A Non Governmental Organization(NGO) known as Social Action with support from MacArthur foundation on Tuesday held a training session for some journalists in PortHarcourt,Rivers State,Nigeria on application of Freedom of Information(FOI) act 2011 .
Speaking at the sideline of the event of the event,Amaechi Kelechi one of the facilitator for (FOI) Act 2011, training, said “since 2011 that the act was enacted we have seen very low activation and compliance for this act.
“We strongly believe that journalists are primarily the main stakeholders,they are the people who are supposed to promote this act,publicize it so that more citizens are aware of this act and begin to use it to hold Government accountable and to make public information accessible to everybody.
“The major set back in enforcement of the act has been that citizens are not aware of the potency of the act,the content of the act and what they can achieve using this act to strength transparency and accountability in governance.
“So if we promote the application of this act, the Government, and citizens will Know the benefit of applying this act,they we begin to use it but the fact remains that the awareness level is very low so .
“Even people who are representing Government institution know very little about this act .
“There is that serious lack of awareness and once we get this rolling and get people to know more about the importance of this act they we begin to apply it in Governance in Rivers State and Nigeria in general.
“I want the media to take the lead on this advocacy,I want the media to promote and publicize this FO1 act,2011 so that the more people are aware, the more people will begin to use it to request for public information,not just public institution but in information in private sector that has connection with Government resources.
Another speaker, Arochukwu Paul Ogbonna Esq said “FOI empowers the citizens to seek for information that are of relevance to them from Government agencies and departments,the essence is to keep track on political accountability and to ensure that citizens are aware and follow up governance process.
“However where a government agency or department refuses and declines to respond to FOI request within the stipulated period or refuse to channel same to another agency or department where they are not the people who holds such information,such citizens has the right to go to court, for the court to mandate the Government agency to release the information they require to them .
“The right of citizens to do this cut across all public institutions in the country .
“If you write a request through FOI act, you are expected to get a reponse in seven days,if no response from the Government agency,you are required to do a remainder for another seven days after which you are required to go to court within thirty days.
“Where you did not go to go within thirty of the last FOI request, you may face challenge of your matter being incompetent before the court and it could be struck out or dismissed pending on the percuilar circumstance surrounding the case “.
Our correspondent reports that certificates were issued to participants at the event .