Two Northern Nigerian states, Kano and Adamawa have expressed their readiness to adopt and operationalize the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2011.
Kano State Head of Civil Service, Alhaji Mohammad Auwal Na’iya, who made the state government’s position known while delivering a goodwill message on Thursday at an FOI Assessment and Awareness joint Roundtable of Ministries, Departments and Agencies and Civil Society organisations in the State.
According to him, the Kano state government is in the process of adopting the Freedom of Information Act, with a view to empowering the citizens to participate actively in governance.
“Kano State government is committed to transparency and accountability and is in the process of adopting the Freedom of Information law in the State. The state government has initiated a number of processes to promote transparency, accountability and prudence in governance. The Kano State government has agreed to adopt and implement the Freedom of Information Act through the Open Government Partnership (OGP) process which the State has signed unto. The adoption of the FOI Act in the State is being subjected to wide consultation and will go through the legislative process and passed into law”, he disclosed.
Adding his voice, Executive Chairman, Kano State Public Complaints and Anti-Corruption Commission (PCACC) Alhaji Muhuyi Magaji Rimingado further highlighted the efforts of the present administration in the state to entrench transparency and accountability.
“The government of Alhaji Abdullahi Umar Ganduje in Kano State is doing so much to ensure that governance is transparent. We are interested in the implementation of the FOI Act in Kano State and the government at the highest level in the state is committed to it, since it will promote openness in governance. The State has signed up to the Open Government Partnership, which is a transparency initiative. Access to Information is one of the pillars of the OGP and we are committed to it. The present administration created the Public Complaints and Anti-corruption Commission, among other reformatory initiatives. The present administration is sincere and wants the citizens to participate actively in the business of governance.”
The Roundtable was a 3-day event, organized by the Freedom of Information Coalition, Nigeria (FOICN) and Media Initiative against Injustice, Violence and Corruption (MIIVOC), with support from the European Union, through the Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (RoLAC) Programme, managed by the British Council.
The event which took place at Tahir Guest Palace Hotel, Kano, had participants drawn from state and non-state actors in the state. The primary objective was to assess the level of awareness and implementation of, and compliance with the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, 2011 in the State.
In his presentations on: Understanding the Freedom of Information Act 2011 and Making Requests for Information Under the Freedom of Information Act, Chairman, Board of Governors, Freedom of Information Coalition, Nigeria, Dr, Walter Duru described the Freedom of Information Act as a veritable tool for the entrenchment of transparency in the state, even as he called on stakeholders to collaborate to ensure its effective implementation. He commended the Kano State government for committing to FOI implementation, even as he urged Civil Society organisations in the state to take advantage of the development to participate actively in governance, by testing the Act in the state.
Also, in his presentation on: What is Freedom of Information and its importance, Secretary, Board of the Freedom of Information Coalition, Nigeria, Ayode Longe described freedom of Information as the bedrock and foundation of all human rights, urging citizens to participate actively in the drive towards the operationalization of the FOI Act in the state.
Earlier in his presentation, Anti-corruption Programme Manager of the ROLAC programme, Mr. Emmanuel Uche described the Freedom of Information Act as central to every anti-corruption initiative, even as he commended the Kano State government for embracing the Act.
He reiterated the readiness of the ROLAC programme to support further steps that will enhance FOI implementation in the state and beyond.
The roundtable recorded various sessions, comprising presentations, situation assessment through administration of questionnaires, feedback through questions and comments and viewing of a video on how members of a rural Indian community called Rajasthan successfully used the country’s FOI law to hold their elected officials to account for funds that they administered, and the ripple effect it had in the State which entrenched transparency.
Other highlights of the Roundtable are the development of Action Points, outlining next steps, interactive sessions, advocacy visits and a Communique issued at the end of the event. Other important persons at the event are: Anti-corruption programme officer, Pwanakei Dala, head of ROLAC Kano Office, Ibrahim Bello, among others.
Kano is one of the four focal states of the RoLAC programme. The other three are: Adamawa, Lagos and Anambra states.
Similarly, the Adamawa State government has expressed its readiness to operationalize the Freedom of Information Act in the state.
Adamawa state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Bala Sanga disclosed this while delivering a goodwill message during a similar Roundtable for Ministries, Departments and Agencies, as well as Civil Society Organisations in Adamawa state, recently.
He affirmed that the FOI Act was germane to democracy and good governance, even as he described the present Adamawa state government as transparent. He emphasized that government officials serve the people and should therefore be accountable to them.
“The present Adamawa state government is transparent and willing to do things right. We are in total support and willing to operationalize the Freedom of Information Act in the state. Apart from the FOI Act, public officials have a responsibility to be transparent. If public officials have nothing to hide, then they have nothing to fear about an access to information law.”
He further promised to advise the state Executive Council to ensure the operationalization of the Freedom of Information Act in the State, even as he urged the organisers of the event to transmit the Action Points from the meeting to his office for necessary actions.
The next port of call for the FOI Assessment Roundtable is Anambra State, expected to hold in the next two weeks. The FOI Assessment Roundtable is a prelude to further interventions aimed at pursuing the vigorous implementation of the FOI Act, with a view to entrenching transparency in governance, while empowering citizens to take advantage of the Act to hold the government accountable.