A Non-Governmental Organisation, the United Action for Change (UAC) has taken the initiative of presenting two bills; Freedom of Information (FOI) and Whistle Blower to the Lagos State House of Assembly.
The two Bills were presented to the Speaker on Monday 15th February by the Legal Adviser to UAC, Barrister Adewale Ademola, who said that the organisation felt that the Bills would help fight corruption in the system.
According to the Secretary of the organisation, Mr. Michael Popoola the two bills already exist as acts of the National Assembly and when the FOI Act was passed into law by the National Assembly, there was much rejoicing, not only by the press, but particularly by everybody.
Popoola said, “the need for transparency and accountability is even greater now than ever as the thrust of government both at the federal and state levels are in tune with the change agenda of the ruling party.
“The effects of these bills, which will eventually trickle down to the local government level on the need to fight corruption to a standstill and eventually eliminating it from our body polity.”
He observed that there were some snags in the FOI Law and that though there is a federal legislation on it, the federal legislation does not apply in the states and that except the laws are domesticated.
The FOI Bill and Whistle Blowers Bill, he said can only apply in those states, where they have been domesticated.
“The bills proposed for Lagos State have taken care of the defects noticed in the federal law. In this respect, it will be noticed that the federal FOI Act has 32 sections inclusive of the interpretation and citation sections.
“The proposed Lagos version has 33 sections inclusive of the interpretation and citation sections. The new sections in the proposed Lagos Bill aresections 20 and 21. The old section 20 of the FOI Act provides for Judicial Review,” he said.
The rights activist stated further the new Lagos section 20 provides for Complainant Commissioner, the new Lagos section 21 provides for Appeal Commissioners.
He stressed that the essence of creating the Office of the Complainant Commissioner, who is some kind of Ombudsman in addition to the Office of Complaint Commissioners under section 21 of the proposed Lagos laws is to resolve disputes relating to rejected request for information.
“With particular reference to the FOI Bill, the proposed Lagos State version has sought to introduce these sections, which will aid the effective functioning of the law by creating the Office of the Complaint Commissioner, some kind of Ombudsman and also the office of complaint tribunal to resolve disputes relating to rejected request for information,” he stated.
In his response, the Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa commended the UAC for the presentation, adding that it was a reminder of what is expected of lawmakers.
Obasa promised that the Assembly would not fail the NGO and that the proposed Bills would be given thorough attention, but that the House had not abandoned the FOI Bill the 7th Assembly worked on.
“The Bills would be given the necessary approvals. We should all be agents of change. We must support the government of the day and do what is right. We should depart from bad ways of doings things.
“Our government has started the process of departing from our old ways of doing things. We will continue to work on that. We as professionals must all be concerned about fighting corruption. We will do whatever wo do with transparency and probity,” he said.