Human Rights Activist, Nana Oye Lithur says the Right to Information Coalition will hold the NDC accountable if it fails to pass the RTI Bill into law.

The delay in the passage of the Right to Information Bill (RTI) into law by Parliament has attracted accusations and counter-accusations from the Majority Leader, Cletus Apul Avoka, and the Convener of the Right to Information Coalition, Nana Oye Lithur.While the Majority Leader partly blames the Right to Information Coalition for the non-passage of the RTI into law, Nana Oye Lithur said it was the duty of the Legislature to consider and adopt laws. She described Mr. Avoka’s position on the matter as that which amounts to the shirking of responsibility.

Yesterday, Mr. Avoka told the Parliamentary Press Corps (PPC) at a press briefing that the august House and his office were committed to the passage of the RTI Bill into law, and hinted that it would be done before the dissolution of the Legislature.

To buttress his argument, the Zebilla Member of Parliament (MP) said his office had been holding a wrap-up meeting with all concerned stakeholders, but had to pause for a while, because of financial constraints and delays from the Right to Information Coalition in addressing some of the gray areas of the bill.

In view of the demands of the passage of the RTI into law, the vociferous Majority Leader said he had suspended a critical field trip to South Africa and the United Kingdom, and demanded a report from the joint Committee of Constitutional, Legal & Parliamentary Affairs and Communications handling the bill before the floor in two weeks, for debate to commence.

He, however, expressed shock at attempts by the Right to Information Coalition to blame Parliament for the delay of the RTI Bill into law.

Mr. Avoka’s statement was in response to media reports that quoted the legislator as saying that “the Right to Information Bill is not a priority for Parliament” on May 7, 2012.

According to Mr. Avoka, the passage of the RTI Bill into law was less of a priority than bills such as the University of Health & Allied Sciences and the University of Energy and Natural Resources, among others.

His comments attracted lots of bashings from some his colleague MPs, media experts, human rights activists and some civil society groups.

Mr. Avoka, who was flanked by his deputy, Rashid Pelpuo, Chairmen of the joint Committee of Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and Communications, and some leading members of the Majority Caucus at the news conference, said his remarks were taken out of context.

But, in a sharp rebuttal, the Convener of the Right to Information Coalition, Nana Oye Lithur, speaking on Joy News, described the Majority Leader’s stance as a classical example of buck passing.

She said it was the responsibility of Parliament to consider and adopt laws, hence, Mr. Avoka’s position amounts to shirking responsibility.

She told listeners of the FM station that her group had prepared an expert paper on some of the grey areas of the RTI Bill, but was not sure whether it had been delivered to Parliament or not.

She said the group’s action was just to support the Parliamentary process, and could in no way be blamed for the delay in passing the bill into law.

The Convener, therefore, hinted of taking on the National Democratic Congress (NDC), if it does not pass the RTI Bill into law before the December polls, since it made the passage one of the campaign tools during the 2008 electioneering campaign.

“This will be a political election campaign issue. Because it was the NDC that put it in its campaign manifesto that the bill will be passed, should they be elected. It is barely seven months to elections, and they have not delivered,” Joy News quoted Nana Oye Lithur as saying.

“The Majority Leader belongs to the NDC, and the coalition is putting him on notice that this will be a question and an issue that will dog them on the political platform, so the earlier the NDC government pushes its majority in Parliament to consider its bill, the better. We will hold the NDC government accountable, because they made the promise…” Nana Oye Lithur added.

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