Mr. Malami made the comments in his Keynote Address delivered at the opening session of a two-day workshop for FOI Desk Officers of public institutions on the establishment of an online FOI platform, held in Abuja on February 1 and 2, 2022.
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), has described the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, 2011 as a “milestone in our national legislative agenda”, saying that the “Act has specifically highlighted the fact that access is necessary for the meaningful exercise of free expression on matters of public or political interest.”
In the keynote address delivered on his behalf by Mr. Gowon Ichibor, the Head of the FOI Unit at the Federal Ministry of Justice, Mr. Malami recalled the coming into force of the Act on May 28, 2011, explaining that “it subjects certain records of public institutions as well as some private institutions to a disclosure regime in line with the ideals of open and transparent government.”
According to him, “the Act provides a legal guarantee for access to information and requires public institutions to proactively publish certain classes of information as well as to release information upon request.”
Mr. Malami also noted that Section 29 (1) of the Act establishes in the Attorney General of the Federation, an oversight organ for monitoring, promoting and protecting the right to access records and information, while also mandating all public institutions to submit to his office on or before February 1 of each year, a report on their compliance status with the Act.
He said it is noteworthy that Section 29(4) of the Act also requires his office to forward the reports from all public institutions to the relevant committees of the Senate and the House of Representatives having oversight in the implementation of the Act on or before April 1 of each calendar year.
The Federal Attorney-General noted that “My office has performed this function for the past 10 years, despite the initial challenges associated with the implementation of a new Law.”
Mr. Malami said in accordance with the provisions of the Act, the Ministry of Justice continuously encourages public institutions to comply with proactive disclosure obligations under Section 2 of the Act, adding that an increasing number of public institutions have developed platforms for their proactive disclosure requirements under the Act.
He stated that the workshop would only help in ensuring effective implementation of the FOI Act but would also improve the Desk Officers’ compliance to their proactive disclosure obligations.
The Minister thanked the International Press Council (IPC), Media Rights Agenda (MRA) and their funding partner, the European Union, for the initiative of organizing the workshop, saying his Ministry appreciates the “worthy collaboration and look forward to further engagements designed to improve the implementation of the Act, which is a crucial tool in our national development efforts.”