The Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Freedom of Information, Hon. Cornelius Nnaji, has disclosed that only 73 of the over 900 public institutions in the country are complying with the provision of Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) on the disclosure of information.
Speaking at the 10th anniversary of the coming into effect of the Freedom of Information Act, Nnaji said that the Official Secrets Act (OSA) of 1962 has continued to impede the implementation of the FoIA as it has continued to dominate the thinking and practice within the public service.
He said public officials have remained unwilling to adhere to the information structure established under the FoIA despite the amendment of the OSA of 1962 by FoIA.
He disclosed that 90 per cent of MDAs are not aware of the existence of the Act or committed to its implementation, a situation, he said, calls for intensive broad-based awareness creation by Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and other stakeholders on the right to access information through the mass media to reverse the ugly trend.
According to him, ”The FoIA seeks to enable the public to access information in the custody of public institutions and relevant private bodies with a view to entrenching the culture of transparency and accountable leadership.
The aim of the Act is to make public records and information more freely available to the public, while also protecting certain public records and information to the extent that consistent with overriding public interest as well as protecting serving public officers from adverse consequences for disclosing certain kinds of information without authorisation.”
While suggesting that the Freedom of Information units in all government agencies should be well resourced so that they would have the requisite capacity to execute their proactive disclosure mandate, he added that the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) should ensure effective realization of the objectives of the Act.