DIRECTOR, National Orientation Agency (NOA), Anambra State Directorate, Charles Nwoji, has said that , Freedom of Information (FoI) Act 2011 was enacted by federal government for the citizens to have free access to information from any public institution so as to ensure the participation of the Nigerian masses in governance, institutionalisation of transparency and accountability in Nigerian system, among others.
Sir Nwoji stated this while delivering a keynote address at a one-day stakeholders’ roundtable forum on understanding and application of FoI Act, organised by the agency at its corporate headquarters in Awka, for the critical stakeholders in the state to dialogue and evaluate the effectiveness of the act and its impact on national development.
He explained, “NOA in line with its mandate of enlightening the people about government policies, programmes and activities, started the journey of sensitising the people on the provisions, application and benefits of FoI Act in 2012, commencing with pilot programme covering 146 selected local government areas in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Interestingly, Anambra State benefited from this pilot exercise.
“One thing you may know again, is that the struggle to enact the act started in 1993 and ended in 2011. Therefore, as the act is 10 years (old) today, it is pertinent that a critical look should be taken at the application of this important law to see how, or whether it has affected … accountability, which I consider very strong pillar of good governance and participatory democracy,” he said.
In a paper entitled, “the Freedom of Information Act and Good Governance: Lesson for Nigerian Media”, the Chairman, Nigeria Union of Journalists, Anambra State Council, Sir Emma Ifesinachi, represented by the Secretary of the union, Comrade Emma Udeagha, described FoI Act as one of the most potent tools in the hands of Nigerians for the fight against corruption and for installation of a regime of accountability in public service, noting that Nigerian journalists as the bulwark of society have a greater responsibility to ensure that the citizens have access to information by utilising the opportunities offered to them by the Act.
In another presentation with the title, “Lack of Information from Political Class and the State of Insecurity in Nigeria”, the State Chairman, Civil Society Network, Prince Chris Azor, challenged Nigerian journalists to take up their constitutional rights and work towards saving the nation from what he described as “opacity and death”, calling on the government to initiate serious measures that would save the country from disintegration.
In his remarks, the General Manager, Ogene 98.3 FM, Awka, Mr Justice Kalu, identified censorship, intimidation and denial of access to information as some of the factors militating against the effective application of FoI Act, suggesting a proper engagement of the media chief executives to fast track the management and free flow of information in the country.
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