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MRA Inducts Onu’s Science and Tech Ministry into‘FOI Hall of Shame’

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The Federal Ministry of Science and Technology under the leadership of Dr. Christopher Ogbonnaya Onu has been inducted into the ‘FOI Hall of Shame’ by Media Rights Agenda (MRA) for alleged blatant disregard of the Act Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, 2011 in the past seven years, reports ITRealms.

 

Ms Morisola Alaba, MRA’s Legal Officer, said that “In the last seven years since the enactment of the FOI Act, the ministry has not submitted a single annual report on its implementation of the Law, thus violating section 29 of the Act and the Guidelines for the Implementation of the FOI Act, issued by the Attorney-General of the Federation pursuant to his powers under the Act.”

 

She noted that the ministry whose vision is to make Nigeria one of the acknowledged leaders of the scientifically and technologically developed nations of the world deliberately disregards the FOI Act which is aimed at enabling citizens to be aware of the operations, businesses and activities of Government, including all public institutions, in order to make informed decisions in all aspects of their lives.

 

Although the ministry has published on its website a description of the organisation and its responsibilities, including details of the programmes and functions of each of its departments, it nonetheless failed to publish a list of description of documents containing final opinion including concurring and dissenting opinions.

 

Ms Alaba added that “there is also no indication whatsoever that the ministry has provided the appropriate training for its officials on the public’s right of access to information or records held by the ministry or trained them to effectively implement the Act, as it is required to do by section 13 of the FOI Act.”

 

She further said that the ministry, whose mandate includes acquisition and application of science, technology and innovation contribution to increase agricultural and livestock production; creation of technology infrastructure and knowledge base to facilitate its wide application for development; and application of natural medicine resources and technologies for health sector development, among others has failed to acknowledge the FOI Act in order to make information relevant to its mandate readily available.

 

According to Ms Alaba, the ministry failed to proactively disclose list of files containing applications for any contract, permit, grant, licenses or agreement, reports, documents, studies, or publications prepared by independent contractors for institution; and materials containing information relating to any grant or contract made by or between the institution and another public institution or private organisation, as required by section 2 (3) (e) of the FOI Act.

 

She stated that although the ministry has names and profiles of its management staff on its website, it failed to disclose the names, salaries, titles and dates of employment of all employees of the institution, as required by section 2 (3) (d) (vi) of the Act.

 

Ms Alaba said the ministry also failed to disclose information on documents containing final planning policies, recommendations, and decisions as well as information relating to the receipt or expenditure of public or other funds of the institution in violation of section 2 (3) (iii) and  (v) of the FOI Act.

 

She added: “Although we cannot determine at this point the scale of non-responsiveness by the Ministry to requests for information from members of the public owing to its failure to submit annual reports for 2011 to 2017, which would have provided that vital information, we know for a fact that it has failed to respond to FOI requests from civil society organizations such as the Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC) and Paradigm Initiative.  Instead of providing the information in accordance with the Law, it has opted to waste public funds defending the refusal to disclose the requested information in court.”

 

Ms Alaba  said there was no indication on the ministry’s website or anywhere else that it has designated an appropriate officer to whom applications for information should be sent, and accused the ministry of also violating Section 2(3)(f) of the Act, adding that even the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, the oversight body for the implementation of the FOI Act, which maintains a database of such FOI Desk Officers of public institutions, has no record of compliance by the ministry.

 

Launched by MRA in July 2017, the “FOI Hall of Shame” highlights public officials and institutions that are undermining the effectiveness of the FOI Act through their actions, inactions, utterances, and decisions.

 


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TI-Nigeria Boss Alleges Nigerian Banks Offer Opportunities for Terrorism Tinancing

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Awual Rafsanjani, executive director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and head,  Transparency International in Nigeria (TI-Nigeria), has accused banks of offering opportunities for terrorism financing in the country.

TI-Nigeria Boss Alleges Nigerian Banks Offer Opportunities for Terrorism Tinancing

Rafsanjani, stated this at the multi-stakeholder meeting on terrorism financing and violent extremism in the North-East, organised by CISLAC and TI-Nigeria, financed by GIABA-ECOWAS.

According to Rafsanjani, “The financial sector has been exploited for terrorism financing. The use of the financial sector indicates the increasing capabilities of some terrorist groups. These include the Bureau de Change operators, Point of Sale (POS) devices, wire transfers, and Designated Non-Financial Businesses and Professions, among other enabling platforms expanding the scope and depth of terrorism financing.

“It is worrisome that illegal money exchangers including Bureau De Change have been featured in several Terrorism Financing investigations. The 2022 National Inherent Risk Assessment of Terrorism Financing report reveals that between 2019 and 2022, about 19 companies were linked to illegal money exchangers who have used their companies to commingle funds considered to be linked to Terrorism Financing.”

In his goodwill message, Ola Olukoyede, chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)  said that the commission is settling for the use of technology to combat illicit flow of monies into the hands of terrorists.

Olukoyede expressed worry over the dimension terrorism financing has taken, disclosing that the EFCC has discovered platforms other than Binance, which are being used for terrorism financing, saying over a thousand of such accounts were closed.

