In its effort to deepen the roots of democracy in Nigeria and expand the space for citizens’ participation in democracy, the National Orientation Agency (NOA) has launched three translations of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act in Nigerian languages in partnership with the Democratic Governance for Development (DGD) of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Right to Know initiative.
The Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba translations of the FOI Act, according to the NOA Director General, Mr. Mike Omeri was informed by the need to improve citizens’ awareness and understanding of the Act which promotes accountability and probity in public life. Other objectives of the local language translations, he said, include “the sensitization of citizens to exercise their rights under the Act and seek information from public institutions at all levels; the stimulation of proactive disclosure by public institutions as required by the Act; and also the ensuring of provision of access to information applied for under the Act by public institutions”.
Mr. Omeri said the NOA, in accordance with its statutory mandate, was spearheading the public sensitization of the Act through the translations which will be massively distributed to Nigerians as well as through trainings at various levels. He expressed optimism that with the efforts of the NOA at sensitization on the FOI Act, Nigerians would take advantage of the Act to check the conduct of those who flagrantly display wealth, power and influence, adding that public institutions should emulate the example of the NOA which has fulfilled its obligations of submitting its 2012 Institutional Report to the Federal Ministry of Justice, setting up an FOI Unit in the Agency and regularly updating its website with salient information for public consumption.
Launching the publications, the Minister of Justice, Mr. Bello Adoke, SAN, represented by his Senior Special Adviser, Professor Adekunle Adedeji commended the NOA for being “forward marching” and foresighted in translating the FOI Act for a proliferated understanding and implementation of the Act by Nigerians. He disclosed that the Federal Ministry of Justice would soon publicize a website containing the reports submitted by Ministries, Departments and Agencies in keeping with the demands of the FOI Act, describing the FOI Act as a widely acclaimed example of Public/Private Partnership, Mr. Adoke.
In his remarks, the DGD Project Director, Dr. Mourtada Deme noted that access to information was very important to citizens as it would enable them make responsible, informed choice as well as provide them with the tools to hold elected officials accountable and to participate in policy making processes that affect their lives. He therefore expressed the delight of the UNDP and its international partners – the European Union, the United Kingdom Department for International Development and the Canadian International Development Agency – who he said are proud to be associated with the initiative of the NOA for grassroots popularization of the FOI Act.