By Adeola Badru
THE National Orientation Agency, NOA, has charged Nigerians on the need to harness the provisions of the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act to demand and foster transparency and good governance at the local, state and federal levels.
The Oyo State director of the agency, Mrs. Dolapo Dosunmu, gave the charge over the weekend, during a stakeholders’ engagement on evaluating the application of the FoI Act and its impact on national development, held at the agency’s headquarters, Agodi, Ibadan.
Mrs. Dosunmu, who stated that the Freedom of Information Act is not for the press alone, maintained that the law provided equal rights to every citizen of the country to have access to public information regardless of profession, vocation or tribe.
Her words: “Aside impact assessment, this gathering is also for further sensitisation of the general public on how they can harness the provisions of FOI. This also includes private institutions utilising public funds and handling public projects and programmes.”
“Citizens are empowered by this law to monitor whatever projects or programmes being undertaken in their communities with a view to ensuring that they get the correct value for whatever public funds expended.”
“This law, however, frowned at frivolities, blackmail and which-hunting of political opponents or business rivals. The FOI Act also provides immunity for whistleblowers where the information disclosed is done in good faith. The Federal Government has also strengthened this with the whistleblowing policy, which in addition to protecting whistleblowers also provides for monitoring compensation for information that leads to recovery of looted public funds,” Dosumu posited.
She noted that the gathering was designed to afford stakeholders the opportunity of doing an honest appraisal of the application of the FoI act by public institutions among other things, required to keep proper records and undertake proactive disclosure of information through newsletters, handbooks, operational guidelines and annual reports, detailing their activities, projects and programmes as well as total amount of public funds released.
In his address, the Commissioner for Information, Mass Mobilization, Culture, and Tourism in the state, Dr. Wasiu Olatunbosun, harped that Nigerians should be deeply involved in the application of the FoI act for the benefit and development of the nation.
Representatives of the various stakeholders and associations at the forum applauded the agency for organising such an engagement and pledged to ensure that their members make use of the freedom of information act judiciously.