He said: “The challenge before us is to seek solutions to end this decade-long nightmare and restore order to the troubled region. The quest for a solution is not entirely new. Several conferences and workshops have been convoked, yet the situation remains dire.

“For us in the EFCC, like most Nigerians, the concern is on how this crisis continues to defy solutions and fester? How is it that the terrorist groups in the region are able to sustain their operations, acquire more sophisticated weaponry and engage in daring combat with the Nigerian military?

“It would seem that an economy of criminality has developed around terrorism and violent extremism in the region, where actors who are profiting from the chaos do not cherish the return of civil order. How for instance do we explain the activities of supposed non-profit organisations who profess to want to provide succor to the distressed but end up exploiting their misery for financial gains?

“How do we explain the action of unscrupulous actors who hide under the cover of humanitarian activities to fund terrorist groups? These are issues that we must continue to interrogate.

“The EFCC has had cause to prosecute so-called promoters of non-profit organisation who exploited the desperate conditions in the North-East to profiteer. I am sure many of you are aware of a lady that is called Mama Boko Haram, who at the peak of the insurgency positioned herself as a credible intermediary for the insurgents, but is now in jail for exploiting the distressed citizens of the North-East for personal gain.

“Part of the focus of the EFCC in the quest to tackle terrorism and violent extremism in that region is to follow the funds trail of critical actors in the region and cutting off the supply line of illicit funds to known criminal groups. This responsibility has seen the Commission pay more attention to the movement of funds by NPOs in the region, who are now required to make a declaration to the EFCC.

“Some of our discoveries recently into investigating some of these platforms was mind bugging, and we thought Binance was a major one, yes a major one and we are prosecuting them but much more, other platforms we have discovered, of course you are aware that EFCC has to freeze over a thousand account, and it will shock you what some of those accounts are used for, and some of them are used to fund terrorism activities.

“You can imagine the dimension the whole problem is taking and so, it is important for us to adopt the use of technology, and that is what we are going to do to see how we can adopt technology to be able to track every Naira,” he said.

Also, in a goodwill speech, Dr Musa Aliyu, SAN, chairman, Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission, (ICPC), said, “ICPC is fully committed to contributing its expertise and resources to this fight. We are prepared to intensify our efforts in financial oversight, enhance our investigative and prosecutorial capacities, and work closely with all stakeholders to disrupt the financial networks that fuel terrorism.”

 

 


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Afreximbank Deepens Ties On $350m Project Support Facility

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African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) has concluded arrangements for a facility of $250 million with the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC) and $100 million with the Islamic Corporation for Development of the Private Sector (ICD) in support of trade and projects in Africa.

The arrangement took place on the sidelines of the recently concluded 2024 Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) Group Annual Meetings and Golden Jubilee Celebrations.

The lines of financing expected from ICD would strengthen the bank’s capacity and reinforce its intervention in the private sector, particularly for enterprises with substantial development impact in ICD and Afreximbank’s member states.

The facility from ITFC, on the other hand, will provide compliant syndicated trade financing line, thereby complementing the bank’s trade finance offerings to its clients.

As partners of the Arab Africa Trade Bridges (AATB) Programme, Afreximbank, ITFC and ICD are committed to promoting south-to-south trade among African and Arab countries for a common goal of advancing socio-economic prosperity and building sustainable trade and development across the regions.

The collective support from ITFC and ICD will also allow the bank to deliver on its continental mandate of fostering industrialisation, developing exports and full implementation of the African Continent Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

Speaking during the signing ceremony, Prof. Oramah, President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Afreximbank, said: “I take this opportunity to thank Eng. Hani Salem Sonbol and the entire team at ITFC and ICD for the continued partnership with Afreximbank.

 


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Court Denies Binance Executive Tigran Gambaryan Bail

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Justice Emeka Nwite of the Federal High Court Abuja, has dismissed the bail application of an Executive of Binance Holdings Limited, Tigran Gambaryan. Justice Nwite held that Gambaryan is likely to jump bail if bail is granted to him.

The company and its executive were arraigned on a five-count charge bordering on money laundering. When the charges were read out, the defendants pleaded not guilty.

Moving an application, Counsel to the Defendant, Mark Mordi, argued that the court had the power to grant bail to the defendant and impose conditions to ensure his presence in court.

The Prosecution Counsel, Ekele Iheanacho, however opposed the bail application, stating that the defendant was a flight risk.

He stated that the defendant attempted to obtain a new passport which he claimed was stolen, and this was a suspicious act given the proximity to his colleague’s escape from custody.

He added that the court cannot risk granting him bail, especially since he is not attached to any community in Nigeria.

“The fact that the passport of the defendant is with the complainant does not guarantee that he will remain in Nigeria because the defendant is not only an American citizen but also an Armenian citizen by birth.

He urged the court to refuse the application and instead remand him in EFCC custody to ensure his safety and prevent potential flight risk.

Delivering ruling, the presiding judge said several factors including the nature of offence and its severity must be considered when trying to decide whether or not bail should be granted to the defendant applicant.

Justice Nwite agreed with the depositions made by prosecution and was of the view that the applicant will jump bail if bail is granted to him.

He subsequently ordered that the trial be given an accelerated hearing.


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