Buratai is entrenching transparency in Army, NGO lauds Army boss over FOI request

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Lt Gen Buratai

Following the dispatch of the Freedom of Information (FOI), New Initiative for Credible Leadership (NICreL) has applauded the Nigerian Army and Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Leutenant General T.Y Buratai for breaking away from status quo.
Three groups, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), Enough is Enough (EiE), and BudgIT, had requested for security information from the Army Chief.
Instead of turning deaf ears, the COAS complied to the request even without knowing its intended use.
Amazed by this extraordinary level of accountability and transparency, NICreL’s Executive Director, Rev. Samson Onwu hailed the COAS for breaking the traditional way of doing things.
NICreL, however, urged these groups to make judicious use of the privilege accorded  them.
 “ The New Initiative for Credible Leadership (NICreL) has followed with keen interest the Freedom of Information request made to the Nigerian Army and the dispatch with which the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. General Tukur Buratai, to whom it was directed, complied with extant legislation of the land to release the requested information. The request was filed by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), Enough is Enough (EiE), and BudgIT, organizations to which the COAS has released the requested information, “ NICreL revealed.
“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.
“ 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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