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Experts Harp On Importance Of Freedom Of Information Act

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Stakeholders have advocated the sincere implementation of the Freedom of Information, FOI Act in a bid to ensure transparency and accountability in government.

This formed part of the outcome of a Stakeholders’ engagement on “Evaluating the Application of the Freedom of Information Act and Its Impact on National Development” organised by the National Orientation Agency, NOA in Osogbo, the Osun State Capital.

In an opening address, the Osun State Director of the NOA, Mrs Yomi Olasinde said the full implementation of the FOI Act will transform quite fundamentally the way in which government conduct businesses and the perception of the people towards the government.

Represented by Deputy Director of Administration, Prince Olalekan Adejobi, Olasinde said implementation of the FoI Act is a two way thing because if people do not ask questions, government or private agencies concerned cannot provide answers.

Olasinde further noted that there have been various avoidable cases that would not have occurred if the FOI Act is fully implemented.

Olasinde said that the NOA had in the last nine years be in the fore front of mobilizing relevant bodies and citizens to take advantage of access to information.

She further explained that since it was passed by both Chambers of the 6th National Assembly on 24th May, 2011 and assented to by former President Goodluck Jonathan on 28th May, 2011, the agency has done tremendously well in the sensitisation of people on its usefulness.

The FOI Act according to the Director promises to remove the aura of mystery and exclusion with which public servants cloak the ordinary operations of government and public institutions

She said: ” this act seeks to change the manner in which public records and information are managed. It builds on assumption of openness by placing on those who wish to keep public information away from people, the onus of justifying why they have to do so.

According to her, it was therefore necessary for MDAs and other stakeholders to be educated on its provisions, objectives and benefits that would accrue to them for complying with the provisions of the Act; what they lose by non-compliance, and what specific roles were expected of them.

A legal Practitioner, Barrister Abayomi Ogundele observed that the Freedom of Information Act, FoI Act places Nigeria at the front burner of good governance.

Ogundele said proper implementation of FoI Act has a lot of benefits such as transparency, interaction between government and the governed and confidence building on those in public office.

He further explained that if efforts were combined through communication, cooperation and collaboration among stakeholders, corruption variables that have been impinging openness, transparency and accountability in governance process would diminish and the task of reinforcement of citizens’ faith and trust in good governance would be optimally achieved.

According to the legal Practitioner, FOI act is a fundamental educator of economic development and progress, adding that the implementation of FOI act would help check corruption and it would give room for transparency.

Mr Ajala Adetunji , Kimpact Development Initiative noted that the FOI Act which was enacted a few years ago is a booster to promote, enhance and develop the precarious governance process by giving room to openness and transparency in government, strengthen democratic structures and institutions to create values.

Adetunji stated that the FOI Act was passed into law by the National Assembly with the intent that citizens of the country should have unfettered access to information required from any public institution, ensure that laid down procedures in the conduct of public affairs are adhered to; institutionalize transparency and accountability in governance; stem corruption; among others.

The NOA stakeholders engagement with the theme “Evaluating the Application of Freedom of Information Act and its Impact on National Development ” had in attendance MDAs from federal and state level, NGO and the media.

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