Lagos Speaker, on trial for N500mn fraud, seeks FOI law to curb corruption

The Lagos Speaker is being prosecuted for fraud by the EFCC.

The Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji, on Friday said there was need to allow the public have access to information in order to reduce corruption in the country.

Mr. Ikuforiji made this remark in Lagos at the public hearing to domesticate the Freedom of Information Act held at State House of Assembly.

The speaker, himself, was indicted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and is being prosecuted for corruptly enriching himself and his colleagues with about N500 million of the Assembly’s funds.

An EFCC witness has told a Lagos court how Mr. Ikuforiji diverted millions of naira of state funds into his personal account. The trial has, however, been stalled as the presiding judge, Okechukwu Okeke, accused the EFCC of not being serious about prosecuting the speaker after several ridiculous adjournments by the commission.

The speaker and his colleagues have also in the past rejected FOI demands by civil society groups who sought to know about their financial emoluments as lawmakers.

In what would appear a clear deviation from his actions, Mr. Ikuforiji stressed that the Freedom of Information Act would reduce corruption when passed into law.

“We need to allow public to have access to information if we must minimise corruption in our society,” he said. “The media must know that they have responsibility to report properly and accordingly.”

The Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Lateef Ibirogba, said the State Government “has democratised information to residents.’’

Mr. Ibirogba said that without information, people would live on ignorance. He claimed Lagos state had recorded another first class achievement with the public hearing to domesticate the Act.

The commissioner said that the state government had taken it upon itself to making information accessible to the public.

“To us in Lagos, access is a key factor. As practitioners, the press should be seen to be mature, responsible and committed in the way it does its job.

“Developmental journalism should be our goal,” he said. Despite Mr. Ibirogba’s claims that Lagos runs an information transparent system, the state government has in the recent past refused to disclose basic information to journalists.

The State Internal Revenue Service, LIRS, recently declined information on its revenue and distrain activities after weeks of enquiry by PREMIUM TIMES.

While speaking, the Chairman of the Lagos Assembly Committee on Information, Segun Olulade, said there was urgent need to sensitise journalists and general public on the relevance and challenges of the FOIA.

He suggested effective implementation of FOI to enhance democratic government and accountability. He said that unlike the FOl Act that leaves sanction of any public officer that misuses public information at the discretion of the judge, section 10 of the Lagos State Act stipulates three years imprisonment for such offence.


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