Civil society networks and groups in Nigeria are planning a Freedom of Information (FOI) rally on September 26, ahead of this year’s International Right to Know Day to press the National Assembly to be more transparent.
Scheduled for 10am at the premises of the National Assembly in Abuja, participating organizations in the rally include Enough is Enough Nigeria, the United Action for Democracy, Say No Campaign, Reclaim Naija, the Freedom of Information Coalition, and other organizations.
Groups and individuals that are unable to join the rally at the National Assembly in Abuja are expected to organize protests and rallies on the same day at their various State Houses of Assembly.
The groups are planning to present five demands to members of the National Assembly, namely:
The first demand is an immediate and comprehensive breakdown of their budgetary allocation of N150 billion for 2013. The rationale for this is that in defending the allocation, National Assembly officials have been very vocal that the N150billion is not only for salaries but the entire National Assembly structure. While the Economist magazine says Nigerian legislators are the second highest paid parliamentarians in the world, there is no authoritative breakdown of what the N150 billion is meant for. The groups are therefore asking them to provide the breakdown.
The second demand is asking the National Assembly for an account of the N1 trillion they have received since 2005 before the next recess in December. The groups say they want to know if Nigerians have received value for money in terms of the services provided by the National Assembly.
The third demand is functional contact information, including telephone numbers, email addresses and physical addresses of the constituency offices of all members of the National Assembly. The groups are also demanding the names of at least two contact people attached to the numbers and email addresses based on the rational that the representatives of the people “must be reachable”!
The fourth demand is for all voting records on all constitutional amendments. The groups are insisting that Nigerians have a right to know how their representatives honored their wishes for changes to the constitution.
The final demand is for the attendance list for each plenary session of the National Assembly to be made public. According to the groups, pictures show both chambers relatively empty on plenary days, yet members are opposed to suggestions that they work part time. The groups say they want to know how many people actually attend plenary sessions and contribute to discussions and whether Nigerians are getting value for money.
According to Miss Yemi Adamolekun, Executive Director of Enough is Enough Nigeria, one of the partner organizations in the initiative, BudgIT, is assisting in developing infographics that help tell the story. These will be distributed to individuals and organizations around the country that are interested in joining the rally or organizing their own rallies in the States.