The National Orientation Agency (NOA) has engaged Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Desk Officers in Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government to review the application of the FOIA in the country.
The Director-General of NOA, Dr Garba Abari, said the aim of the engagement was to promote openness, accountability and good governance in Nigeria.
“The National Orientation Agency (NOA) has adopted the periodic review approach toward raising public sensitization and deepening the implementation of the FOIA as part of our Permanent Dialogue Mechanism (PDM) between citizens and government,” Abari said.
He said the engagement with FOIA desk officers of MDAs is part of the PDM deliberately organised to galvanize feedback from officers with hands-on experience in the implementation of the FOIA.
According to him, it would give insight into the successes and challenges of public institutions in applying the Act and provide clues for possible aids to the implementation of the Act.
“As you are aware, the FOIA grants Nigerian citizens unfettered access to information required from any public institution.
“The reasons for this are to ensure that: public participation in governance is entrenched; the business of governance is open to public scrutiny; laid down procedures in the conduct of public affairs are adhered to; transparency and accountability in governance are institutionalised; corruption is stemmed and; scarce resources are judiciously
deployed for the well-being of citizens, among others.
“In order for the above objectives to be attained, it is imperative for us, as desk officers, to share our experiences periodically so that, if need be, further inputs into the law, by way of proposals for amendment, may be elicited to strengthen the Act as well as its implementation and effects. We have similarly had government and civil society stakeholders engaging on zonal basis across the country to enhance openness at all levels of governance,” he added.
Dr Abari further said the NOA has been at the forefront of advocacy for citizens to explore the provisions of the FOIA.
“Apart from the initial training of our State Directors to appreciate the provisions of the Act shortly after its enactment, the Agency has repeatedly trained and retrained staff of the Agency to position them for responsiveness to the demands which the Act places on them as public officers.
“Additionally, NOA has so far translated the FOIA into Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba and 20 other Nigerian languages and produced an explanatory note to the Act called “23 Reasons for the FOIA.”
These have been widely circulated across the country.
“The NOA has also remained exemplary for by setting up an FOI Committee in the Agency which has facilitated the timely fulfilment of the Agency’s obligations of submitting its annual Institutional Report to the Federal Ministry of Justice,” he noted.
He said the Agency has also ensured regular update of our website with salient information for public consumption.
“While the NOA is working assiduously to improve its overall FOIA compliance outlook, I hope that you find the NOA FOIA compliance model a valuable recommendation for adoption by your various MDAS.
“It is our expectation, therefore, that this roundtable will serve as a performance peer-review for participating MDAS with a view to making necessary adjustments toward improving our various contributions to openness and transparency in the governance process in Nigeria.
“We also hope that this review will enable us, as evaluate our roles in implementing the FOIA in our various FOIA desk officers, institutions and shore up our personal resolve to impact more meaningfully on public access and participation in governance,” he added.