By Stanley Onyekwere
To ensure improved efficiency and effectiveness in service delivery in line with provisions of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, directors and other top officials in the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) were yesterday sensitised on the implementation of the Act.
The top officials drawn from all the Secretariat, Departments and Agencies under the FCTA were drilled through by several speakers on critical aspects of the 2011 Act, including other sundry challenges affecting its operation in the territory.
The sensitization programme was organized by the FCT-FOI In-house Implementation Committee, in conjunction with Lawquest training company ltd, in Abuja.
Peoples Daily reports that the FOI Act made it mandatory for public institutions to ensure that all information about government activities are properly kept and grant access to information when requested for.
Declaring the workshop open, the FCT Permanent Secretary, Engr. John Chuckwu, said, the objective of the event is to arm the heads of SDAs with relevant skills and expertise to ensure smooth implementation of the FOI Act in the FCT.
Represented by the FCT Solicitor General, Ibrahim Anas, the permanent secretary said following the signing of the FOI Act into law by President Goodluck Jonathan, on May 28, 2011, the FCTA was inundated with requests for Information, resulting to the establishment of FCT FOI implementation Committee on the 4th April, 2012.
He noted that the FCTA in-house committee has had serious challenges in coping with the time specifications for the release of information to persons who make requests for disclosures, and has always had to write for extension of time to the requesters in order to have enough time to persuade the relevant departments to cooperate.
This, Chukwu said has resulted in loss of valuable time and litigations against the authority for breach of the provisions of the Act.
“All these stems from the absence of the proper orientation of minds of the officers of the various SDAs because adequate sensitisation on the law has not been provided.
“I am confident that this sensitisation workshop and subsequent training to be organised will result to efficient and effective service delivery in the FCT,” he expressed.
In a paper on an overview of the FOI Act, 2011, Head FOI Unit of the Federal Ministry of Justice, Mrs Justina Suwa, opined that implementing FOI is a very onerous task involving everybody in the country’s public institutions.
She stressed the need for continued sensitization programme on FOI Act for people at the top and bottom cadre of public institutions.
She however said mere establishment of a committee on FOI Act cannot ensure the strict compliance of the Act, hence the need to have permanent structures, by dedicating special offices or units in public institutions, in order to guarantee sustainable implementation of the Act.
Earlier in his welcome address, Chairman FCT FOI In-House Implementation Committee, Mr. Ari Isa Mohammed, represented by Director Advisory Services, Legal services Secretariat, FCTA, Mr. Abdullahi Kuyanbana, said, “The imperative of the freedom of Information in a democracy cannot be over emphasised.
He observed that what public servants are used to in the civil service is no longer tenable as the civil officer “has a duty to disclose it (the information requested), and we as civil or public servants have to be very mindful of this.”
Peoples Daily further reports that that the FCT FOI In-house committee is charged with the mandate to work towards compliance with all the provisions of the Act.