Anambra State Director, National Orientation Agency (NOA), Anambra State Directorate, Awka, Barrister Charles Nwoji, says the Freedom of Information Act,2011, was enacted by the Federal Government to ensure the participation of the Nigerian masses in governance, judicious deployment of the Nation’s scarce resources and institutionalization of transparency and accountability in Nigeria system.
Barrister Nworji gave the indication while delivering a keynote address at a One -Day Stakeholders’ Round Table forum on Understanding and Application of the Freedom of Information Act, (FOIA) 2011, organized by NOA at its corporate headquarters in Awka.
The State NOA Director, said the theme of the forum, “Promoting Transparency, Accountability and Stewardship in Government,” was designed for the critical Stakeholders in the State to dialogue and evaluate the effectiveness of the Freedom of Information Act, and its impact on national development, especially in the area of governance.
He noted that NOA has the mandate to enlighten the citizenry on Government Policies, Programmes and Activities, and started the journey of sensitizing the people on the provisions, application and benefits of the FOIA in 2012 with a pilot programme covering One Hundred and for ty-Six seleted Local Government Areas of the Country.
Barrister Nwoji, who stated that Anambra State was among the States in Nigeria that benefited in the pilot exercise, maintained that NOA was in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the task of the pilot exercise, adding that the effort has continued to widen with the support of other well- meaning Organizations.
He stressed that NOA was mindful of the prevailing circumstances in the Country, which was why it sought the participation of Media Representatives for the programme whom he said that their voices and opinions would convey the collective opinion and feelings of the greater percentage of Ndi- Anambra and Nigeria at large.
In a paper presentation titled, “The Freedom Of Information Act And Good Governance: Lesson For Nigerian Media, the State Chairman, Nigeria Union of Journalists, Comrade Emma Ifesinachi, represented by the Secretary of the Union, Comrade Emma Udeagha, described the FOIA as one of the most potent tools in the hands of Nigerians to fight corruption and install regime of accountability in the Country.
He emphasised that the Nigerian Journalist, as the bulwark of society, has a greater responsibility to ensure that the citizens have access to information by utilizing the opportunities offered to them by the FOIA Act to access information for public consumption.
In another lecture on, “Lack of Information From Political Class and The State of Insecurity In Nigeria”, the State Chairman, Civil Society Network, Prince Chris Azor, challenged Nigerian Journalists to rise to their constitutional rights and work towards saving the nation from what he described as opacity and death, calling on Nigerian Government to initiate measures to save the County from disintegration.
In their separate speeches, the General Manager, Ogene FM Radio, Awka, Mr.Justice Amah, identified censorship by Government, intimidation and denial of information as some of the factors mitigating against effective application of the FOIA Act in the country, pointing out that Media Executives should be properly engaged to fast track management and free flow of information in the County.
Also, the Founder/Executive Director, Integrated Anti- Human Trafficking and Community Initiative Africa, Mrs. Hope Okoye, asserted that good Governance will promote growth and reduce poverty in any Country if well harnessed through adequate application and management of the FOIA.