, Abuja played host to stakeholders of the Freedom of Information (FOI) community at a two-day strategy meeting to explore mechanism for ensuring public enlightenment, greater coordination, collaboration, as well as to share information, skills, and experience on FOI implementation activities. The meeting which held at the Jades Hotel, Abuja on September 16 and 17,
The meeting which held at the Jades Hotel, Abuja on September 16 and 17, 2013 was convened by Media Rights Agenda (MRA) and sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Democratic Governance for Development (DGD) II Project.
Participants at the meeting were drawn from member organizations of the FOI Coalition as well as representatives of related civil society groups, professional and institutional bodies. The meeting’s discussion was basically on issues affecting implementation of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) 2011 in Nigeria. It also reviewed the operations of the FOI including its present structure, objectives, activities, resources as well as agreeing on a framework for re-positioning the FOI Coalition to enhance Freedom of Information implementation activities.
The opening protocols was presided over by Ms. Faith Nwadishi of Publish What You Pay (PWYP). In his opening remarks, Dr. Mourtada Deme, Director of UNDP/DGD II project who was represented by Mrs. Toyin Gabriel, Media expert with the UNDP/DGD noted that though laudable work has been done on FOI, there was a critical need to have a stakeholders’ mechanism to keep track of the results, challenges and lessons learned of the FOI Implementation in Nigeria. He added that that there was need to collaborate more effectively by building on strengths and leverage opportunities, connections and resources, on the nexus of the FOI Implementation by the mass of Nigerians as a tool to hold elected officials accountable and to get the dividends of democracy.
In all, they were 6 plenary sessions with presentations and syndicate sessions. The key presentations were: overview of the Challenges of Implementation of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011 by Mr. Lanre Arogundade, Director, International Press Centre and Historical Background & Current Status of the Freedom of Information Coalition as well as Building an Effective Coalition for Civil Society Engagement by Mr. Edetaen Ojo, Executive Director, MRA.
Key civil society actors that engaged the different syndicate and interaction sessions included Dr. Abiola Afolabi-Akiode, Executive Director, Women Advocates Research & Documentation Centre (WARDC), Mrs. Helen Teghtegh, Community Links and Human Empowerment Initiative, Ms Joy Ngwakwe, Executive Director, Center for Advancement of Development Rights (CEADER), Dr. Jibrin Ibrahim, Executive Director, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Mr. Akin Akingbulu, Executive Director, Institute for Media and Society (IMS); Mr. Gbenga Sesan and Professor Albert A. Ilemobade, amongst others.
Key recommendations arrived at includes:
- That the Coalition should formulate the modules, develop the curriculum and carryout advocacy for the inclusion of the FOI Act in school curriculums.
- That the FOI Coalition should carryout continuous training on the FOI Act which should involve various stakeholders and these trainings should include online and offline self-training kits.
- FOI Coalition members should take a further step, apart from training, to actually practically assisting communities and the grassroots to use the FOI Act for developmental purposes.
- That t he FOI Coalition secretariat should update the FOI Coalition website to include a section for FOI requests.
- That the FOI Coalition should build the capacity of the bar and bench on the FOI Act to ensure a better understanding of the Act and secure positive judgments in FOI cases.
- That the FOI Act should be processed into infographics, videos, sign languages illustrations, and animation etc to appeal to different segments of the society.
In conclusion, participants noted that the FOI Coalition should step up such activities as sensitization of key operators, stakeholders/key operators analysis; town hall meetings and strategic alliances with key operators. The strategy meeting also concluded that reports of success and challenges in FOI applications be shared through alerts to coalition members to enable keep them abreast of the status of organizations who are really engaged with FOI Act.