KADUNA, Nigeria (30 January 2015) – Amidst low understanding of the provisions of Freedom of Information Act among Nigerians, a Civil Rights activist, Abel Adejor is urging Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the country to take the lead in using the Act to challenge corruption and promote transparency.
Nigeria has signed into law the FOI Act in 2011, but very few citizens know of its existence, talk less of understanding how to put it to use.
At the onset, majority of the Nigerians thought the law was for journalists to force public officials to provide them with information whenever they need them – this might be associated with the role played by journalists in spearheading passage and subsequent signing of the Bill into Law.
Addressing CSOs on the FOI Act in Kaduna, northwest Nigeria, Adejor, said the objective of the FOI Act include provision of key information to citizens by public establishments and other corporate bodies who undertake projects on behalf of government.
He said when such information and records were not made available to them on request within the stipulated period, the people have a right to go to court for redress.
“Every person has a legally enforceable right of access to records, documents, and information held by public institutions but subject to certain exemption stated in the act”, he said.
Adejor however said, the law has exempted certain documents termed “classified” which citizens may not access. This restriction according to him is because of national interest.
Kilanko Adeolu of State Accountability and Voice Initiative (SAVI), urged Nigerians to exploit the opportunities offered by the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) to task elected leaders to meet their aspirations.
He said that such pressure would promote accountability, development and inclusive governance.
“The FOI law is a tool for fighting corruption and it can be used by citizens in enhancing accountability and transparency”.
But Emmanuel Bonet of Aid Foundation warn Nigerians to first study the provisions of the law before embarking on any legal action.