From Tony Osauzo, Benin
Without a system that works in place, Nigeria has missed it ahead of the 2023 Presidential election.
Executive Director, Foundation for Good Governance and Social Change (FGGSC), Comrade Austin Osakue, stated this yesterday while speaking at Colloquium to mark the 4th anniversary of Rural Development, Information and Legal Advocacy Centre (RUDILAC), and the 2022 International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI) organized in conjunction with the Edo State Ministry of Information and Orientation.
He explained that all those jostling to be president may not bring the desired change in the absence of a functional system in place.
“What is required is a system that works and unless a functional system is put in place, no individual can change Nigeria”, he stressed.
Osakue whose lecture was titled “Access to Information: A Building/Road Block For a Resilient Society”, said it is critical to deepen access to information in the country, pointing out that no society can survive for long concealing information.
He listed transparency and accountability as pillars of good governance, adding that Freedom of Information or access to information, is simply saying that citizens have a right to know what is happening within the governance system.
“Freedom of Information is at the heart of transparency and accountability. Instead of being a stumbling block, Freedom of Information is supposed to promote good governance”, Osakue said.
He canvassed collaboration as the way forward, saying individuals cannot do it alone and called on journalists, civil society groups, NGOs and Lawyers to close ranks to enable them make progress and achieve their common goals.
In his lecture “Toolbox for Access to Information Regime in Edo State”, Maxwell Kadiri, a Senior Strategic Litigation Officer, Open Society Justice Initiative”, noted that political elite and leaders across board appear to be uncomfortable when access to information is being discussed.
He explained that access to information is not necessarily tied to legislation, citing India which started allowing its people access to information, flowing from its constitution and Democratic practice 20 years before a formal legislation on the subject was passed.
“Governments across the country have obligation to allow citizens of access to information by virtue of the democracy we practise and the African and Peoples Charter of 1990”.
He stressed that government officials by the concept of democracy are only holding information in trust for the people, adding that the information is not their property.
“Public officers don’t understand the provisions of the FOI in their failure to allow the citizens proactive access to information”, Kadiri further stated.