By Tayo Elegbede, Abeokuta
The Coordinator of Southwest Network on Freedom of Information, Dr Tola Winjobi, has urged Nigerians to show more interest in the public funds utilization, in order to promote public accountability and transparency which on the long-run will produce real socio-economic development in the country.
Speaking in Abeokuta at the opening ceremony of a two day capacity workshop on the Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) for Civil Society Organisations and the Media in Southwest-Nigeria, Dr Winjobi, stated, that the act is aimed at ensuring open governance for all-round societal good.
“We need to use the FoIA to demand accountability from our public officials. We need to know how our resources are being allocated or spent. It is our right to ask and it is their responsibility to answer”.
He called on all stakeholders to effectively use the freedom of information act to productively engage public institutions and officers towards national developments.
Dr Winjobi also decried the low level of awareness of the FoIA amidst citizens.
“Since the act was signed into law, there is relatively low level of awareness of the FoIA among members of the public in Nigeria and especially in the southwest geo-political zone. This situation is worse in the northeast geo-political zone for obvious reasons as many public servants are not aware of the Act while those that are aware do not know the import of the Act.”
On his part, General Manager, Ogun State Broadcasting Corporation, Engineer Tunde Awolana, whilst calling on the Nigerian media to do more in enlightening the public about the act, debunked the speculation that the act is solely for journalists and media practitioners, alike.
“The FoIA is for every Nigerian. If people are interested in government’s activities, projects and spending then they must understand and engage the FoIA. The future of this country is based on the information disseminated”.
The Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General of Ogun State, represented by Sir Lanre Iyanda, explained that Nigerian states can at their own discretion adopt or domesticate the act, although the federal act is literally binding on all federating units.
“If a state decides to adopt the FoI Act, so be it. But my own take is, they don’t have to adopt. It is a law, a federal act and it covers the field. Where a state doesn’t have a particular adoption for it, then, the federal act will hold sway. And if a state wants to adopt the act, it must not be watered down”.