Bali-Gembu Serti Road Scandal: Taraba govt writes WikkiTimes, says FOI Act not domesticated in state
Two months after WikkiTimes’ investigative story that unearthed collaborative corruption between Taraba State and the Federal Government, the state’s ministry of works writes WikkiTimes but declined to furnish the medium with details about the scandals, arguing that the Freedom of Information Act is not domesticated in the state.
In an investigative story published on July 8, 2022, WikkiTimes revealed how FG and Taraba State, in what looks like a collaborative deceit, wasted over N36.3 billion but failed to deliver the 230km Gembu road in the state years after the award of the contract.
The report documented how the residents of the Mambilla Plateau were exposed to untold hardships arising from road crashes on the devastating road.
The story also exposed how the federal government re-awarded part of the project several times, which was already said to have been completed by the state government.
The drama raised altercations between the FG and Taraba State, where the former accused the latter of aiding corruption.
But WikkiTimes’ story exposed collaborative deceit and corruption between both parties, where the duos both failed to deliver the road despite wasting billions.
In a FOIA request sent to the Taraba State Government addressed to the state Commissioner for Works and Transport, Ibrahim Hammanjulde, WikkiTimes sought, among other things; the total amount spent on the project by the state government, the status of the project, and why the Gembu road project is sluggish in its completion despite billions released.
The state failed to provide clarification. However, on May 17, the state government, in a letter sent to the medium said it will seek the advice of its ministry of justice on whether to respond to the FOI request.
On August 22, 2022, a Permanent Secretary in the state Ministry of Works and Transport, Engr. Lántsi J.J. in a letter sent to WikkiTimes, said the state ministry of justice advised them against supplying the information requested by the medium.
“The Ministry wish [sic] to respond to your request as advised by the Ministry of Justice accordingly: That the Freedom of Information Act No. 4 of 2011 is federal legislation and binds only the Federal Government, its Agencies and Federal Capital Territory and the States that have domesticated it.
“As of now, Taraba State is yet to domesticate the Freedom of Information Act. Hence, it is not applicable to the state,” the letter read in part.
While the key players and handlers of the road failed to offer WikkiTimes convincing explanations over three months after the request, the defenceless residents of Mambilla Plateau continue to record myriad losses of property and perish as sacrificial goats due to the bad condition of the Bali-Serti Gembu road.