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Communique Issued At The End Of A Civil Society Capacity Building Roundtable On The Use Of The FOI Act 2011

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COMMUNIQUE ISSUED AT THE END OF A CIVIL SOCIETY CAPACITY BUILDING ROUNDTABLE ON THE PROVISIONS AND USE OF THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 2011, HELD AT RANDEKHI HOTEL, BENIN, FROM THE 11TH – 12TH FEBRUARY, 2020

Introduction

From Tuesday, 11th to Wednesday, 12th February, 2020, the Freedom of Information Coalition, Nigeria (FOICN) and Media Initiative against Injustice, Violence and Corruption (MIIVOC), with support from the European Union, through the Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (RoLAC) Programme, managed by the British Council, held a 2-day capacity building Roundtable for non-state actors in Edo State.

The overall objective of the Roundtable was to build the capacity of participants on the Provisions, Use and Application of Nigeria’s Freedom of Information Act, 2011.

The two-day roundtable brought together non-state actors, mainly – Lawyers (from Nigerian Bar Association), Journalists (from Nigeria Union of Journalists) and Community-based Organisations (Edo Civil Society Organisations) in Edo State.

Resource persons were drawn from the Freedom of Information Coalition, Nigeria, including Dr. Walter Duru, Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Coalition and Dr. Tope Olaifa, the Director of Research of the Coalition.

The roundtable recorded various sessions, comprising presentations and practical sessions on the drafting of real life FOI requests.

Edo State is one of the five focal states of the RoLAC programme. The other four states are: Adamawa, Lagos, Anambra and Kano.

Observations

  1. The FOI Act holds huge potentials to engender development and good governance and ultimately expand the frontiers of democracy.
  2. Citizens’ Awareness on the provisions and use of the FOI Act is still very low
  3. The state of records keeping in public institutions in Nigeria at both state and federal levels is poor and may militate against the effective implementation of the Act.
  4. There is a lackadaisical attitude on the side of government towards the implementation of the FOI Act.
  5. The FOI Act is a citizens-driven law which citizens should take advantage of, to hold government accountable.
  6. The FOI Act applies to all arms of Government, as well as all tiers of Government.
  7. Some states of the Federation, including Edo State are taking steps to adopt the FOI Act
  8. Stakeholders were unanimous in their resolution to pursue transparency in governance, using the FOI Act
  9. Every citizen of Nigeria is qualified to make requests under the FOI Act
  10. Citizens are not taking advantage of the FOI Act to participate in governance, while holding the government accountable.
  11. The Rule of Law and anti-Corruption Programme – ROLAC is doing a lot in promoting citizens’ right of access to Information in Nigeria

Recommendations

  1. The Freedom of Information (FOI) Act should be tested by citizens, as it has capacity to entrench an open society and reduce corruption in Nigeria, when vigorously implemented.   
  2. Extensive grassroots sensitization on the FOI Act by all stakeholders should be carried out to ensure that citizens know the benefits of the Act and the right it guarantees them.
  3. Civil Society stakeholders in Edo State should collaborate for the effective implementation of the FOI Act
  4. Edo State Government should take deliberate steps to improve records keeping in all public institutions in the state.
  5. Participants called on the Government of Edo State to resist the temptation of attempting to obstruct FOI implementation in the State.
  6. Stakeholders called on citizens to take advantage of the FOI Act to demand for reports of audits carried out, results of tests or analyses, including actions taken as a result of findings from any investigation, amongst others, in order to establish patterns of behavior, breaches of rules or cases of inducement.
  7. Stakeholders also resolved to use the FOI Act to monitor budgets and their implementation, contract awards and implementation, as well as other public transactions in Edo state.
  8. Stakeholders called on the Government of Edo State to immediately appoint FOI Desk Officers in all public institutions in the State, in compliance with the provisions of the FOI Act.
  9. The applicability of the FOI Act in all the states of the Federation is not negotiable. However, stakeholders welcome the efforts of the state government towards having a state version of the Law, as long as it does not conflict with the provisions of the federal version of the Law.
  10. Participants called on ROLAC and FOI Coalition to take steps to extend the capacity building to members of the Bench, as well as increase the number of members of the Bar with enhanced capacity on FOI.
  1. Participants resolved to pursue with vigor, the implementation of the FOI Act, and called on all citizens to take advantage of the law to hold the government accountable.
  2. CSOs called on citizens to begin to ask questions on how state resources are deployed, as well as how the general business of governance is done.

Conclusion

Stakeholders expressed gratitude to the European Union’s Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption -ROLAC Programme (managed by the British Council) for their continued support to reforms aimed at entrenching openness and accountability in governance.

Signed

Anthony G. Inyadu Esq

Chairperson, Communique Drafting Committee

(Member, Nigerian Bar Association-NBA –Edo State)

Grace Ijeoma Umeh

Secretary, Communique Drafting Committee

(Member, Nigeria Union of Journalists, Edo State Council)  

Ojo Charles

Member, Communique Drafting Committee

(Member, Edo State Civil Society Organizations, EDOCSO)

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