Act signed into law by President Goodluck Jonathan in 2011, the Governor of Nasarawa State positively responded to request for information under the Act.
In a letter dated 9th September, 2013, the Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC) drew the governor’s attention to reports in volume 41 No.08 of The News Magazine, dated 2nd September, 2013 and Nigerian Newsworld of same day bothering on corruption lush in the activities and allowances of Honourable Members of the State House of Assembly. The two separate reports chronicled the misapplication and management of fund for the exclusive benefit of the State Legislators.
Nasarawa state, according to 2006 population figures, has a population of 2,040,097. The National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS 2003) put the Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR), at 984/100,000. The Infant Mortality Rate (MR) in the State is about 103/1000 live births. The HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in Nasarawa State is 6.3%. The immunisation coverage for the State, as provided by the state Ministry of Health, is only 43% while 57% of children are not immunized. Forty-four Percent of children in Nasarawa State under age 5 are stunted (too short for their age).
Nasarawa’s poverty incidence is relatively high at 39%, meaning, more than one out of every three persons is poor, compared to one in seven for Lagos State. It has an unemployment level of 21.6% similar to the national average of 21.1%, as compiled by the NBS in 2010.The figure is high compared to Ekiti State (14%) which was created in the same year.
In a letter dated 29th October, 2013, the government responded to (CSNAC) demand for information on alleged legislative recklessness and fund misapplication currently pervading the State.
Though, content of the letter and attachments only confirms outcomes of our independent investigations and allegations in the media reports on the cesspit of corruption in the state, It is still a commendable action on the part of the State government in support of our quest for promotion of accountable governance and transparence through the FoI. Our investigations unveiled the corruption perpetrated by the previous assembly, in cohort with the last governor, Aliyu Akwe Doma, and perpetuated by the current assembly. In 2010, the salaries of the 24 legislators in the House was N30 million, with each legislator earning a little over N1 million. This amount was illegally jerked up to N100 million by the lawmakers who blackmailed the former ex-Governor, Duma. Currently, each legislator earns more than N4 million per month.
Nasarawa legislators, during the last regime, have demanded that the contract for the renovation and expansion of the State House of Assembly Complex be awarded to them, leading to upward review of the contract twice, originally awarded in December, 2008 for N1, 764, 695,742.97, reviewed upward in January 2010 by N633,610,926.36 and finally in May 27, 2011 by N471,558,372.86 bringing it to a total of N2.869,865,042.80 billion contract sum.
With the ominous State of abject poverty in the state and lack of basic infrastructure, each Member of Parliament in the state coast home with an annually N10M for foreign trips, N30M for Constituency Projects, and monthly salary of N4m.
CSNAC has approached the governor, under sec 2, 3, and 4 of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, for the following;
- Evidence(s) of progress report and status of payment for the construction of the new Nassarawa State House of Assembly complex to date.
- The total budgetary allocation released to Members of Nassarawa State House of Assembly for Constituency Projects and Monthly allowances in the last 2 years.
- Certificate of completion issued to legislators for projects under the quarterly constituency Project allocations.
- Contracts awarded under the Millennium Development Goal and contractors in the projects.
In a response that confirms and validates information at the Network’s disposal, the government responded after 21 days with documents relevant to demands in (1) and (2) above and advised the network to seek relevant documents and information concerning (3) and (4) from the Assembly Clerk.
CSNAC, on behalf of the Civil Society Community, wishes to commend the Governor of Nasarawa State for leading the pack in respecting the FoI Act. We shall look forward to similar positive response from the Clerk of the House in our further demand for transparency and accountability in governance.