Representatives of civil society organisations have called on the Nigerian government and its agencies to comply with the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.
This and other recommendations were made at a training workshop which took place in Abuja on August 24 and 25, 2017 for Open Alliance members on the Open Government Partnership (OGP) in Nigeria. Organized by the African Centre for Leadership Strategy and Development (Centre LSD) under the Promoting Accountability in Nigeria through Engagement and Implementation of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) project, it was supported by the John D and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. It is a three-year initiative which seeks to promote openness, transparency and accountability through the OGP initiative with specific reference to commitments 12, 13 and 14 of Nigeria’s National Action Plan (NAP).
Participants were also of the consensus that civil society needs to hold government accountable for every commitment it has made to the OGP process by sitting with government to take action to implement the NAP on the OGP.
Civil society organisations were also charged to change their orientation and mindset and try a different approach to get government and civil society to sit together to forge a common partnership to transform Nigeria.
Civil society organisations were also encouraged to see the equal representation/co-creation concept of the OGP as a good opportunity to present the reform ideas they have always been clamouring especially now that they are directly involved in the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP).
They were asked to collaborate with the media which offer the medium that can help to name and shame public institutions that are not complying with their obligations.
The participants described Nigeria’s signing on to the OGP as a welcome development in view of its potential to promote openness, accountability and transparency required to foster national development.
In the area of implementing the Freedom of Information Act, participants said government needs to do more to live up to its commitment to the change agenda by promoting access to information for citizens and civil society.
They frowned at some obnoxious bills presently is in the National Assembly that constitute a deliberate violation of the guarantees of freedom of thought, opinion and expression, and freedom of association as provided in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended. They cited the “NGO Regulation Bill” sponsored by Deputy Majority Leader of the House of Representatives that has already passed first and second readings and now at the committee stage as one such obnoxious Bill.
Participants identified non-fulfillment of government’s obligation towards the implementation of the OGP National Action Plan as one of the potential challenges that could hinder the achievement of OGP lofty objectives. Civil society was therefore asked to come up with creative ways to prompt government to walk the talk.
Participants were drawn from Civil Society including Media, Professional Groups, Private Sector, etc. and from government agencies including Ministry of Justice, National Orientation Agency, Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, etc.