Dean of the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos (UNILAG). Prof. Ayo Atsenuwa, and others stakeholders, have called for training of government officials, on knowledge of the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act.
Atsenuwa and others made this call yesterday at a public hearing tagged Building the Capacity of Citizens on the use of the FoI Act as a Tool for Promoting Transparency and Accountability in the Education Sector in Nigeria.
The public hearing was organised by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and was supported by Omidyar Network.
Atsenuwa, who was guest speaker at the event, said section 39 of the 1999 Constitution recognises the right to Freedom of Expression and that the FoI Act was enacted by government, in furtherance of that section of the Constitution.
“No public official has a right to argue against the FoI Act.There should be training for directors in government institutions and a debriefing. A debriefing is necessary because most of them were brought up on a diet of official secrets.
“Now, any person can request for information under the FoI Act, such application for information can be written or oral. There is now a paradigm shift, those who want to keep information must now show cause why they wanted to withhold information,” she said.
The professor said the FoI Act is predicated on availability of timely access to accurate, non-prejudicial information from authentic sources; which is critical to citizen participation in governance.
Atsenuwa said government has a duty to ensure press freedom and assure the citizenry of access to information held by government officials and institutions.
She, however, noted that information may be refused if it will be injurious, affect public interest or interfere with law enforcement proceedings.