Media Rights Agenda (MRA) collaborated with the International Press Centre (IPC) on December 10, 2021 to honour Nigeria’s former president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, and other individuals and organizations for their roles in the passage and implementation of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act at the maiden edition of the National FOI Awards.
The event which was used to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the passage of the FOI Act took place in the Ladi Kwali Conference Hall of Sheraton Hotel in Abuja, Nigeria’ Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and drew participants from the political, media, civil society, academic and other sectors.
Two Special Recognition Awards were presented: one to Former President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan for his substantial and lasting contribution towards the advancement of the right to information in Nigeria by his bold and patriotic act in signing into Law the Freedom of Information Bill on May 28, 2011.
The second Special Recognition Awards went to the Ekiti State Governor and Chairman of the Governor’s Forum (NGF), Dr. Kayode Fayemi, who was also honoured with the Special Recognition Awards for his significant contribution towards the advancement of the right to information in Ekiti State and Nigeria, being the first Governor in Nigeria to adopt a Freedom of Information Law for a State.
The event, which coincides with this year’s International Human Rights Day, was chaired by Justice Stella Anukam, a judge of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights in Arusha, Tanzania.
The award ceremony was used to host government officials, former and serving members of the National Assembly, civil society representatives, media practitioners and members of the international community, among others and it recognised and rewarded individuals, organisations and public institutions that have made significant contributions towards the advancement of the right to information in Nigeria as well as in ensuring the effective implementation of the FOI Act.
Those honoured included individuals and organisations that have made the highest number of requests for information under the FOI Act to public institutions or private entities to which the Act applies, between May 29, 2015 and October 31, 2021 as well as public institutions adjudged to be most responsive to requests for information from members of the public under the FOI Act and that have adopted innovative and access-friendly practices and procedures to ensure public right of access to information in Nigeria.
Special recognition awards were given to 13 recipients in recognition of their contributions towards the advancement of the right to information in Nigeria. Among those honoured in this category were Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba (SAN), Senator Ayogu Eze, Hon. Dimeji Bankole (Former Speaker of the House of Representatives), Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Hon. Jerry Sonny Ugokwe, Hon. Abdul Oroh, Mr. Tunde Fagbohunlu (SAN), and Dr. Sam Amadi.
Others conferred with the same award were Dr. Jibrin Ibrahim, Mr. Osaro Odemwingie, Mr. Maxwell Kadiri, Ms Angela Agoawike, and Prof. Chidi Anselm Odinkalu.
In the stakeholders’ category, awards were given to seven organisations in recognition of their contributions towards the advancement of the right to information in Nigeria. The groups honoured with an award in this category are: European Union (EU), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), British High Commission, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN), Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), and Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI).
Awards were also given to three public institutions which played significant roles in the effective implementation of the FOI Act. Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC) was conferred with the FOI Best Practice Recognition Award having been adjudged the most responsive public institution that has adopted innovative and access friendly practices and procedures to ensure the public’s right of access to information in Nigeria. It was followed closely by Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR) adjudged the second most responsive public institution that has adopted innovative and access-friendly practices and procedures to ensure the public’s right of access to information in Nigeria.
National Orientation Agency (NOA) was conferred with Public Institution Champion of Freedom of Information Award being the most popularly voted Freedom of Information public institution and for its activities in raising awareness about the FOI Act among public institutions and Nigerian citizens.
In the organizational category, Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC) was conferred with an award for being the organisation that made the highest number of requests for information under the FOI Act between May 29, 2015 and October 31, 2021. The International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) came second in this category having being adjudged to have made the second highest number of requests for information under the FOI Act between May 29, 2015 and October 31, 2021.
For the individual category, Mr. Atiku Sarki won the first prize for having made the highest number of requests for information under the FOI Act between May 29, 2015 and October 31, 2021 followed by Mr. Ibrahim Garba Maryam.
Students were not left behind in the awards; IPC and MRA also organized an essay competition for communication students in Nigeria’s tertiary institutions on the topic: “Deepening Democracy: The Impact of FOI Act 10 Years After”. Obanla Ridwan, a National Diploma graduate of Journalism from Kwara State Polytechnic won the first prize of a laptop computer while Ms Julianna Nenritmwa Mohammed, a Mass Communication student of the University of Jos came second and won a 10” tablet.
Explaining the rationale for the awards prior to the ceremony, Mr. Arogundade said: “The FOI Act is a progressive law enacted to open up government to the people and ensure that government becomes more transparent. It is therefore a privilege to be at the threshold of history bestowing awards on individuals, organisations and institutions that have made valuable contributions towards opening up government for the betterment of the people of Nigeria.”
Speaking in the same vein, Mr. Ojo said: “In the past, we have sought to name and shame public institutions for impeding the effective implementation of the FOI Act by inducting them into a Hall of Shame. I am very pleased that we are now also able to recognise and honour those making positive contributions. A notable example of this is Governor Fayemi who wasted no time in facilitating the adoption of an FOI Law in Ekiti State while most of his colleagues remained fearful of opening up governance as nearly all the other State governments were busy disavowing the application of the FOI Act to their States and continued to govern in secrecy.”
The awards ceremony was organised with the support of the European Union through component 4b: Support to Media of the European Union Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria (EU-SDGN) Project.