09.05.2012 - UNESCO

Nigeria’s state governments urged to implement FOI Act

Oluseyi Soremekun (UNESCO Office in Abuja), Anne Nzegwu (Chairperson, National Planning Commission, FOI Committee), and Prof. Lai Oso (Dean, School of Communication, Lagos State University) - © UNESCO

Nigeria’s thirty-six state governments and the Federal Capital Territory administration have been called upon to commence the full implementation of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act without further delay. This was one of the resolutions reached at a one-day workshop, organized by UNESCO’s Abuja Office as part of activities marking the 2012 World Press Freedom Day in Nigeria.

In the communiqué issued at the end of the workshop on the implementation of the FOI Act, held at the National Press Centre, Abuja’s Radio House, on 4 May 2012, the state governments were called upon to begin the implementation of the Act as a national law binding on all states.

The communiqué further calls on Ministries, Departments and Agencies in the country to set up Freedom of Information units for public access to information concerning their operations, in line with the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 2011. It also calls for proper training of those who will be in charge of the implementation of the FOI Act, as well as of the general staff of public institutions.

Concerning the use of the Official Secret Act to circumvent access to information, the communiqué calls for an official statement from the Head of Service directing that the FOI Act supersedes the Official Secret Act and that officials must not use the oath to deny people access to information.

Other resolutions contained in the communiqué include the following clauses:

  • government officials must be continuously sensitized on the existence and implementation procedure of the FOI Act;
  • there is need for more involvement and proper monitoring of implementation process by top government officials and the general public;
  • utilization of the FOI Act by media practitioners is very low and they should seek to use the Act more frequently in their reporting, especially in the area of investigative journalism.

The workshop opened with a presentation of the lead paper on this year’s theme, New voices: media helping to transform societies, by the Dean of the School of Communication at the Lagos State University, Professor Lai Oso. His paper was entitled “New media, new voices and the democratization process”.

The following presentations were also made at the workshop:

  • “Freedom of information: Why, what and for whose benefit?” and “Freedom of Information Act 2011: An overview”, by Oluseyi Soremekun, representative of UNESCO’s Abuja Office;
  • “Public Bodies and Access to Information”, by Professor Oso;
  • “Implementation of the FOI Act: The journey so far”, by Ene Enonche, Director of Right to Know Initiative;
  • “National Planning Commission efforts in implementing the FOI Act”, by Dr Anne Nzegwu.

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