From Paul Osuyi, Asaba
A policy advisor at BudgIT Office, on Monday called for penalties against those who deliberately delay or sit on responses to Freedom of Information (FoI) requests.
He urged Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and NGOs to push for the amendment of FoI Act to accommodate such sanction in order for the act to be more efficient.
Abel Akeni, Head of Research at BudgIT, made the call during a webinar by the United States (US) Consulate General Lagos for selected journalists across the country as part of activities marking this year’s World Press Freedom Day.
With the theme: “Frontiers of Health Reporting: New Insights, Fresh Perspectives,” journalists participated in the webinar via Zoom.
Speaking on the sub-theme “Tracking and Analysing Public Health Budget” Akeni noted that the FoI Act which was enacted in 2011 needed amendment for provide penalty for officers who sit on or delay response to FoI requests.
He frowned at the way junior and some senior officers in ministry sit on or delay FoI requests.
The development, he said, was because the consequences for disobedience stop at the door of the government.
‘If there is penalty for any officer trying to sit or delay response to the FoI request, it will make the act more efficient and effective.
‘It is not the fault of the government most times, some junior officers because they know only government would be held responsible, do hide request for public information.
‘CSOs and NGOs need to push for amendment of the act to spell out punishment for any officer culpable of complicity in the execution of the law.
‘If this is done, I believe there will be limit to which these officers sit on or delay FoI requests,’ he said.
Akeni urged journalists to always track public health budget for public good and ensure proper implementation as well.
He noted that budget tracking would help to check the reoccurring duplication of capital projects.
Earlier in her opening address, US Consul General Claire Pierangelo said the training was to sharpen the knowledge of journalists for impactful health reporting.