IDUAI 2021: Secrecy in govt undermines access to information – NGE

As the world marks the International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI) today, the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) has expressed worry about the magnitude in which the secrecy among federal government agencies, ministries and other institutions undermines access to information.

While accusing federal government agencies and ministries of not living up to their obligations – imposed on them by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the NGE expressed sadness over what it described as “deliberate and sustained’’ efforts on the part of many federal government agencies and ministries to undermine the implementation of the legislation.

The 74th UN General Assembly had proclaimed September 28 as the International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI) at the UN level in October 2019.

The day, according to the Guild, had been proclaimed by the UNESCO General Conference in 2015, following the adoption of the 38 C/Resolution 57, declaring September 28 of every year as International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI).

It said the theme of the 2021 IDUAI is to highlight the role of access to information laws and their implementation in order to ‘build back strong institutions’ for the public good and sustainable development, as well as to strengthen the right to information and international cooperation in the field of implementing this human right.

The Guild in a statement to mark the day by NGE’s President, Mustapha Isah and the General Secretary, Iyobosa Uwugiaren, noted that “in spite of the existence of the Act, which was signed into law 10 years ago by former President Goodluck Jonathan, to ensure that Nigerians have access to public information and hold government accountable, there are still contentious issues over the implementation of the law.”

The NGE said, “The National Assembly is a major culprit in frustrating the implementation of FIOA. The institution has consistently failed/refused to comply with FOIA. It has failed to offer any information, as requested by citizens, media houses and members of the civil society organisations. It has failed to submit an annual report on its implementation of the Act – even for one year, in line with the provisions of the Act.

“The National Assembly has not taken its responsibilities as provided for under the Act, more earnestly and has failed to work towards compliance with the Act, including reporting on its implementation.”