FOI: Malami tasks MDAs on compliance

The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, has tasked Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to comply with the provisions of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.He made the call on Tuesday in Abuja at a two-day workshop for FOI Desk Officers of public institutions on the establishment of a FOI online engagement forum/platform.The programme was organised by the International Press Centre (IPC) in collaboration with Media Rights Agenda (MRA) and the FOI Unit of the Federal Ministry of Justice, with the theme “Facilitating Shared Learning, Experience Sharing and Best Practice Application in the Implementation of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011”.

The programme also supported by the European Union (EU) is being implemented under Component 4b: Support to the media of the EU Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria (EU-SDGN) Project.

Malami, represented by the Head, FOI Unit, Federal Ministry of Justice, Mr. Gowon Ichibor, in his keynote said that the FOI Act is a milestone in the nation’s National Legislative Agenda as it subjects certain records of Public Institutions as well as some Private Institutions to a disclosure regime in line with the ideals of open and transparent government.

“The Act provides a legal guarantee for access to information and requires public institutions to proactively publish certain classes of information as well as to release information upon request.

“Pursuant to the provisions of the Act, I call and encourage public institutions to comply with Proactive Disclosure obligations under Section 2 of the Act,” Malami said.

Also speaking, the Team Lead/Head of Section Democracy, Governance and Migration, European Union Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Mr Clement Boutillier, said adequate implementation of the law is a sign of progress.

Boutillier said that the FOI and expression is a fundamental right enshrined in international law, adding that, to date, 129 countries have access to information laws.

He said, “Also, over 50 constitutions worldwide recognised this as a right, along with legal framework confirming it; effective access to information law can only help citizens and civil societies to known how to use it.

“The EU is supporting several projects to assist and protect FOI, Journalists and Human Rights Defender across the globe. This is because, it fosters democracy and protect a culture of dialogue.”

Speaking earlier, the Executive Director of IPC, Mr. Lanre Arogundade, said the event was expected to lead to the establishment of an online platform.

“This platform would serve as a catalyst for more proactive implementation of the FOI Act 2011. The platform would also serve as a permanent dialogue channel among public institutions to be updated with latest development on the implementation of the FOI laws,” Arogundade represented by Mrs. Stella Nwafia said.

In his opening remark, the Executive Director, MRA, Mr. Edetaen Ojo, urged participants to remember that they would not remain FOI desk Officers or be in the public office forever.

He said, “So it is in our collective interest to ensure that the FOI Act works, because one day we too may need to use it to get important information.”