The Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) based in Kampala, Uganda has released a 124-page report that evaluates the right of access to information in 15 African countries. The report also touches on challenges to implementing laws that exist and difficulties in getting new laws passed.
The report presents the analyses of the right of access to information in these 15 African countries in ‘country chapters’, each with recommendations. Some of these nations however do not have a Freedom of Information law.
Countries analysed which have Freedom of Information laws are Liberia, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Rwanda, South Sudan, Mozambique, South Africa, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.
Countries analysed without Freedom of Information laws are Algeria, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, Malawi, and Zambia.
The report titled “The State of Right to Information in Africa, Citizens’ Access to Information: A Tool to Build Trust and Address Corruption” notes that “Lack of transparency and corruption present real threats to Africa’s vision of an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa driven by its citizens and representing a dynamic force.” It is the second of such report by AFIC.
It report has two Forewords written by Advocate Faith Pansy Tlakula, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa at the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Habiba El Mejri Scheikh, Director of Information and Communication at the African Union Commission.
The Nigerian Chapter was written by Ayode Longe and Edetaen Ojo, of Media Rights Agenda and is titled Nigeria: Right to Information and Progress in Anti–Corruption Efforts.
The Chapter takes a look at different issues on the FOI Act including Implementation of FOI Act; Corruption in Nigeria; Status of ratification of regional instruments; Challenges to implementation of the FOI Act; and then makes recommendations.
Giving an overview of the implementation of the FOI Act in Nigeria, the chapter notes that: “Virtually all the public institutions have failed to abide by their obligations set out in the Act including obligations to provide appropriate training for their officials on the public’s right of access to information or records held by government or public institutions; to record and keep every information about all their activities, personnel, operations, businesses, etc.; proactively publish certain types of information, even without anyone requesting them; and properly organize and maintain all information in their custody in a manner that facilitates public access to such information, among others.”
The report provides actionable recommendations on how African countries could accelerate the recognition of the right to information and its use to fight corruption.
The first recommendation is that “achieving complete observance of the right to information in Africa requires broadening the awareness of the right with both the citizenry and the authorities.
The second recommendation makes the point that: “… enhancing anti-corruption mechanisms requires governments ensure that the right to information and the principles of freedom of expression are observed absolutely. This is especially so in strategic and priority sectors deemed crucial for the recognition of civil, economic and political rights. In this regard, the report underscores the need for African countries to lift the main binding constraints to fighting corruption in Africa. These include an independent media, domesticating freedom of information legislation; amending or repealing existing laws and policies that continue to hamper the right to information; and improving open data.”
The “third message of the report is that more public investment, particularly through civil society, is needed to catalyze strong anti-corruption sentiments in Africa. The final message of the report is that African policymakers have to adopt a more coherent approach to promoting the right to information and freedom of expression for it to play an effective role in driving the anti-corruption cause in Africa.”