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Legal Practitioners Want FOI Act Compliance

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Some Lagos-based lawyers have called for adequate compliance with the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act (FOI), so as to enhance constitutional provisions of the freedom of expression.
The lawyers told newsmen last Tuesday in Lagos that a strict compliance with the provisions of the FOI Act would promote transparency, and keep both private and public officers constantly in check, adding that sanctions also be spelt out for nonadherence.
The Tide reports that the Freedom of Information Act 2000, provides public access to information held by public authorities.
It does this in two ways namely: public authorities are obliged to publish certain information about their activities; and on the other hand, members of the public are entitled to request information from public authorities.
The Lagos lawyers have, however, bemoaned the non-availability of certain information when sought, and have called for due observance of these provisions as well urged that sanctions be meted out to offenders.
A Constitutional lawyer, Mr Samuel Esoga, told newsmen that before May 2018, there had been a level of compliance with the Act but same had diminished over time.
“Before May 2018, the FOI provisions were complied with to a large extent, however, some institutions hide under some of its provisions to withhold information upon request,” he said.
Esoga said that sections such as 12(1)(a), (v) S 14(1)(b) and 15(1)(a) of the Act, places exceptions on information that can be disclosed, and so, institutions think they are not obliged to disclose information that they consider a breach of personal privacy.
According to him, this has been the ground relied on by some institutions to refuse disclosure of required information, adding that it is important to redress same.
In the same vein, another lawyer, Mrs Adaobi Ezikeoha, said that though the FOI Act spells out clearly its “modus operandi”, the legislature could assist in giving effect to its provisions.
She said that flowing from the FOI Act, the 3rd schedule of the constitution provides that information could only be made available for inspection on terms and conditions as prescribed by the National Assembly.
Ezikeoha, however, said that she was in doubt if such terms and conditions had been prescribed and therefore, called for an enhancement of the process.
On his part, a Rights Campaigner, Mr Spurgeon Ataene, said that the Freedom of Information Act was well thought out but remains largely an ideal paper work.
According to him, some organisations and establishments will rather intimidate information seekers, or engage the services of senior lawyers to defend them instead of giving out information within their domain.
“Therefore, to give bite to the law, there should be periodic reviews of files by a body set up for that purpose with a view to determining if there has been undue refusal to oblige information upon demand.
“The penalty for refusal to disclose such information should range from heavy fines to prosecution of those involved in withholding information,” he said.

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Christmas Holidays: Schools Resume In Rivers, Today

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The Rivers State Ministry of Education has announced the resumption of both  public and private schools in the state for the second term 2019/2020 academic session with effect from today.
A statement from the  State Ministry of Education available to The Tide, said ahead of the resumption of schools, the  State Ministry of Education has reinstated its stand  that unapproved schools in state remain banned and should not open for resumption.
It will be recalled that the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom, had in last year set up a committee for accreditation and approval of private schools; a move designed to improve quality education in the state.
The committee, led by professor  Ozo Mekuri Ndimele, in its report denied accreditation/approval to 437 schools which did not meet set requirements for the operations of private schools.
“Subsequently,  the state government directed that all schools denied approval should discontinue operations forthwith”.
The statement quoted the state  Commissioner for Education, Professor Kaniye Ebeku, while  speaking on the resumption of schools over the weekend said  the directive on the ban of unapproved schools still subsists.
Professor Ebeku, however, advised parents and guardians of pupils and students not to patronize unapproved schools, adding that such schools are illegal and should not resume.
He warned that any of the unapproved schools found operating will be made to face appropriate sanctions in accordance with the relevant state laws..
The Education Commissioner further disclosed that the Rivers State Government has made adequate provisions for the maintenance and functioning of public schools in the state, and cautioned Heads of public primary and secondary schools in the state not to collect any fee from pupils and students.
”Any Principal or Head teacher that violates the directive will face appropriate disciplinary  measures” the statement stated

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School Feeding: FG Pays Food Suppliers In 33 States

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The Federal Government yesterday said it had paid suppliers of foodstuff and cooks in 33 participating states under the National Home Grown School Feeding Programme.
Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Farouq, said the payment, which was for January 2020, would ensure that the feeding of the 9.9 million pupils in the 33 states and the Federal Capital Territory starts immediately schools resume in two weeks time.
She explained that the payment covered the cost of feeding the school pupils in the participating states, adding that the funds were released in December to give the suppliers and cooks adequate time to procure and stock foodstuff.
Farouq said, “We believe that paying these funds early is critical to the success of the programme. We do not want any hitches and we want to ensure that the  school children are fed on time and without any excuses.”
The minister warned that the Federal Government would not accept any drop in the nutritional quality of the meals given to the children.
She said the Federal Government had gladly received reports of improved attendance in the schools and improved hygiene among the pupils.
These outcomes, according to Farouq, were some of the reasons for setting up the school feeding programme.
She noted that under the National Home Grown School Feeding Programme, a total of 9,963,726 pupils were fed in 54,942 schools across the country and were served by 107,862 suppliers and cooks.
The programme is one of the components of the National Social Investment Programme of the federal government.
The NSIP, which was previously under the Presidency, was recently moved to the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development.

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Monarch Cautions Youths Against Violence, Other Social Vices

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The Gom Mama of Mama Chiefdom in Nasarawa, Alhaji Mustapha Zubairu, has advised youths to shun violence and all other negative tendencies in their interest and for societal development.
Zubairu gave the advice yesterday when he received Wamba/Farin-Ruwa Youths Movement residing in Lafia, the state capital.
The traditional ruler said that if youths and other Nigerians could shun violence at all times, it would go a long way in not only promoting peace but would also ensure speedy development of the country.
“I want to thank you for the visit and for forming this group aimed at promoting unity and peaceful co-existence among yourselves and other Nigerians.
“This is because peace is the necessary requirement for the development of any society.
“Peace is priceless and non-negotiable; as no society or nation will achieve meaningful progress and development without peace.

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