A professor of Mass Communication, University of Maiduguri, Prof. Abubakar Muazu has identified poor record keeping culture and mutilation of records as some of the issues militating against the success of the Freedom of Information Act.
The university Don who was a lead paper presenter at a one day interaction/sensitization on the Freedom of Information Act organized by Community Policing Partners for Justice, Security and Democratic Feforms in collaboration with German Foundation, Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, added that other factors working against success of the act include ignorance of citizens on the process of accessing information and the fear that the media may abuse such information sought for.
Prof. Muazu informed participants that applicants have the right to sue any institution if information requested for is not provided noting that amongst, only Lagos and Ekiti States have domesticated the Act.
He stated the relevance of the FOI Act to include aiding democracy/good governance, curbing executive, legislative, judiciary actions that are inimical to development while it also helps the media to get accurate information thereby ruling out speculative and yellow journalism.
While describingthe failure of some agencies to obey the the Act as a challenge, Prof. Muazu commended civil societies for being at the forefront in ensuring that the Act is put to use, adding that Nigeria cannot have a strong democratic practice if they electorate cannot have information on the activities of the government they elected.
He called for a change in attitude of the people operating the machineries of government while advising that information when provided, should be handled with all sense of responsibility.
While making remarks, a legal practitioner, Chief Magistrate Idem Udosen informed participants that they can file applications at the High Court in any event where information requested is denied while also seeking an amendment to sections 20 and 24 which prescribes penalty for defaulters.
He noted that the fine of Five Hundred Thousand Naira was too meager for defaulters adding that individuals should be fined N5million while institution should be made to pay a penalty of N50m. On his part the Executive Director, Community Policing Partners for Justice, Security and Democratic Reforms, Mr. Saviour Akpan noted that the FOI Act would help to promote transparency and efficiency adding that there is some level of compliance in Akwa Ibom State. He cited a case where the 2016 budget was given when it was requested for. He used the occasion to task civil societies to keep giving life to the FOI Act.
On her part, the Country Representative of Konrad-Adenauer – Stifting (KAS), Mrs. Hildegard Behrendt-Kigozi said that it was very important that citizens are empowered with knowledge adding that politicians cannot do it all alone which is why citizens need to ask question using the FOI.