April 17, 2024

Edo Govt Need To Re-Visit FOI Bill, Says ANEEJ Boss

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By Simeon OSAJIE

The Africa Network For Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), with corporate head office in Benin City, Edo State capital, has called on Edo State government under the leadership of Mr. Godwin Obaseki to re-visit the draft Edo State Freedom of Information (FOI) in the state.

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ANEEJ has on several occassions organised seminars and worship to enlighten the public through the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), CSOs, government agencies the need to prevail on the state government to revisit the FOI bill.

Speaking to newsmen on behalf of the Executive Director of ANEEJ, Rev. David Ugolor, the Programme Manager, Innocent Edemhanrie opined that the ANEEJ is a critical stakeholders in the quest to enhance citizens access to information in Edo State, hence the need to approach State government to revisit the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill.

According to him, “President Goodluck Jonathan has signed the Freedom of Information. Bill into law on 28th of May, 2011. The FOI Act is intended to make public information, records and documents more freely available to the public. It also mandates the government to proactively disclose information and set up FOI desk to swiftly respond to FOI requests from the public.”

He opined that since then civil society organisations and other interest groups have been working at the subnational level, engaging State government on the need to have their State FOI law. If States agreed to have their own FOI law, it will also bring to an end the raging controversy about the applicability of FOI Act at State level where several groups both within and outside Edo State are now in court.

Dr. Ugolor emphasized that the advocacy of FOI law has graciously paid off in Ekiti and Imo States, and wondered why Edo should be an exemption.

“Advocacy effort in this regard has so far paid off in Ekiti and Imo States, where the governors have enacted their own state FOI laws. The effort to get other State governors to take the same, step has continued till date as ANEEJ is currently working with Gatefield and other organizations under the “Keep it Open” cluster program to advocate for the passage of FOI law in Edo, Kaduna and Adamawa States.

“The “Keep it Open” cluster program is part of the SCALE (Strengthening Civil Advocacy and Local Engagement) project, currently being implemented by Palladium with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The goal is to democratize the civic space and foster an enabling environment for civic space/digital rights in Nigeria by advocating for enabling laws, policies and regulations within the civic space for digital rights and freedom of information.”

The ANEEJ boss added that through the keep it open program, we are focusing on advocating for the adoption of laws and executive actions that protect the civic space notably such as “Passage of the digital rights and freedom bill into law at the national level”, “Domestication of Freedom of Information Act at the subnational level in Edo, Kaduna and Adamawa States”.

Dr. Ugolor wonder while the FOI draft received attention during Governor Obaseki first tenure, but since the governor’s second term in office, work on the draft bill has not been taken forward.

“Interestingly, during the first tenure of Mr. Godwin Obaseki as governor of Edo State, a draft ‘Edo State FOI bill’ was prepared by the legal drafting team of
Edo State Ministry of Justice. The draft Edo State FOI Bill has also been subjected to consultation with stakeholders including 00Civil Society Organisations under the Open Government Partnership (OGP) framework. But since the governor’s second term in office, work on the draft bill has not been taken forward,” he said.t

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