FOI: ‘EITHER NBA GIVES ME INFORMATION OR…’ – OJUKWU
Former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) presidential candidate, Prof. Ernest Ojukwu SAN has faulted the bar leadership for its reaction to his suit aimed to compel the NBA to accede to his Freedom of Information (FOI) Act request.
Ojukwu told CITY LAWYER that the rejoinder is not only “meaningless” but a “half-hearted explanation that does not address a single request of the fifteen I made.”
He chided the NBA President, Mr. Paul Usoro SAN for questioning his motive for the FOI request, insisting that the request “is a right. I am not making it to satisfy him or anybody.”
The former Deputy Director-General of the Nigerian Law School, who is fondly called “Teacher” by his admirers, wondered why the NBA leadership is worried by his request, saying: “If he claims he is transparent why hide those records?”
It is recalled that Ojukwu had commended Usoro when he released some financial statements in line with his self-imposed commitment to transparency. But the Bar Leader may seem to be having a rethink. His words: “If he claims he is transparent why hide those records? Is there any law that said because I didn’t make the request from the actors I cannot make it now.”
The NBA leadership had in response to the suit filed by Ojukwu on his FOI request noted that only two of the 15 listed items relate to the current administration, namely “Report of the NBA 2018 Ad-hoc Transition Committee” and “The contract signed by NBA to engage the services of PricewaterhouseCooper (PWC) for the purpose of auditing and reviewing the NBA account.”
Noting that the Usoro-led administration “has made transparency and accountability the touchstone and indeed the cornerstone of our NBA National leadership,” the NBA leadership said in the statement personally signed by Usoro that “In specific regard to the PwC engagement – one of the two items in Professor Ojukwu’s list that relate to ‘the present leadership’ –that issue was tabled before NEC at its last meeting on 06 December 2018 and Items 11, 12, 13 and 14 of the NEC Communique which has been published to and for all NBA members (and may be downloaded by any member from the NBA website) capture the NEC decisions thereon.”
On the Transition Committee’s report, the NBA said: “The Transition Committee Report remains a work-in-progress and would be published in due time pursuant to and in the terms of Resolution 19 of the Communique of the NEC Meeting of 06 December 2018.”
The leadership however assured that it would “enter the NBA defense to the Suit generally, as necessary and required, in due time and after we have been served with the processes.”
Below is the full text of Ojukwu’s response to CITY LAWYER’s enquiry:
“The so-called NBA reaction to my freedom of information request and suit is a meaningless reaction. I submitted my request on 30th October 2018 and I did not receive a reply or response for 30 days. They had only 7 days under the law to respond but I allowed 30 days. When I now took out an action I only saw half hearted explanation that does not address a single request of the fifteen I made.
“Mr Paul Usoro SAN is questioning my motive for asking for information of records that are under his custody and calls it a probe of past regimes. Whatever he calls it is not material. I did not ask him or the General Secretary to write a good or bad account of past expenditures. I simply asked for the records. If he claims he is transparent why hide those records? Is there any law that said because I didn’t make the request from the actors I cannot make it now.
“FOI Act is a new law and I don’t know if up to 20 lawyers have used it in the country since it was enacted. My request for information is a right. I am not making it to satisfy him or anybody. There is nothing I will ask that will not worry him. If I had limited my request to his leadership he and his sycophants would accuse me. Now that I have not limited it they have accused me of ill motive. The Freedom of Information Act does not require me to prove any motive or interest.
“I don’t care a hoot what motive they ascribe to me, the biggest being because “you were rigged out in the NBA election”. My eyes are steadily on the ball and on the goal in the interest of the legal profession. It is either they give me the information requested voluntarily or they continue to cover up by all means while claiming to be open and transparent including their plan to file frivolous applications to stall the judicial process.
“I have submitted to the courts and I don’t see why an honest leadership should worry.”
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