By Albert Akota
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is to embark on a sensitization advocacy to all Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) in collaboration with relevant stakeholders on the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
Executive Secretary, NHRC Tony Ojukwu stated this in Abuja while exchanging views with visiting AU envoy and Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information, Hon. Lawrence Mute.
He noted that seven years down the line, many Nigerians are not yet aware of the existence of FOIA and their rights under the Act.
Ojukwu stated that it is within the mandate of the Commission as a National Human Rights Institution to promote and facilitate the implementation of all human rights instruments that Nigeria is a party to.
The NHRC boss said in spite of the existence of the FOIA in the country, journalists and human rights defenders find it difficult to access information from public institutions.
According to Ojukwu, FOIA is grossly under-utilized despite the fact that the Act is a veritable tool for civil society groups and the Nigerian Press to engage the public as well as carry out legitimate duties.
The Executive Secretary therefore stressed the need for capacity building of civil servants in order for them to have the requisite knowledge and skill to identify which category of information really falls under Official Secret Act.
The Commission’s Chief Executive Officer stated that aside building the capacity of civil servants to improve their knowledge and skill in implementing the FOIA, public and private institutions should put in place automated system in their various organizations, to make access to information easier.
He stated that the Commission will partner with the Federal Ministry of Justice and other relevant stakeholders in the full implementation of the FOI Act across the board, emphasizing that the regime will assist government in fighting corruption among other advantages.
Earlier, the visiting AU Special Rapporteur on FOI, Hon. Lawrence Mute said he was in Nigeria to assess the opportunities therein for Nigerians and level of implementation of the FOIA which Nigeria passed seven years ago.
He called on the NHRC to take advantage of its position as the apex human rights institution to ensure the full implementation of the FOIA.
The AU Special Rapporteur promised to support the Commission in building the capacity of her staff in providing the necessary drive for the implementation of FOIA in Nigeria.