More than 90 participants drawn from federal ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) as well as civil society organisations under the aegis of the Freedom of Information Coalition Nigeria (FOICN) have identified some of the challenges working against the effective implementation of the Freedom of Information Act and recommended solutions to mitigate them.
They listed bureaucratic challenges; frequent transfer of FOI Desk Officers; lack of funding; and lack of functional websites, among others as obstacles to the effective implementation of the Act.
They therefore recommended, among other things, the training and sensitisation of relevant officials; budgetary allocation for FOI implementation and running of the activities of the units; provision of functional websites; and the establishment and strengthening of functional FOI units.
The Ministry of Justice/Office of the Attorney General of the Federation, working in conjunction with the Freedom of Information Coalition (FOIC) Nigeria convened a two-day meeting for FOI desk officers in some federal institutions on FOI Act implementation.
The meeting tagged MDAs Roundtable on Increased Compliance with the FOI Act took place at the Olusegun Obasanjo Auditorium of the Federal Ministry of Justice in Abuja on November 16 and 17, 2016. The roundtable brought together over 90 participants drawn from ministries, departments and agencies of government as well as civil society organisations under the aegis of the Freedom of Information Coalition Nigeria (FOICN) and the media.
The roundtable saw the presentation of papers dealing with various aspects of the FOI Act implementation as well as group work and simulation exercises. The group works explored challenges in FIVE aspects of the FOI implementation and made recommendations to tackle these challenges. The five aspects are: Proactive Disclosure; Annual Compliance Reports; Response to FOI Requests; Capacity; and Experiences on Implementation and Challenges.
To tackle the challenges identified, participants also recommend the designation of senior staff as desk officers to reduce bureaucratic bottleneck that may hamper the effective implementation of the Act; incorporation of the FOI Act as a Constitutional right and in order to strengthen it; and proclamation and annual celebration of a day as Freedom of Information Day to draw attention to the law and its importance in ensuring good governance.
The MDAs Roundtable was supported by the Justice for All (J4A) programme of the UK Department for International Development (DFID).