Following the resumption of Nigerian lawmakers from their six-week recess, Nigeria’s youth coalition on Constitution Review and electoral reform, the Youth Alliance on Constitution & Electoral Reform (YACORE), a coalition of over 60 youth civil society organizations committed to constitutional and electoral reform, electoral justice and public accountability has forwarded a request made in line with the provision of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011, to the leadership of the Senate and House of Representatives.
The youth coalition requested the National Assembly to publish the following information within its custody:
- The actual budgetary appropriation for the ongoing Constitution review.
- The actual budgetary allocation to the Senate and House Committee on Constitution Review.
- A financial report of expenditures made so far from the budget on Constitution Review and funds received from donor organizations.
- The voting records of constitutional amendments by Distinguished Senators and Honourable Members.
In a letter addressed to the Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Clerk of the National Assembly and signed by the National Coordinator of the coalition, Samson Itodo, YACORE stated that the request was informed by the ardent need to hold elected representatives accountable to the people.
In a democracy, citizens have the right to demand fiscal responsibility and transparency from their representatives. The fact that the Constitution review process is largely funded with tax payer’s money makes it mandatory for the National Assembly to give an account of its expenditure to the citizenry.
The group cautioned against any attempt by the National Assembly to decline the request made in line with the provisions of the law. Speaking on behalf of the coalition, its National Coordinator, Samson Itodo said the National Assembly is a creation of law empowered to legislate and make laws for the governance of the country.
Consequently, it must act within and under the law at all times. Sections 4 of the FOI Act 2011 clearly provides that ‘where information is applied for under the Act, the public institution to which the application is made shall within 7 days after the application is received make the information available to the applicant’.
Any non-disclosure of the requested information is a violation of the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011. As a coalition, we shall be compelled to take lawful and necessary steps to compel the National Assembly to disclose the information if they fail to accede to our demands within seven days as stipulated by the law.
The Deputy National Coordinator of YACORE, Bukhari Mohammed Jega stated that there are speculations suggesting that over N5 billion have been expended on the ongoing constitution review. However, advocacy cannot be based on mere speculations but on verified and confirmed figures, that is why we have approached the National Assembly to honourably publish its budget and expenditures on the Constitution review process.
Speaking from Edo State, South-South Zonal Coordinator, Mr. Purpose Osamwonyi emphasized the need for the National Assembly to build public trust and confidence by acceding to requests made to her to publish her financial earnings, budget and expenditures. He encouraged Nigerians to be concerned about the outcome of the ongoing review process. If the outcome does not reflect our yearnings and aspirations as a people, it means we have wasted and plundered our resources to serve the economic interests of 469 legislators at the expense of the Nigerian people.
The group called on all Nigerians to join the #OurNASS protest to the National Assembly holding next Thursday 26th September 2013 by 10am. The protest organized by different coalitions across Nigeria aims at placing fiscal accountability demands before National Assembly.
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