Awareness: NHRC Raises Concerns on Freedom of Information Act

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The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has raised concern over lack of awareness on the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) among Nigerians.

Mr Tony Ojukwu, Executive Secretary of the commission said this on Monday in Abuja, when he received the visiting AU envoy and Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information, Mr Lawrence Mute in Abuja.

He said that seven years down the line, many Nigerians were not yet aware of the existence of FOIA and their rights under the Act.

Ojukwu said that it was within the mandate of the commission as a National Human Rights Institution to promote and facilitate the implementation of all human rights instruments that Nigeria was signatory to.

According to him, in spite of the existence of the FOIA in the country, journalists and human rights defenders find it difficult to access information from public institutions.

He noted that the FOIA was grossly under-utilized even though it was a veritable tool for civil society groups and the Nigerian press to engage the public as well as carry out legitimate duties.

He also noted the need for capacity building of civil servants in order for them to have the requisite knowledge and skill to identify which category of information was under Official Secret Act.

The NHRC boss said that the Commission would partner with the Federal Ministry of Justice and other relevant stakeholders to ensure full implementation of the FOI Act across the board.

Ojukwu assured that the commission would soon embark on advocacy visits to all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) in collaboration with relevant stakeholders on the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Earlier, Mute said he was in Nigeria to assess the opportunities therein for Nigerians and the level of implementation of the FOIA, seven years down the line.

He called on the NHRC to take advantage of its position as the apex human rights institution to ensure the full implementation of the act.

The AU Special Rapporteur promised to support the Commission in building the capacity of her staff in providing the necessary drive for the implementation of FOIA in the country.(NAN)

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