By Emmanuel Acha
Enugu – A member of the Federal House of Representatives, Mr Gabriel Onyenweife has blamed Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) for the ineffectiveness of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.
Onyenweife (PDP) who represents Oyi/Anyamelum Federal Constituency disclosed this on Tuesday in Enugu during a capacity building workshop for members of the 9th National Assembly.
The workshop was organised by Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) with support from MacArthur Foundation.
The former Chairman, House Committee on FOI and Reform of Government Institutions, said that the CSOs had failed to match the vigour they showed prior to the passage of the law in its implementation.
He said that Sect. 28 of the FOI Act 2011 mandated government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to make yearly returns to the office of the Attorney General of the Federation on the level of compliance.
He said that it was sad that such were not coming and the CSOs appeared not to be enlightening the masses on the FOI Act.
“As we are talking, we have over 800 government ministries and agencies but we do not have up to 10 per cent agencies that comply with the returns that they are supposed to do.
“Theses returns are on the request of individuals, societies and organisations pertaining to information of the activities of these MDAs as solicited from members of the public,” he said.
Onyenweife said that the CSOs that were expected to mobilise and enlighten the masses on the FOI Act had abdicated their duties.
He said that the CSOs had failed to liaise with the legislators on the matter, adding that only two petitions on nondisclosure of information had been received in the last five years.
“How does the NASS become aware of denial of information by the MDAs when the people do not write petitions on nondisclosure of information.
“Prior to the passage of the bill, the CSOs were all over the place making noise, demonstrating and protesting. To what extent have they organised workshops to mobilise the masses after the passage.
“The CSOs did their functions prior to the passage but after the passage, how many of them have liaised with the NASS on the implementation,” Onyenweife said.
However, the Programme Manager, Democratic Governance,Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Mr Okeke Anya, said that the MDAs had been in breach of FOI Act.
Anya said that the enlightenment campaigns on the law were needed to be the exclusive preserve of government institutions.
“We are not part of government and can only act based on available resources. Governments institutions have budgetary allocations while we depend on donor support,” he said.
He said that the FOI Act regime came into place due to the activities of the CSOs but regretted that the government was frustrating its implementation.
“We have been talking to Nigerian citizens on the law but the MDAs are frustrating its implementation.” Anya said.