By Francis Ezediuno
The Freedom of Information (FOI) Coalition, Nigeria has observed that there is still widespread ignorance of the law among state and non-state actors in the country and as a result of this, the Freedom Of Information (FOI) Act is a potent tool that can be used to fight corruption and enhance good governance if vigorously implemented.
This observation formed part of a communiqué that was issued at the end of a Roundtable on the Freedom of Information Act, 2011 held on May 17, 2019 at Chelsea Hotel, Abuja.
The Freedom of Information (FOI) Coalition, Nigeria, in collaboration with Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), comprising Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), Media practitioners and Legal professionals convened at the instance of the Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption Programme (RoLAC), funded by the European Union and implemented by the British Council.
Part of the Communiqué also observed that only through collaboration can civil society groups and citizens enjoy the benefits of the FOI Act.
The communiqué maintained that some colonial laws, particularly, the Official Secrets Act remained a challenge to FOI Implementation in Nigeria.
The roundtable which brought together over 50 participants in order to gauge the level of awareness and implementation of the FOI Act in Nigeria recommended the need for Civil Society actors, especially, the Non-governmental organizations, media, legal practitioners and other relevant non-state actors to synergize on the implementation of the Freedom of Information Act, while following up on requests made to public institutions in Nigeria.
Part of its recommendation was that the FOI coalition seeked to ensure active advocacy and engagement of relevant stakeholders to uphold full compliance with the FOI Act by public institutions in Nigeria.
Stakeholders at the roundtable called for the mainstreaming of the FOI Act in the activities of all civil society organizations in Nigeria.
They also called for the repeal of relevant sections of the Official Secrets Act that contravene the provisions of the FOI Act and participants agreed to pursue and seek through the FOI Act, full disclosure of information and activities in some agencies and establishments of the Federal Government.
Participants expressed gratitude to the European Union/British Council’s Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption Programme for supporting the roundtable and urged them to do more in ensuring good governance in Nigeria.
The Roundtable was delivered by the Freedom of Information Coalition, Nigeria (FOICN) and Media Initiative against Injustice Violence and Corruption (MIIVOC), in collaboration with the FOI Unit of the Federal Ministry of Justice.
It was fully funded by the Rule of Law and anti corruption (RoLAC) Programme of the British Council (funded by the European Union).