“Personal information” reason we can’t disclose our budget – National Assembly

National-Assembly

Two civil society organisations, BudgIT and Public and Private Development Centre, have threatened to​ sue the National Assembly for refusing to disclose the details of its budget in compliance with the Freedom of Information Act.

The National  Assembly has had a budget of N150 billion per year since 2011.
 
The budget of the National Assembly comes on first line charge as statutory transfer from the Federal Government’s Appropriation Act (annual budget) and  therefore cannot be tampered by the Executive arm.
 
The Nigerian legislative arm excused its refusal to disclose its budget on the basis that it contains personal, third party related and privileged information, the BudgIT and PPDC said in statement on Tuesday.
 
The organisations said they had collaboratively made an FOI request, dated March 17, 2015, to the clerk of the National Assembly requesting the detailed breakdown of NASS budget of N150bn for 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014; a​s​ well as the performance report for National Assembly budget of N150bn for 2011, 2012 and 2013.
 
“This request was made following the long-standing secrecy around the budget of the National Assembly, the organisations said. “From 1999 to date, an estimated budgetary provision of N1.26 trillion has been made to the National Assembly, with Nigerians kept in the dark on what or how this huge sum was spent.
 
“On the 27th of April, a response letter, dated 23rd of March, 2015 was received from the Legal Services Department of the NASS, refusing this request, on the basis that:
 
“Some of the information in the National Assembly Budget for 2011-2014 is “personal, third party related and privileged and are all exempted under Sections 14 and 15 of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011 and that the other information you requested for are published and available in public libraries and cannot be applied for by virtue of Section 26 of the Freedom of Information act, 2011”

Section 14 of the Freedom of Information Act 2011 exempts personal information  including “files and personal information maintained with respect to clients, students, patients, residents, students or individuals receiving social, medical, educational, vocational, financial, supervisory or custodial care or services directly or indirectly from public institutions, personnel files and personal information maintained with respect to employees, appointees or elected officials of any public institution or applicant for such positions, files and personal information maintained with respect to any applicant, registrant or licensee by any government or public institution cooperating with or engaged in professional or occupational registration, licensure or discipline; information required of any taxpayer in connection with the assessment or collection of any tax unless disclosure is otherwise requested by the statute; and information revealing the identity of persons who file complaints with or provide information to administrative, investigative, law enforcement or penal agencies on the commission of any crime.​”​

The civil society organisations said ​it is difficult to imagine that a publicly funded budget falls within the category of information that the Freedom of Information Act exempts under Section 14 or would fall under Section 15 which provides exempts information that contains,

“…Trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person or business where such trade secret or information are proprietary, privileged or confidential…, information the disclosure of which could reasonably be expected to interfere with contractural or other negotiations of a third party and proposals or bids…”
 
While dismissing the NASS claim that its budget falls under the categorisations in Section 14 or 15 of the FOI Act, the organisations noted that even the Act in Section 14(3) requires disclosure of personal information as described in Section 14(1) quoted above if such disclosure would be in the public interest and if the disclosure clearly outweighs the protection of privacy. Likewise, Section 15(4) also requires disclosure of information in Section 15(1) if the public interest in the disclosure clearly outweighs in importance any financial loss or gain to, or prejudice to the competitive position of or interference with contractual or other negotiation of a third party.
 
BudgIT and PPDC said the response by the National Assembly was outrageous as there were no grounds, even in Section 14 and 15, to deny the information they requested; rather, all elements of public budgets fall squarely under information that are statutorily required to be proactively available as provided by Section 2(3) of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011.

The organisations added  that if the budget contained sensitive information such as personal addresses, these sections could be redacted before the release.
 
They stressed that the time when public’s requests for information will be treated with disdain is over.

“This is a challenge we relish and will see to its logical conclusion,” they said. “On behalf of every Nigerian, see you in court.”


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  • tundemash

    Stup1d! Stup1d!! Stup1d!!!
    What is personal about emoulments of public officials ?
    Anyway it has always been a paddy paddy and “I chop you chop” government we have had since 1999. CHANGE has come and we can’t wait for May 29th to come early enough !

