|Alhaji Abdul-Razak Saani|
The Northern Regional Director of the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) Alhaji Abdul-Razak Saani, has called on Ghanaians to mount relentless pressure on government and most especially parliament to pass the Right to Information (RTI) law.
He bemoaned the several years of delays by the erstwhile administrations of John Agyekum Kufour and John Evans Atta-Mills to pass the law, and said citizens should start questioning their legislators and government over why the passage of the law is not being expedited.
“I strongly believe that when the RTI Bill is passed into law, it is going make governance very easy for politicians and all of us citizens”, he said, adding “All of us here have representatives in parliament. Let’s pressurize them to know that passing the law is in the interest of all of us their constituents, chiefs, ordinary citizens and politicians”.
Alhaji Saani who is also the Northern Regional Chairman of the RTI Coalition made the call in Tamale when the Coalition held a public forum to create further awareness of the Bill and enlist the support of participants to put pressure on parliament to pass the law without any more delays.
He explained that, if the law is passed it will give citizens the opportunity to demand accountability from state officials on how much they are spending on a particular development project or how much a District Chief Executive, Minister of state or the president spend when they travel outside the country.
The RTI Bill was drafted in 2002 to provide a legal framework that will allow people to exercise their right of access to information held by government agencies and other private institutions in recognition of the people’s entitlement to such information as the legitimate owners. The Bill has since gone through several reviews.
The RTI Coalition has been at the forefront of advocating for the passage of the law since 2007 when it was formed. It has been involved in lobbying and making inputs into the draft of the RTI Bill from its inception. It is due to the pressure from the Coalition that the Bill made its way to Parliament. Pressure in the form of a public march held in early 2010 which catalysed the movement of the Bill from Cabinet to be tabled before Parliament.
Two Committees of Parliament, the Communications Committee and the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, were jointly assigned the task of working and gathering public views on the Bill to make recommendations to the floor of the House. Members of the joint committee expressed the desire to carry out a nationwide consultation on the Bill after the Coalition engaged with members on the draft Bill. The legislators’ regional consultation was done in August 2011 in six regions, yet their reports before the dissolve of parliament was not released or published even till now. This is leaving both journalists and the average Ghanaian still wallowing for information from governmental bodies.
But, Alhaji Saani thinks parliament is treating Ghanaians unfairly considering how long it has taken since the Bill was drafted and yet, there seems to be no sign of passing it except constant promise and fail by parliament.
He also noted that, the RTI Bill is not only about politicians but also about every public servant including even chiefs. He charged chiefs to open up their people by being accountable to them with regards to lands and other property they hold in trust for their people. “Let us know how much land you have sold and where have the money been put”, he explained.
Meanwhile, Regional Coordinator of the Coalition Zakaria Mahama also appealed to parliament to immediately make available, report of the consultative forum it held across the six regions in 2011 for Ghanaians to know whether it actually reflects their views, concerns and aspirations before anything is added to the Bill for passage into law.