Mr Dasuki Arabi, Acting Director General, Bureau of Public Service Reforms, has disclosed plans to restore the faith of Nigerians in the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act to promote open governance.
Arabi stated this at the Validation Workshop of the Report on the Study of the Administrative Burden on the Implementation of FOI Act in Four Federal Government Agencies on Tuesday in Abuja.
The one day workshop was organised in collaboration with Right to Know, an NGO, and the MacArthur Foundation.
He said that the FOI was vital for democracy and responsible governance, stating that it would curb executive, judicial and legislative recklessness.
Arabi said that after eight years of signing the FOI Act, the Bureau had observed little credible evidence that a number of MDAs were complying with its dictates.
He added that a number of people have not being proactive in the use of the law to demand for information even though there had been sporadic request by advocacy groups.
“The denial of access to information and attendant widespread ignorance in the society does more harm than any harm that could possibly arise from granting access of information to members of the public.
“The benefits far exceeds the cost, the effective implementation of FOI in Nigeria brings openness, transparency and good governance thereby complementing governments avowed commitment to stamp out corruption.
“The FOI law facilitates open governance because even if certain information in a document qualifies for an exemption to FOI law the rest must be disclosed.”
He added that the bureau has carried out a study on the Ministry of Finance, Justice, Code of Conduct Bureau and Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation.
He said this was to implement the law that BPSR in Partnership with Right to Know and the MacArthur Foundation used to assess the extent of implementation of the act in these agencies.
He said the outcome of the study would assist the Federal Government to design strategies toward addressing critical areas in the implementation of the Act.
The Acting DG said that the workshop was to introduce stakeholders to the key findings of the report and elicit their input.
Arabi said that the bureau had also developed scorecard for ranking websites of government institutions to mitigate challenges of access to information and enhance service delivery.
Also in her remarks, Ene Nwankpa, National Coordinator, Right to Know said that from their findings the implementation of the FOI act in Nigeria is very slow.
She added that the slow process was expected since the country was just coming out of an era of official secrecy, when many documents are classified as confidential.
Nwankpa however commended BPSR for creating an online portal for the FOI Act on their website for easy access to the public.
“For a given institution to have a portal for FOI is really comforting and shows the country was promoting openness and eradicating official secrecy.
“Other ministries have taken a cue from BPSR and have included it in their budget to create a portal for the FOI and this will enhance the fight against corruption in the country,” she said.