Participants that attended a one day enlightenment programme of the National Orientation Agency, NOA , Abia State on Stakeholder’s engagement on “Evaluating The Application Of Freedom Of Information Act, FOIA and Its impact on National Development” have opined that FOIA will have positive impact on National Development if fully embraced across the States.
In their respective speeches during the programme which took place at Umuahia North headquarters hall, the State Director of Information, Mr. Uzoma Isiakpu, who represented the Commissioner for Information, Chief John Okiyi Kalu; a Director of an NGO – Health and Rural Development Agenda, Dr. Sunny Ibeneme; Mrs Charity Omekara of People Living Healthy and Environment Friendly (an NGO) among other stakeholders advocated for a conducive platform for FOIA to thrive.
Considering the importance of the discourse, Mr. Isiakpu said it is pertinent for everyone to play active role in propagating the FOIA.
He pointed out that the impact of FOIA on National Development has not been felt as a result of Nigerians inability to exploit the benefits of the Act due to the secrecy practiced in handling government business.
Delivering an address during the event, the Abia State Director of NOA, Lady Ngozi Okechukwu Ph.d called for a sincere implementation of freedom of information act and open government partnership, adding that citizens should know that the implementation of FOIA is a two way thing, that is a citizen asking questions and the government and its agencies concerned proffering answers.
Represented by Mrs. Chibogwu Edede, the Deputy Director, Research, Monitoring and Evaluation, the Abia NOA boss urged citizens to avoid unnecessary and unconstructive criticisms but rather ask questions where and when necessary.
Her words, “The question now is how many Nigerians are aware of this FOI Act since its enactment in 2011? How many explore the provision of the FOIA in ensuring that they keep abreast with important information and how many public officials are willing to give vital information of public interest without dare consequences especially when it has to do with information on stewardship and accountability”?
Lady Okechukwu Ph.d said that NOA has been at the forefront of sensitizing and educating the public on the need to take advantage of access to information and the need for ministries, departments and agencies as well as private sector to be proactive in providing information to those who need it.
The Abia NOA boss pointed out that proper implementation of the FOIA would no doubt give a lot of benefits such as: transparency, interaction between government and the governed, and as well as build confidence on those in public office.
Lady Okechukwu who urged the Stakeholders to partner with NOA to the FOIA message home, also urged desk officers saddled with the responsibility of providing information to the public to carry out their duties diligently.
“It is by so doing that the public will have the necessary confidence and assurance about whether or not governance works for the people and if not who is responsible? Reteirated that everyone can monitor the level of service delivery from government and their effectiveness in all areas”, Okechukwu said.
Earlier in her remarks, the Chairman of the occasion and Chairperson of FIDA, Mrs Chibuzo Ehiemere described the FOIA as an important law that would be of immense benefit to the nation.
Ehiemere said the programme has created an avenue for Stakeholders to ascertain the level of impact the FOIA had made on the nation, and encouraged the public to exercise the rights provided by FOIA
She lauded NOA for organizing the programme and pointed out that the essence of the FOIA is to provide unrestricted public access to public records and information, protect serving public officers from adverse consequences for disclosing certain official information and protect public records and information to the extent, consistent with national interest, among others.
Because of the outbreak of Corona virus and other diseases like Lassa fever, the event created an opportunity for a Director and Health Educator, Abia State Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Mrs. Meg Onwu to educate the participants on the tips on combating Corona virus epidemic.