NGO Lauds Army Boss Over FOI Request
The New Initiative for Credible Leadership (NICreL) has saluted the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. General Tukur Buratai for entrenching transparency in the military following his prompt response to the the Freedom of Information request made to the Nigerian Army by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), Enough is Enough (EiE), and BudgIT
NICreL said it was pleased with the COAS for releasing the requested information without hesitation.
Rev. Samson Onwu, Executive Director of the group in a statement on Sunday, warned SERAP, EiE and BudgIT against jeopardizing national security with the information made available to them.
He said, “NICreL recognizes that the COAS and the Nigerian Army broke away from the traditional consideration for national security to comply with the request of the three groups. This is commendable on the part of General Buratai even though Nigerians will be watching to see the use to which these organizations put the information they have acquired. Such outcomes will influence the reaction of citizens in the future when organizations or individuals come under the Freedom of Information Act to request information that impact national security.
“The culture of transparency, for which General Buratai is known, institutionalized and is now entrenching through the release of the information, is commendable. With due respect, we, however, have the strong belief in his discretion to have released the information only after it is duly certified that there is nothing sensitive contained in the document to jeopardize national interest and security.
“This concern on our part is informed by the recent experiences, in which an international organization was exposed by the Nigerian Army for passing information it obtained in the course of its work to Boko Haram terrorists in addition to using its activities in the northeast as cover to train and equip the insurgents. The country is equally yet in the throes of the publication of classified military information about an impending operation against Boko Haram by Daily Trust newspaper.
“This nasty experience with Daily Trust is still fresh in the minds of Nigerians even as NICreL and other CSOs await an apology from the newspaper following a seven-day ultimatum for it to tender it.
“We therefore hope that some NGOs have no been contracted to make bogus requests to jeopardize national security. This raises suspicion that it is a matter of time before the entire military is buried in an avalanche of Freedom of Information request that will soon extend to proxies asking for details to expose operational strategies of the war against terrorism.
“Much as SERAP enjoys a remarkable level of public trust as a civil society organization (CSO), not much can be said about other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) especially given their association with foreign NGOs like Amnesty International that is practically at war with the Nigerian Army. These international NGOs have never been fully absolved of being non-complicit in obstructing the military for the benefit of insurgents and separatists.
“Our understanding is that there is a limit to the obligation of military and security agencies when it comes to releasing information under the FOI Act. This has to be especially considered in view of the glaring danger of information being legally obtained for the sole goal of passing same to terrorists. We therefore appeal to General Buratai as the COAS and the Nigerian Army as an institution, with the entire military, to be mindful of the limit of information that is passed to such group for the sake of the integrity of the country and national security.
“We use this opportunity to put SERAP, EiE and BudgIT on notice that they now shoulder the burden of responsibly using the information the Nigerian Army has reeleased to them. This will extend to taking considerable caution against the publication of details that could compromise national security. They should also commit to not transferring these details to any foreign partners, Boko Haram or any other questionable entity since that was not the intent of the Act. Where they elect to breach the sacred trust anticipated by the Freedom of Information Act, to deploy the information they have acquired for evil use, they can count on Nigerians coming after them with all the actions permissible under the law. NICreL is prepared to lead the charge should the situation arise.”
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