Stakeholders are brainstorming on how to building a collaborative mechanism among Freedom of Information Desk Officers to deepen strategies for ensuring effective implementation of the FOI Act in Abuja.
The two day event tagged facilitating shared learning: experience Sharing and Best
Practice Application in the Implementation of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011 s providing interface and engagement for about sixty participants drawn from among FOI Desk Officers of
Federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs itoe ensure improved compliance with proactive
publications and others obligations of Public Institutions under the FOI Act.
Declaring open the workshop, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, who described the Freedom of Information Act, 2011 as a crucial tool to the National development efforts of the Federation, said, the Act has shown that access to information is necessary for meaningful exercise of free expression on matters of public or political interest.
According to him, the Act provides legal guarantee for access to information and requires public institutions to proactively publish certain classes of information and to release information when requested.
He said that the workshop will not only help ensure effective implementation of the Act but also improve Desk Officers’ compliance to their peoactive disclosure obligation and expressed pleasure with the increasing number of public institutions that have developed platforms for their proactive disclosure requirement under the law.
The attorney General reminded that all public institutions are by the law mandated to submit to his office annually a report of their compliance status which his office in turn, sends to the relevant committees in the National Assembly
In his speech, the Head of Democracy, Governance and Migration Section, European Union Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Clement Boutillier, said, there is no functioning democracy without transparency because freedom of expression, and the media determine the quality of democratic process.
According to him, the recent take over of the airspace and self imposition of the social media does not change the fact that freedom of information and expression are fundamental rights enshrined in international law.
Mr. Boutillier, noted that despite the importance of the disclosure, Freedom of Information requests still go unaddressed saying that increasing the free flow of government information will guarantee better understanding of government and reinforce its legitimacy by addressing Sustainable Development challenges and Democracy deficits.
Earlier in his welcome remarks, the Executive Director, International Press Centre, Mr. Lanre Arogundade, represented by the Programme Manager, International Press Centre, Mrs Stella Nwofia, said the programme is to lead to the establishment of an online FOI platform that will enable faster sharing of information, ideas and experiences on mechanisms and methodologies of compliance.
According to him, the platform will also serve as a permanent dialogue channel among public institutions to be updated with the latest development on the implementation of Freedom of information laws while helping to expedite action for collaborative resolution of possible challenges.
Mr. Arogundade said, the weighty obligation on public institutions and public officers will be eased as they will no longer wait for FOI requests before complying since the information will now be easily accessible to citizens when needed.
The two day organised is organised by the International Press Centre, IPC, in collaboration with Media Rights Agenda, MRA, and the Freedom of Information Unit of the Federal Ministry of Justice, supported by the European Union, under Component 4b: Support to the media of the EU Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria EU-SDGN Project.