The Board of Governors of the Freedom of Information Coalition, Nigeria (FOICN) have elected its executives and drawn up a strategic plan document to guide its operations for the next five years.
The FOICN Board of Governors met for three days from September 28 to 30, 2015 to, among other things, review the state of the implementation of the Freedom of Information Act and discuss various issues affecting the Coalition and its operations.
At the meeting, the Board agreed to a five-year strategic plan to improve the implementation of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, 2011. The strategic plan outlines a number of measures that the Board and Coalition members would undertake over the coming years to reverse this undesirable state of affairs and to bring about a culture of transparency and accountability in Nigeria.
It also used the opportunity to elect officers to run the affairs of the coalition over the next four years. The officers elected are:
1. Walter Duru of Media Initiative against Injustice, Violence and Corruption (MIIVOC) Owerri as Chairperson
2. Isah A. Garba of Bauchi State Coalition for the Improvement of Public Expenditure Management (BACIPEM) Bauchi as Deputy Chairperson
3. Ayode Longe of Media Rights Agenda (MRA) as Secretary
4. Ms Seember Nyanger of the Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC) Abuja as Director of Programmes
5. Yusuf Yakubu of the Muslim League for Accountability (MULAC) Kaduna as Director of Finance
6. Dr. Tope Olaifa of Stefanie Peace Building, Abeokuta as Director of Research and Strategic Planning
7. Amegua Lezina of Karibi-Whyte & Co (Coronation Chambers) Port Harcourt as Director of Legal Services
8. Edegbe Odemwingie of Centre for Public Opinion and Media Research (CePOMeR) Abuja as Public Relations Officer and
9. Mrs. Motunrayo Alaka of the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) Lagos as Director of Welfare and Logistics
In the course of the meeting, the FOICN Board expressed concern over the poor level of awareness among the public about the existence of the FOI Act and their right to information under the law.
It also expressed concern about a number of issues around the FOI Act implementation among which are the low level of awareness among public institutions and officials about the FOI Act and their duty to provide information to the public as required the FOI Act; the low level of compliance by public institution to their proactive disclosure obligations under Section 2 of the FOI Act; and that despite the relatively few number of requests for information being made by members of the public most public institutions have withheld such information without legitimate or justifiable reasons.
Consequently, the Board called on public institutions to demonstrate a more serious attitude towards their duties and obligations under the FOI Act by committing to provide citizens with information about their institution’s activities, operations and governance in general.
It particularly singled out the National Assembly which it asked to both fulfil its obligations under the FOI Act as a public institution and as well provide effective oversight responsibility in the implementation of the Act.
The Board called on the media to take advantage of the existence of the law to improve the quality of their reporting by providing more accurate and reliable information to members of the public.
In order to ensure the effective implementation of the Act, it called on the Nigerian Government to allocate adequate resources to public institutions.
The Board pledged its readiness to collaborate with other stakeholders including government institutions, professional associations, trade/labour unions as well as media practitioners to improve awareness of the FOI Act, and improve the level of compliance and implementation.
The meeting was made possible by the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Democratic Governance for Development (DGD) II Project with funding from the European Union, the UK Department for International Development (DFID); the Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, Canadian; and the UNDP.