13th September, 2011
Dr. Dalhatu Tafida, Nigeriaâ€™s High Commissioner to the UK has called for â€˜clearâ€™ implementation guidelines on the Freedom of Information Act (2011).
Tafida made the call at a one-day training workshop on the FoI Act (2011) for officials of the Nigeria High Commission on Monday in London.
He said there was the need for clear direction and guidelines from the offices of the Attorney-General of the Federation and the Head of Service on how to implement the Act.
The envoy said it was still not clear how Nigerian Embassies and Missions abroad would function under the Act.
â€œIn practical terms, it is not clear how Nigerian Missions abroad should respond to requests for information when made by Nigerians in the Diaspora.
â€œDoes it mean that such requests would have to be referred to headquarters when there are specific time frames under the law within which access or denial must be conveyed at the risk of fine or jail term?â€
The envoy also called for the raising of awareness on the importance of the Act especially among public officials.
He explained that such awareness should include proper training and dissemination of information on the Act to enable public servants have a thorough grasp of the law.
â€œThey need to appreciate their role and responsibility under the Act, in order to put them in the best position to respond to requests for information from time to time,â€ Tafida said.
The envoy, who also raised concern on the low level of data and information management systems in Nigeria, noted that while the phenomenon of Wikileaks remains worrisome, especially in diplomatic and official circles, there was a need to move towards digitalisation of data to facilitate storage and retrieval if the FoI is to be fully implemented.
â€œThe current information storage system in file jackets and tonnes of papers that litter every office in Nigeria will make it difficult for public servants to respond speedily to requests for information under the Act.â€
He said he was optimistic that if fully implemented, the Act would promote greater citizen participation in governance, deepen democracy, and promote accountability and transparency.
Tafida appealed to the media to demonstrate the highest sense of responsibility in their reportage in order not to put the lives, integrity of public servants and the country in danger.
One of the participants, Mr. Sola Enikanolaiye told NAN that the training which was quite timely would re-awaken officers to their responsibilities especially their dealings with the public.
â€œWe will put to practice what we will be taught here while we await the guidelines from the government back at home,â€ Enikanolaiye added.