The dean, Faculty of Law, University of Lagos, Prof. Ayodele Atsenuwa, has said that the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2011, can be used as an effective tool by Nigerians to expose and fight corruption in all sectors of the nation’s economy.
Atsenuwa made the assertion at the public presentation of a report entitled, “Using Your Right to Information to Challenge Corruption in the Health, Education and Water Sectors.”
The report is published by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) in partnership with Omidyar Network.
“The primary purpose of government is to make policy and implement actions that ensure that citizens have access to education, health and water.
“Government is not infallible and it is the duty of citizens to serve as watchdogs of government’s decision-making.
“Every Nigerian citizen has both a duty and a right to be involved in governance and to monitor how different sectors of the government are being managed and governed.
“This is one of the civic responsibilities of citizens. However, citizens cannot discharge this responsibility effectively if they do not have access to information,” Atsenuwa said.
She said that the FOI Act now supersedes the Official Secrets Act and noted that corruption and abuse of power had been identified as the bane of good governance.
“To address these twin problems, citizens must have access to information to exercise judgment on propriety or impropriety of governmental decisions and actions.
“We are over 150 million Nigerians and 57 million Nigerians lack access to clean water.
“Statistics also show that 59,000 Nigerian children die every year as a result of bad water and poor sanitation.
“The FOI Act gives us the right to demand accountability in the water sector.
“If we can foist the culture of demanding information on an environment, attitudes will change and things will change because information is critical to citizen participation in government.”
According to Atsenuwa, the FOI Act gives the media power for investigative journalism, and individuals who have been denied information can seek redress in court.
“You can be refused information, where there is refusal, it is mandated that it be communicated in writing.
“For information that cannot be disclosed, you have a duty to go to court to challenge why the information was not given.”