The Presidency shouldn’t think they can conceal the cost of treating President Buhari in London, the same way they kept his health status and whereabouts secret last year. One would expect an institution like the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), with a designated desk for the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), to respond promptly to requests. Instead of responding to the Incorporated Trustees of Advocacy for Societal Rights Advancement and Development Initiative (ASRADI) in their request for information regarding the expenses incurred for the Presiden’t’s health trip in 2017, the CBN chose to frustrate the request by feigning knowledge of the information.
The apex bank, despite paying for the requested bills, claimed to have referred the application to the Chief of Staff to the President who, unlike the CBN, knows more about the expenditure. This is just an unnecessary bureaucracy. The FOI Act provides for “the right of any person to access or request information, whether or not contained in any written form, which is in the custody or possession of any
public official, agency or institution howsoever described.” This implies that knowing about the expenses, whether it is involved in the use or not, the CBN is under obligation to provide the requested information.
The Act mandates government agencies to file details of their activities, business and operations, which, for the CBN includes money released for any reason. The bank has no valid reason to pass the responsibility along since it has facts on the amounts released. We need accountability, but this silence will merely mock government’s efforts to promote openness. The Central Bank should respect citizen’s request for this vital information.