A legal Practitioner, C.S. Onyimah of a Porthacourt based law firm, Agorondu & Agorondu, has sent a Freedom of Information request to Gbene DR. Joi Nunieh, the Acting Managing Director/CEO of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), requesting for the details of “ ALL PROJECTS AWARDED AND OR EXECUTED BY THE NDDC IN AND AROUND NDONI COMMUNITY IN ONELGA RIVERS STATE, MADE PURSUANT TO SECTION 1(1) OF THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 2011.”

Onyimah is urging Dr. Nunieh to “provide or cause to be provided, information on all contracts awarded or financed by the Niger Delta Development Commission (your commission) to be sited or executed in Ndoni Community in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area of Rivers State or appurtenant to Ndoni Community, including any award of contract on the dredging and construction of Ndoni-Ase Azaga Link Road, whether executed or not, from the inception of your commission in June 2000 till date.

Onyimah is also seeking “… the dates of awards of these contracts, the locations of each of these contracts as approved by your commission, the total contract sum as at when awarded, the specific names and addresses of each of the contractors whether individual or corporate, to whom or to which the contracts were awarded, the specific names and addresses of the consultants whether individual or corporate, by whom or by which the said contracts or each of the contracts was supervised, specific details on the levels of completion for each of these contracts so awarded and finally, specific details on the total sum paid by the commission to such specific contractors for each of these contracts so awarded, including any such contract on the dredging and construction of Ndoni-Ase Azaga Link Road.

In the FoI request dated 8th of January, 2020, signed by Onyimah himself and made available to TheNigeriaLawyer (TNL), he said he and indeed every indigene of Ndoni community have legitimate interests in knowing all the projects sited within the community by the commission from its inception in the year 2000 till date. That the information will assist them in ascertaining the veracity of some unverified claims, allegations and suspicions in certain quarters that some specific projects awarded by the commission in Ndoni Community to or through certain personalities and individuals in the community have either been abandoned and the money stolen, or not executed at all, after collecting the contract sum from the commission and corruptly diverted same to their private pockets.

Onyimah said: “We have made series of unsuccessful efforts to access the above information from your commission’s website @ http://www.nddc.gov.ng as at 7/1/2020 and same could not be found thereat.”

The FOI request reads in part: “As patriotic and concerned indigenes of Ndoni Community, it is our individual and collective rights to demand for the above information. By Section 1(3) of the Freedom of Information Act 2011, we are entitled and therefore determined to institute legal proceedings in Court upon any refusal or unjustifiable delay, to compel your commission to comply with the provisions of the Act by obliging us the FoI request sought herein this present.

“The foregoing notwithstanding, we have lawful and legitimate interests in the information requested, for purposes of making detailed enquiries and on the spot findings as to the existence of these projects on ground, or possibilities of corrupt abandonments of critical projects awarded by government through interventionist agencies such as your commission, for the benefits and enjoyments of the good people of Ndoni community, which funds have been criminally diverted by certain individuals in positions of trust, whether or not they are from Ndoni community.

“The information sought in this FoI request when provided by your good office, shall also constitute verifiable evidence, official records and authoritative facts to be relied upon by all and sundry, as foundation or basis for a critical and meticulous investigation, verification and or ascertainment for ourselves, members of Ndoni community and indeed the general public, which of the projects as award by your commission in Ndoni has been truly executed or abandoned and funds diverted.

“The grant of this FoI request will enable us assist the commission in your task of unraveling and exposing grand corruption in the awards of projects by previous managements of NDDC, as recently mandated by President Muhammadu Buhari, and to possibly hold to account, persons who may have criminally diverted public funds budgeted through the commission for the provisions of basic infrastructural amenities to the good people of Ndoni Community and environs in Rivers State.

“Madam, the provision of all the information requested in this present will place the NDDC under your leadership in the same stead with President Buhari’s anti corruption posture. Most importantly it will enable us as indigenes fully resident in Ndoni community with full knowledge of every nook and cranny of the community to assist your commission detect and expose possible incidences of grand corruption carried out under previous managements of the NDDC, for possible investigation and prosecution by relevant anti graft agencies, in line with the whistleblower policy of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.”

Onyimah threatens to take legal action “upon your failure to provide us the information as requested within 7 days from the receipt or publication of this FoI request…”

He brings the attention of the addressee to some provisions of the Freedom of Information Act:

“By Section 1 (1) of the Freedom of Information Act, we are entitled as of right to request for or gain access to information, particularly information on details of all awards of projects in our community Ndoni by your commission from inception till date, including any such contract on the dredging and construction of Ndoni-Ase Azaga Link Road.

“Again by Section 5 (a) of the Freedom of Information Act, when a person makes request for information from a public official, institution or agency, the public official, institution or agency to whom the application is directed is under a binding legal obligation to provide the applicant with the information requested for, except as otherwise provided by the Act, within 7 days after the application is received. See also sections 4, 5 and 6 of the Freedom of Information Act 2011.

“The information sought in this FoI request falls within the range of information about public institutions stipulated, guaranteed and authorized under Section 2 (3) and (4) of the Freedom of Information Act 2011.”

Onyimah then undertakes “to pay all necessary and lawful fees or costs in accordance with Section 8 of the Freedom of Information Act, as may be requested in writing by your commission for the prompt provision of this FoI request.”

Practical Considerations to Negotiate an Enforceable Joint Operating Agreement in Civil Law Jurisdictions (Netherlands: Kluwer Law International, 2020) By Professor Damilola S. Olawuyi, LL. B (1st Class), BL (1st Class), LL.M (Calgary), LL.M (Harvard), DPhil (Oxford), Professor of Law and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti, Nigeria, www.damilolaolawuyi.com. & Professor Eduardo G. Pereira, LL. B (Brazil), LL.M (Aberdeen), PhD (Aberdeen),www.eduardogpereira.com   

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