By Femi Ogunshola
Dr Kayode Ajulo, Executive Director, Egalitarian Mission for Africa (EMA), has urged the Federal Government to mandate public institutions to provide appropriate training for officials on public right to access information.
Ajulo, who made the call at the annual general meeting of EMA on Tuesday in Abuja, said that such training should be in line with the Freedom of information (FOI) Act.
He said that the association had declared 2021 as the year to ensure that transparency, accountability and probity are entrenched in government.
He said that Ministries Department and Agencies (MDAs) of government should be mandated to provide appropriate training for their officials on public right to access information.
He said that officials should be compelled to provide records held by public institutions, adding that they should also be trained to submit to the Attorney-General of the Federation report containing necessary information.
Ajulo said that in spite of salient and unambiguous provisions of the FOI Act, most public institutions in Nigeria do not often comply with the Act.
The lawyer expressed worry over the failure of some public institutions to make information available to the public even when the Act specifically provided that an application fee may be charged.
According to him, there is a general public interest in promoting transparency, accountability, public understanding and involvement in the democratic process.
“Democracy cannot flourish if governments operate in secrecy,” he said.
He said that the nature and quality of public participation in government would be significantly impoverished without the nourishment of information from public authorities.
“To guarantee freedom of expression without including freedom of information would be a formal exercise, denying both effective expression in practice and a key goal which free expression seeks to serve.
“It is on the backdrop of this that EMA in collaboration with other partners, civil societies organisations, journalists, researchers, academicians and well spirited lawyers declared 2021 as the year of war,” he stated
He added that the battle was against lack of transparency, accountability and probity in the public institutions “and to this cause we are committed.’’
He said that any public institution and public officer who failed to comply with the provisions of the FOI Act should be made to face the wrath of the law.
“We take the liberty to also call on the office of AGF to take the bull by the horn by ensuring that all public institutions adhered strictly to the provisions of FOI Act.’’
He said that Nigerians were entitled to know how their common wealth were being utilised, managed and administered in a democratic setting.
He added that such would positively influence the feeling of belonging in the society adding that EMA would pursue it to its logical conclusion.