…charge Nigerians to keep open eyes on leaders
By Henry Uche
The Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD), has strongly condemn the lack of respect of the law and FOI Act by Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government, MDAs, to release relevant information in recent time.
In a press statement signed and delivered by the Centre, the Ag. Program Coordinator, Ibrahim Nuhu,
stated that; CITAD in its bid to demand transparency and accountability from public figures in the country, has been tracking various projects at national and state levels using the FOI requesting relevant information but unfortunately some of the MDAs concerned have refusesd to disclose relevant information.
The Program Coordinator made this known on the commemoration of
International Day for Universal Access to Information, 2020, with the Theme: In Times of Crisis, constitutional, Statutory And/Or Policy Guarantees For Public Access To Information Save lived, Build Trust And Help Develop Sustainable Policies.
Ibrahim reiterated that CITAD would not fail in its mandate to promote development, information sharing, transparency and accountability in public and private sector, promote peace and mitigate conflict, foster good governance and societal wellbeing using Information and communication Technology (ICT).
He charged citizens to be resolute and keep eyes on the government officials hence its the citizens Rights to demand information to ensure accountability and transparency as The Freedom of Information Act 2011 provides.
“The FoI Act 2011 was designed to transform quite fundamentally the way and manner in which government conducts the people’s business and the perception of the people towards the government.
“Both of these cannot be achieved without information. For instance, decision making is based on
having the right information to make an informed contribution to debate. It is important to remember that accountability is at the root of modern representative democracy.
“Because of scale and complexity of issues, we cannot all directly take part in decision making and therefore have to give this right to our representatives who in turn must render accountability in return.
“The underlying philosophy of the Act is that public servants are custodians of public trust on
behalf of a people who have a right to know what they do, particularly to promote accountability
and enable citizens participation in decision making that affects them.
In linewith the prevailing, CITAD therefore recommend that; “All
MDAs should secure and update their websites and ensure functionality at all times, proactively disclosure every relevant information or recordsand make such available at all time. Total compliance to the citizens requests must be emphasized by the authorities and legal sector should facilitate the sanctions and punishment in case of failure.
“Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) must mount pressure on the MDAs in case they fail to provide information within the stipulated time and prepare to share the
request with media organizations, and other groups who may have interest in the information
and relevant communities who may be affected by the content of the information.
He noted that in accordance with FOI, Public and Private Institutions have the responsibilities to; capture records and keep information about all its activities, operations and businesses, keep records by proper organization and maintenance of all information in its custody and make it available by publishing or otherwise make this information to the public.
He affirmed that more often than not, government officials are reluctant to provide even the most elementary information at their disposal. “It is very disheartening seeing the behaviour and attitudes of government officials when it comes to prior disclosure and even with written request of information at their disposal by the citizens. These make it difficult in bringing sanity to the governments’ expenditures when tracking and accountability as well as transparency in governance.
“The refusal of the prompt disclosure and request of information by the government officials is a clear violation of the FOI Act and impedes economic growth and development. We enjoin Nigerians to be tracking all government projects and report any deviation to the authority concern so that we can strengthen access to health, education and justice and reduced inequalities.
“We also call on government officials, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), individuals, Community Based Organizations (CBOs) to partner one another in ensuring ease flow of information for progress, growth and development.
“This is imperative because lack of information makes it difficult to assess the extent to which governments manage our resources and determine what the benefits of the people are. It is this opacity of information that creates the condition for corruption to strive. information flow is thus a critical condition for transparency and for curtailing corruption in governance,” he averred.