    • Julius

      Everything will be in the open from now on. Thanks to Buhari. Change has come !!

      • Psi Ciroma

        TRANSPARENCY…..

        SAI BUHARI!!

    • New Nigerian

      ..and these are the same people who would quote Obama at every turn – The budget and spending of all public institutions in the US, as well as, the tax returns of all public officers are matters of public information

  • emeka M

    these people of the NASS are cunning and sneaky,. they are hiding something..

  • chike

    It’s situations like this that caused us to vote for Buhari. If he cannot force all arms of government to make public their budgets and expenditure, then there is no fight against corruption.

    • TAWANDA INCOMMUNICADO

      Does Buhari as President have the constitutional powers to “force” anything ? The constitution which the north has refused the corporate and change for selfish reasons is directly responsible for corruption and dysfunction in all arms of government.

      Nigeria must change to a constitution which is directly customised to PREVENT AND PUNISH CORRUPTION,a constitution which strikes the right balance of power between the legislature executive and judiciary. The present constitution confers sacred cow status to the legislature and executive,the judiciary and the masses MUST be more relevant if Nigeria is to succeed

      • Concerned Northerner

        Why so emphasising on the north north, do you mean during the military it was only the northern soldiers that did all the wrongs? And for your sentimental judgement how many is the south ruling during the democratic dispensation why didn’t they change what went wrong. You are nothing but a self centered and tribalistic southerner. You had a good piece but have a bad judgement.

        • TAWANDA INCOMMUNICADO

          The truth bites,those northern Generals who doctored the constitution are still alive as we speak.Stop the denial and face the truth so that Nigeria can move forward !!

      • Michael

        Agree. The Nigerian constitution should now be entering the amendment phase. In the U.S. they saw the risk of writing a brand new constitution every few years, so they used major amendments. The first ten amendments are the ones they call the Bill of Rights and, up till this day, those carry much weight than the rest of the constitution. We need such major and meaningful amendment. Not a hundred ammendments, but a few that are generic and significant, such that every school and university student will be required to memorize them in the elective courses. Eventually the average educated Nigerian will become so well informed of those rights that people in leadership position will find it impossible to circumvent them.
        Moreover, let’s all put aside all the north, north-north, south, south-south, east, west, hausa, yoruba, ndi Igbo stuff, and focus on nation building. Our corrupt leaders enjoy a field day with their loot when the commoners are fighting.

    • New Nigerian

      We the people should stay engaged and throw the books against the legislooters – Buhari can’t do it alone, it is not a military regime. We have to keep up the good fight, the same tempo by all that changed the leadership for the better need to be sustained for the next 4 years…

  • Uncle Gaga (Bruce Wayne)

    Nigerians are your employers…..but instead of tackling the issues you were elected to handle, you people (and I use the term people loosely) engage in a free-for-all corruption induced thievery scheme that is still ongoing!
    This leads to my next bone of contention!

    1. APC should shut up!
    Nigerians voted for Buhari (not APC).
    One can hardly ignore the length some folks will go in entangling the presidential office with APC.!

    Let me remind APC that it is merely a political party that the president- elect. Gen Buhari used to run for office.
    There is no such thing as an APC Government in Nigeria.

    It is unconstitutional and APC spokespersons should understand that speeches as seen above have a legal dimension that is yet to be explored with regards to the penalty of “FREE SPEECH” as defined by AIT!

    • Abdulrauf

      My bother can u read the story again,the story is not about political party per see,from my understanding of the story, is about present National Assembly and not about incoming members remunerations and refusal to yield to request to make it public. The story does not concerns Muhammed Buhari nor exactly about APC as a political party because PDP have majority members in present National Assembly. Kindly always read carefully before venting accumulated frustrations on a wrong person, wishing u good luck.

      • Uncle Gaga (Bruce Wayne)

        i understand. Thanks for the ‘heads up!

        I will amend as necessary

  • Godfrey Etokebe

    I thought that it was GEJ that was corrupt and not the APC legislators? HYPOCRITES!!!

    • Alamu

      GEJ and the PDP are not corrupt.

