FOI Act: Over 60 CSOs, Media Review Its Implementation 5 Years After

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Over 60 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and Media Organisations on Monday began a workshop to review the implementation of the Freedom of Information Act, five years after its existence.
It is to be recalled that the Nigeria’s Freedom of Information Act was passed into law on May 28 2011.
The Workshop  was organised by the Media Initiative Against Injustice, Violence and Corruption (MIIVOC) in collaboration with the Freedom of Information Coalition, Nigeria (FOICN); Development Measures and with Support from Justice For All(J4A) Speaking exclusively to LEADERSHIP, MIIVOC, Executive Director, Walter Duru said “the workshop is an attempt to galvanise Civil societies and
media organisations to review the implementation of the FOI-A five years after.”
He recalled that “It took about 12 years for the ACT to be passed and signed into law and five years of its existence we have not really seen its implementation, so the essence of the workshop is to galvanise the support and see how we can get the CSOs and Media to take advantage of the ACT, to demand for accountability and transparency from public institutions.”
Rating the performance of the Act since its existence, the Activist said “For now it is difficult to talk about reviewing the Act, because Nigerians have not actually used the Act, its only when we can actually implement the Act, that we can say these are the gaps we are identifying.” He said “While we agree that it is not a perfect document there are gaps here and there is need for the gaps to be covered, it is also critical that Nigerians take advantage of what we have at the moment to begin to demand for accountability from Nigerians and when that happens, I am very sure we will be able to have a society with credible leadership.”
Mr Duru noted that while there is no perfect law “one of the gaps that we have identified is the issue of absence of deterrence/ punitive sanctions on persons that refuse to comply with the provisions of the act. Insisting,  it is only when these things are done and when the law is implemented that that we can also identify some other gaps that exists”.
He maintained that for the media, the FOI-A is one vital and very powerful instrument to access government information. Reacting to the existence of other acts, he said “the FOIA is a recent Act and it’s provisions supersedes those of other law. He noted that “The FOI Acts makes provisions even for the public institution stating that no criminal proceedings shall be instituted against any office
holder for divulging information within the provisions of FOI-A.
Speaking on the benefits of the Act, Mr Duru said “The Act will help to check impunity in the system, help entrench openness and transparency and help make public office holders more accountable and
Let me tell you “If Nigerian leaders realise that Nigerians would ask questions and people are ready to ask questions, they would be more careful at what they do,” he said
He however lamented that “the nation’s greatest undoing is that we are docile and not interested in asking and our leaders do whatever they like and no body ask questions and that is why we are where we are today. By the time they realise that if they do this people will ask more questions, they will be more careful at what they do,” he said.

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