The National Orientation Agency (NOA) is translating the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in local languages to ensure that its provisions are well understood and given effect by citizens, civil society and government agencies. The Director General of NOA, Mr. Mike Omeri made this known at the opening ceremony of a two-day train-the-trainers workshop organized by the Agency in partnership with the Democratic Governance for Development (DGD) of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the European Union, the United Kingdom Department for International Development and the Canadian International Development Agency for the Agency’s State Directors and Programme Officers.
He said the workshop was borne out of the need to ensure that those for whom the Act is meant are sufficiently educated on its provisions and the rationale; ultimate objective(s) and benefits as well as citizens’ specific roles in its implementation. Consequently, Mr. Omeri said that the Agency was embarking on robust and sustained public communication of the provisions of the FOI Act. He explained that the NOA was carrying out a pilot training of its officers and stakeholders in seven States of the Federation including Borno, Gombe, Kebbi, Plateau, Benue, Kaduna and Taraba States and would soon cover all 36 States of the Federation with the training.
In his address at the event, the Minister of Culture, Tourism and National Orientation, Chief Edem Duke observed that the current information management process in government organizations is dogged by secrecy and censorship which, he noted, have been misapplied to the detriment of the citizens and the nation. He therefore commended the effort of the NOA in raising public awareness on the FOI Act to correct this anomaly.
The Minister however, charged the media, which he described as the conscience of the nation, to put national interest ahead of all other concerns in their demand for information. He admonished that the exercise of a high sense of dignity and honour in the application of the provisions of the Act was of utmost importance to avoid creating artificial bottlenecks against access to information.
In a goodwill message DGD Project Director, Dr. Mourtada Deme was of the view that a fledgling democracy like Nigeria’s can only be strengthened when its citizenry are empowered with access to public information that can assist them make informed contributions to the democratic process and to hold elected officials accountable. He therefore described the FOI Act as central to good governance “with immense potentials and benefits for promoting active citizen participation and increasing transparent and accountable governance in Nigeria’s democracy”.
Present at the event were chief executives of media organizations and senior journalists includingthe publisher, Metropole Magazine, Mr. Waziri Adio, representative of the Managing Director, Guardian Newspapers, Mr. Madu Onuorah, representative of the Director General, Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, Mr. Ikechukwu Eze, and the` Executive Editor, Nigerian Pilot Newspapers, Dr. Obinna Nwachukwu.