No fewer than one hundred Civil Society Organistions are to meet in Benin, Edo State capital, Tuesday, to discuss the implementation of Nigeria’s Freedom of Information (FOI) Act in the state.
Chairman, Board of Governors, Freedom of Information Coalition, Nigeria- FOIC-N, Dr. Walter Duru disclosed this in a Press Release made available to newsmen, Sunday afternoon.
Duru, who described the FOI Act as a powerful tool for the fight against corruption in Nigeria expressed concern over low usage of the law by citizens in holding government at all levels accountable.
He explained that the Edo FOI meeting is supported by the European Union, through the Rule of Law and Anti Corruption-ROLAC Programme, managed by the British Council.
“The Nigerian Freedom of Information (FOI) Act was signed into law on May 28 2011. The law was passed to enable the public to access certain government information, in order to ensure transparency and accountability.”
“The FOI Act aims to make public records and information more freely available. It enables citizens to hold the government accountable in the event of misappropriation or public services failure. It also protects serving public officers against any adverse consequences from the unauthorized disclosure of certain kinds of official information.”
“A recent survey by the Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption- ROLAC programme, in collaboration with the Freedom of Information Coalition, Nigeria- FOICN and Media Initiative against Injustice, Violence and Corruption-MIIVOC on the level of knowledge of the provisions and use of the FOI Act revealed that the gap in capacity is wide among citizens. It also shows that there is low compliance level with the provisions of the Act in Nigeria, especially, as it concerns some of the critical segments, such as Proactive Disclosure and Annual Compliance Reports.”
“In an attempt to close the identified knowledge gap, the Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption Programme, in collaboration with the FOI Unit of the Federal Ministry of Justice (FMOJ), the Freedom of Information Coalition in Nigeria and the Media Initiative against Injustice, Violence and Corruption is holding a 2-day FOI Capacity Building Roundtable with representatives of non-state actors/CSOs, targeting the Media, Legal and mainstream Civil Society actors in Edo State, aimed at training participants on the provisions and use of the Act in the state.”
Continuing, Duru explained that state actors, particularly, Information Officers, Directors and Permanent Secretaries in Edo State will also be trained on the provisions and applications of the FOI Act, with a view to ensuring that stakeholders are on the same page.
“It is a comprehensive training package. Journalists, Lawyers, Community-based organizations, representatives of public institutions and other critical stakeholders shall be trained on FOI. The Roundtable aims to build the capacity of citizens to have a working knowledge of the purpose and benefits of the FOI Act, as well as processes for dealing with requests as prescribed by the law. We are hopeful that at the end of the training, participants will have improved understanding on the application of the FOI Act. On the part of the state actors, in addition to the provisions and applications of the FOI Act, they will have better understanding of the duties of public institutions under the FOI Act.”
He further called on Nigerians to take advantage of the Freedom of Information Act to participate in governance in the interest of the country.