    • NNAMDI EZENWAFOR UNIJE

      THERE’S NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DOG AND MONKEY.BOTH ARE SAME ANIMAL.THE ZOO CALLED NIGERIA IS ALREADY IN THE DUSTBIN OF HISTORY.”DEAD”

    • New Nigerian

      PDP have been running the show for 16 years…by that I mean Plutocratic Desperado Party, at all levels…we the people should stay engaged and clean up this mess and straighten things out

  • Uncle Gaga (Bruce Wayne)

    Personal information is why you can’t disclose your budget??
    Have you heard of something in Nigeria called the National Gazette?

  • Say the truth

    Buhari already has a big job cut out for him. How he deals with the menace of legislooters is one big headache. They demand bribe for every legislative function so Buhari must be ready to dance skelewu or bounce. How an incorruptible Buhari will combine the work of corrupt legislators and judiciary remain to be seen.

    • New Nigerian

      That is why we asp for an activists senate. Starting with the senate president – It must not be an ex-governor, but a change agent who has no conflict of interest vis-a-vis status quo, which is definitely not acceptable or sustainable

  • TAWANDA INCOMMUNICADO

    The constitution of Nigeria was basically designed to enhance corruption and protect those who unleash it on the nation. This constitution was doctored by the northern soldiers whose main objective was to main a strangle hold on power for the north and subjugate the south but the legislature have clearly taken advantage of that unfortunate circumstance to selfishly keep milking the country .

    The legislature sets their own salaries and allowances but will also deny it,they hide their pay packets from the country but will deny it,they will hide budgets from citizens through untenable reasons like “personal information”,they will not declare their assets publicly,they take unnecessary foreign trips,they take medical trips paid for by government etc.

    When ever this constitution is changed Nigeria will be free ,as for now we are all held hostage by a bunch of thieves who mask around as law makers. No President can achieve any fit with the type of corrupt judiciary we have and guess what? the same legislators who chant “change” today where the same legislators of yesterday’s PDP who switched over to continue their looting and plundering with a different name the APC !!

    • Lemmuel Odjay

      I thought we were going to go to sleep and relapse after the voting exercises, as our parents did before us. Now I know it’s to the trenches, oh Nigerians! We must now focus equal attention on the Nigerian National Assembly (Legislature) as we did the executive arm of government, to purge that sector and humanize it. When done with the NASS, we’d then move on to the Judiciary, where they are adept at slipping bandits in the shape of camels through the eye of the judicial needle. It is a daunting job, but it is worth carrying out if we must live to see the smiling faces of our children, instead of their sallow faces streaming with tears from anguish.

  • NNAMDI EZENWAFOR UNIJE

    SO THE PERSONAL INFORMATION OF THESE MONKEYS AND BABOONS CALLED LAWMAKERS IS GREATER THAN THE GENERAL INTEREST OF THE MASSES.YOU SEE WHY I CALL NIGERIA,ZOO.THEY LACK COMMON SENSE AND THE ABILITY TO REASON.

  • burning spear

    Buhari Lied That Abacha Is Not Corrupt. – Ezekwesili Tells Aljazeera.

    **Gen Sani Abacha is not corrupt. – Muhammadu Buhari.
    **Obasanjo HER MAIN MAN–Wasn’t as Corrupt as Sani Abacha -Ezekwesili.

    Obiageli Ezekwesili, Nigeria’s former Nigerian Minister of Education, and former World Bank vice president for Africa has told Aljazeera that the Olusegun Obasanjo adminsitration in which she served wasn’t as corrupt as the Sani Abacha regime.

    Ezekwesili who is also the co-founder of the ‪#‎BringBackOurGirls‬campaign in Al Jazeera English contradicts the Nigerian President elect, Muhammadu Buhari, who said that the late Military Head of State, Gen Sani Abachi was not corrupt

    Questioned by Head to Head host, Mehdi Hasan about endemic corruption in Nigeria, Oby said her country has a “political class problem,” but refused to condemn her former boss and mentor President Olusegun Obasanjo, who ruled between 1999 and 2007.

