13 years Anniversary: FOI Act work in progress, says Solicitor General

Mrs Beatrice Jeddy-Agba, the Solicitor General of the Federation says the Freedom of information Act (FOI) in Nigeria is still a work in progress.

Jeddy-Agba, said this in Abuja at a ceremony marking the 13-year anniversary of the advocacy and implementation of the FOI Act in the country on Friday,

She was represented by Mr Godwin Garba, Head, FOI Unit, Federal Ministry of Justice.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the theme of this year’s anniversary is `Evaluating the Role of Freedom of Information Act and its Implementation Towards Building Strong Institutions For Good Governance.

She noted that the implementation of the FOI Act, 2011 in the past 13 years has been both challenging and work in progre.

The solicitor general noted that the Act is as a guide through which the public can access vital information or record from government.

‘The essence of the Act is to guarantee the right of access to information held by government institutions as well as to deepen governance and government ref
orms by addressing corruption and improving the credibility of the Country.

‘It is to promote citizens’ participation in governance, enhance and develop the country’s democracy by ensuring openness, transparency and accountability in the conduct of government business.

‘Nonetheless, the implementation of the FOI Act in the last thirteen years has come with a series of benefits and challenges”.

Jeddy-Agba said although the FOI unit has improved on the level of awareness of FOI, there are still many challenges facing the implementation of the Act.

‘There is still lack of functioning record management system in public institutions, lack of political will on the part of leaders to ensure the prompt release of information or records and culture of secrecy in government as big challenges”.

She commended the courts on their prompt rulings on FOI matters which have deepened its implementation.

Also speaking, Mr Shofola Osho, the Company Secretary and Legal Adviser of the Development Bank of Nigeria in his go
odwill message commended the FoI unit for pushing through despite all odds.

Osho urged for more commitments from all stakeholders and also called for review of the Act for more participation in open governance and accountability.

Mr Jubril Shittu, CEO Public and Private Development Centre, said with that with good working relationships, the ministry’s FOI unit has made significant progress.

In her own remarks, the Program Officer, Right to Know (R2K), Ms Vicky Etim noted that the annual FOI report has grown over the years but that experiences still needed to be shared on how challenges were overcame.

She advised that the Public Service handbook should be updated or reviewed to meet new laws and regulations that make it difficult to achieve more.

There were goodwill messages from the FOI standing Committee of National Assembly, Public Institutions, the media and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) as well as robust interactions by all the participants at the event.

NAN reports that the FOI Act was enacted
on May 28, 2011.

The purpose and objectives of the FOI Act are to make public records and information more freely available and to provide for public access to public records and information.

Others are to protect public records and information to the extent consistent with the public interest and the protection of personal privacy and to protect serving public officers from adverse consequences for disclosing certain kinds of officials information without authorisation, among others.

Source: News Agency of Nigeria