By NAN

Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami,SAN, has tasked Government Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to comply with the provisions  of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.

Malami, who represented by Mr Gowon Ichibor, the Head, FOI Unit, Federal Ministry of Justice made the call in his keynote address at the training of FOI Desk officers from no fewer than 60 Federal MDAs on the establishment of online engagement platform on Tuesday in Abuja.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the  programme is organised by the Internal Press Centre (IPC) in collaboration with Media Rights Agenda (MRA) and the FOI Unit of the Federal Ministry of Justice to enhance implementation of the Act.

The two day workshop, with the theme, “Facilitating Shared Learning, Experience Sharing and Best Practice Application in the Implementation of the FOI Act, 2011” is supported by the European Union.

“The Act is a milestone in our National Legislative Agenda as it subjects certain records of Public Institutions as well as some Private Institutions to a disclosure regime in line with the ideals of open and transparent government.

“The Act provides a legal guarantee for access to information and requires public institutions to proactively publish certain classes of information as well as to release information upon request.

“Pursuant to the provisions of the Act, I call and encourage Public Institutions to comply with Proactive Disclosure obligations under Section 2 of the Act.

“However, I am pleased to state that this workshop will not only help in ensuring effective implementation of the Act but also improve desk officers’ compliance to their proactive disclosure obligations,” Malami said.

Also speaking, Mr Clement Boutillier, the Team Lead/Head of Section Democracy, Governance and Migration, European Union Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS said adequate implementation of the law is a sign of progress.

According to Boutillier, FOI and expression is a fundamental right enshrined in international law, adding that, to date, 129 countries have access to information laws.

“Also, over 50 constitutions worldwide recognised this as a right, along with legal framework confirming it; effective access to information law can only help citizens and civil societies to known how to use it.

” The EU is supporting several projects to assist and protect FOI, Journalists and Human Rights Defender across the globe. This is because, it fosters democracy and protect a culture of dialogue,” Boutillier said.

Meanwhile in his address of welcome, Mr Lanre Arogundade, the Executive Director of IPC said the two day engagement was expected to lead to the establishment of an online platform.

“This platform would serve as a catalyst for more proactive implementation of the FOI Act 2011.

“The platform would also serve as a permanent dialogue channel among public institutions to be updated with latest development on the implementation of the FOI laws,” Arogundade said.

NAN also reports that Aregundade was represented at the event by Mrs Stella Nwafia, an official of the IPC.

Similarly, Mr Edetaen Ojo, the Executive Director, MRA told the participants that they should remember that the would not remain FOI desk Officers or be in the public office forever.

“So it is in our collective interest to ensure that the FOI Act works, because one day we too may need to use it to get important information”.

NAN reports that FOI Desk Officers from Nigerian Press Council, Federal Character Commission, NAN and many other MDAs. (NAN)

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