Assessing the Freedom of Information Act in Nigeria
Jideani Chukwuemeka, Executive Director Ethics and Corporate Compliance Institute of Nigeria, has said that Nigeria has not met her mark as a people and as a society with regards to transparency in governance and the fight against corruption. He noted this, on Monday, while speaking as a guest on the Buharimeter Radio Show, hosted by the Centre for Democracy and Development with Nigerian Info, Abuja. Mr Chukwuemeka, while giving his expert assessment of the Freedom of Information Act said that, “The measure of Democracy is how easy it is for citizens to access (government/ public) records and information and how involved the citizens are in the development of policies, and the implementation of those policies.”
The freedom of information act was signed on May 28, 2011, as an avenue for the citizens of Nigeria to access public information that are not considered a threat to national interest by the government. Since its inception, however, the process of engaging the FOIA has been fraught with challenges, as only 60 Public institutions have submitted the annually required reports to the Attorney general’s office out of 880 public institutions in Nigeria. Mr Jideani stated that some of the problems associated with the process of retrieving information from the Public Institutions included, the lack of a Citizen’s Guide on how to obtain public information, the lack of an Ombudsman to ensure the public agencies adhere to the act and the fact that the civil servants are inhibited in their delivery of information by civil service rules. “It is frowned at to be innovative in the Civil service,” he said.
Chukwuemeka however, noted that Nigeria has made progress and improvements have been seen in recent governments’ approach towards transparency and policy creation. He cited the signing of the Open Government Partnership by President Muhammadu Buhari in London, the open and transparent nature of public procurement and the availability online of the federal budget since 2007, as proof that tremendous progress have been made in a bid to stem corruption and promote transparency by the Nigerian government.