The National Council on Information (NCI), an annual meeting of government information managers, has called on states to implement the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act rather than enact state versions of the law.
The Council, which met in Abuja, also urged States to take advantage of the enhanced curriculum at the National Institute of Public Information (NIPI) in Kaduna to create synergy in information management and bridge the knowledge gap amongst information managers.
These were some of the resolution reached at the 43rd NCI which took place on December 13, 2012 at Nicon Luxury Hotel in Abuja with the theme: “Information Management for Good Governance and National Transformation.”
The meeting brought together 410 delegates from 31 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). The NCI is the highest decision-making organ on matters relating to information in Nigeria and comprises the Minister of Information, the 36 states Commissioners of Information, and other senior officials from federal and state ministries of information.
The NCI also recommended that federal and state ministries of information should further collaborate and intensify public enlightenment on environmental challenges and national security. In this regard, it encouraged states to vote funds for public enlightenment while suggesting that designs of specific strategies and publications are made available for implementation by both federal and state ministries of information
In his opening remarks, Information Minister Labaran Maku called on Commissioners of Information to be champions of the implementation of the FOI Act in their respective states. He advised them to use their various ministries to commence effective public enlightenment to facilitate the implementation of the Act in the interest of good governance rather than enact states versions of the Act which may conflict with the federal law. He pointed out that the FOI Act passed by the National Assembly and signed by President Goodluck Jonathan will take precedence where a state FOI law conflicts with it.
Mr. Maku described the FOI Act as “the boldest and most revolutionary step by any Administration in the fight against corruption in Nigeria.” He also pointed out that it has implications for access to information which he said is a challenge to journalists and all who wish to know how they are governed and how their resources are managed.
The Minister, who noted that the meeting came at the right time considering the focus on the performance of governments at all levels, said a number of challenges beset the country at the moment and these demand the expertise and experience of information managers. He urged them to improve transparency and accountability in governance by making access to public media available for the people to use to contribute to the governance process.
He reminded participants that Nigeria now runs a democracy and that democracy differs from military dictatorship by allowing for openness and free flow of information to the people, enlightening the citizenry who could engage their leaders constructively. This, he said, has the potential to promote good governance.
Mr. Maku noted: “in furtherance of the Transformation Agenda of this administration, which is anchored on good governance, the Federal Ministry of Information did organise a ministerial platform for ministers to interact with Nigerians across the world on a multi-media platform and explain the activities and programmes of ministries, departments and agencies.”
In his remarks, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, the Chairman of Senate Committee on Information argued that effective information management and dissemination was a critical element of good governance and democracy. He, therefore, urged information managers to use their strategic positions to emphasise more on things that unite Nigerians rather than things that divide them.
Participants also agreed that the establishment of a “Collective Management Organization” (CMO) for enhanced audio visual works in Nigeria will help deepen the Nigerian film industry and make it globally competitive. It therefore encouraged the accelerated registration of the CMO.
The Council also advocated that States should provide access to computers for community schools and encourage e-governance at the Local Government levels.
Earlier in her remarks, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Mrs. Kehinde Ajoni, stressed the need to deploy robust communication strategies for effective publicity as imperatives for the transformation agenda and vision 20:20:20
Participants thereafter fixed the next meeting of the NCI for September 2013 to hold in Osogbo, Osun State.