    Under pressure by Hasan, she conceded Obasanjo was “aware of the elements of corruption, and it was his responsibility to tackle” them, but categorically denied he was corrupt himself. “Of course it [the government] was [corrupt]! [But] There was no way it could have been more corrupt than the government of Abacha,” she said, referring to the military dictatorship of Sani Abacha that preceded Obasanjo’s rule. Oby lamented that the government she was part of was not able to “succeed fully” in tackling corruption, and defended her own track record, saying she had not been “window dressing” for a corrupt regime and insisting – despite holding two ministerial positions in the Nigerian government, being an advisor to presidents and holding high office at the World Bank – that she was not a politician.

    Ezekwesili also told Aljazeera that Nigerian armed forces have committed human rights abuses in their fight against the violent group Boko Haram in the north of the country. “It clearly does have instances where human rights violations have happened,” she says.

    Ezekwesili’s full interview will be aired in a new episode of Head to Head, come 1 May 2015 at 20.00 GMT on Al Jazeera English. – Hope For Nigeria.

  • burning spear

    SEE THE APES IN APC-HARD CORE-THIEVES

  • New Nigerian

    NASS approves the budget for the federation, including the presidency. The key question is who approves NASS budgets? and on what basis is NASS budget put together? Do they just have an open blank cheque to write whatever they like into it and spend it as they like? Is anyone in any more doubt that PDP have turned our democracy into one that robs the masses from their ocean of poverty to feed the rich in theoir island of prosperity? It has become systemic and endemic at every level, we are just seeing the NASS one and we the people would need to fight the good fight to fix the NASS, just like the on ethat we have just done for the executive arm and then we would need to keep up the struggle for the Judiciary as well. It is not yet Uhuru.

    This is why we have to have an activist Senate President and House of Rep leadership, for the next dispensation:

    We need an activist legislative arm of government to unwind the plutocracy and impunity that have become endemic, starting with their own.

    This is why it is especially critical that the national assembly elect credible and capable reps to lead them – The leadership of both chambers SHOULD not be seen as trophies to be collected to massage bloated egos of some of it’s members…It is for this reason that I strongly suggest the best legislator of the senate who is not an ex-governor, as the Senate President for example. And I tell you why – well the ex-governors would be compromised to go far enough to bring to life the changes we voted for. A case in point, the ex-governors are collecting retirement funds from their states. One of them is known to collect N100m every month (aside from the fact his housing, servants, security and logistics is paid by his state), well as a senator he is earns the highest remuneration for a senator, bar none on planet earth (estimated about $1m)…If he is made a senate president would he help bring about legislation that would stop the pension from his state into his pocket (monies that is paid ultimately from the federation account)?….so he already has conflict of interest – which we can afford if we want to see the change we the people dearly need.

    Another case is the one reflected by this opaqueness and secrecy of the people’s business – if we the masses are paying our elected reps, what are we paying for? To have the temerity to even push back and give excuses to why we should not have the information on what we are paying for smacks of a fundamental misunderstanding by these so-called NASS folks that they are public servants/ Or are they? Let it be known that we the people would no longer put up with this.

  • sammyctu ode

    As long as NASS is spending public money, they must disclose all informations pertaining to all the money they spend. Personal information my foot, the people elected them, they are there on behalf of the people, they are SERVANTS TO THE PEOPLE AND THE PEOPLE MUST KNOW HOW THEY SPEND THE PEOPLE’S MONEY. THEY CAN’T BEHAVE LIKE CULT MEMBERS.N150 BILLION IS A LOT OF MONEY AND WE MUST KNOW PERIOD.

  • Maitama Tambari.

    “‘ is “personal, third party related and privileged and are all exempted under Sections 14 and 15 of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011 and that the other information you requested for are published and available in public libraries and cannot be applied for by virtue of Section 26 of the Freedom of Information act, 2011”’ Really? Why are personal information, third party related privilege doing in public finance? Let the Court determines what is third party privilege and what is public finance. If salary and perquisites are paid to a Member and entered into his Bank Account, that is his privilege which cannot be taken away from him. But as long as the budget and perquisites figures are with the Government Officials, it is still public information before posted into their accounts. It is our privilege to know as tax payers. As part of CHANGE we believe if the informations are not given now, come June 2015, Nigerians will have the figures. The should be openness in Governance.