By Levinus Nwabughiogu, Abuja
Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on the Freedom of Information, Hon. Cornelius Nnaji has said that only 73 of the over 900 public institutions in the country complied with the provisions of the Freedom of Information, FOI Act on the disclosure of public information for 2020.
Nnaji who spoke at the 10th-anniversary celebration of the Freedom of Information Act in Abuja on Friday disclosed that the Official Secrets Act (OSA) of 1962 was acting against the implementation of the FOIA, saying it dominated the thinking and practice in the public service.
He said that many public officials were still not in the know of the Act and therefore highly unwilling to make disclosures with regards to public information. He, therefore, called for more awareness to help the public Institutions comply with the provisions of the law.
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According to him, the Freedom of Information has been described as the “oxygen of democracy” by Article 19 of the Global Campaign for Free Expression.
It will be recalled that the bill establishing the Act was signed into law on May 28, 2011, hence celebration.
Nnaji said this “implies that, without access to information and adequate disclosure within a democratic setting, quality delivery of goods and services, as well as democracy dividends, will always be a mirage to citizens”.
He added that the essence of the FOI Act was to help the public to access information from public Institutions to establish a culture of transparency, probity, and accountability.
He added that the FOIA required public institutions to proactively publish about 44 categories of information as outlined in (Section 2) for information produced by or in relation to such bodies with present timelines in accordance with Section 7 of the Act.
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He expressed displeasure that out of over 900 agencies of government that draw funds from the public coffers, only 73 could comply with the laws of the FOI Act.
He said: The law says that the MDAs will be submitting their annual reports to the office of the Attorney-general. But for last year, we got only 73 which complied to what the law. There is a need to create awareness for them to be complying.
“The figure actually varies from year to year. Last two years, it wasn’t the same thing. The awareness we are creating now has helped some MDAs to know there is a law such as FOIA. Today marks 10 anniversary. The law was signed on May 28, 2011. But because of insecurity and all that, we couldn’t do an elaborate celebration. The Attorney-general reports to us every April 1 from what the law says. So, this report is for 2020”.
The lawmaker urged the Attorney General of the Federation to ensure effective realization of the objectives of the Act, stressing that by virtue of Section 29, the office should ensure that all institutions to which the Act applies complied with the provisions of the Act.
Vanguard News Nigeria
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