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NOA Organizes FOI Sensitization Forum In Port Harcourt

The National Orientation Agency (NOA), Rivers State, has organized a roundtable forum to sensitize people on the need to effectively implement the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in the state. This is to confirm the earlier statement of the Director in the state, Mr. Oliver Wolugbom that 2013 would witness a push by his administration to ensure full implementation of the FOI Act.
Addressing the gathering at the NOA secretariat in Port Harcourt recently, the Commissioner for Information, Mrs. Ibim Seminatari said the FOI Act had afforded every Nigerian the opportunity to ask for good governance.
Commissioner, who was represented by a Director in the Ministry, Mr. Paulinus Nsirim, said with the FOI law there is no more excuse for people not getting involved in government activities.
According to her, Gov. Chibuike Amaechi has been blazing the trail in good governance through town hall meetings, inter-governmental fora and due process.
The Information Boss charged residents of Rivers to always insist on following due process in all their dealings, stressing that corruption can never be tackled in Nigeria until everybody does what he is supposed to do.
The commissioner also challenged participants of the roundtable to go beyond talking and take concrete action towards the implementation of the FOI Act and thanked NOA for this giant step in organizing the programme. She assured the Agency of her ministry’s support and asked the media to find a away of driving the enlightenment campaign of the FOI implementation.
In his speech at the event, the state Director of NOA, Mr. Oliver Wolugbom said he was grateful that the FOI bill which started its journey at the National Assembly since 1993 saw the light of the day in 2011 when it was passed into law.
He said the FOI Act was a major landmark, in the country’s democratic process, as regards public participation in governance. The NOA Boss said the goal of the FOI law was to institute a transparent and a roundtable public governance structure for Nigeria. He recalled that the FOI Act is premised on the UN General Assembly Resolution, 59 (1) of 1946 which he said views freedom of information as fundamental human rights.
The Director admitted that the challenge before us is to create adequate public awareness in the country, otherwise the law will remain moribund and the people will continue to complain of bad governance.
According to him, if Nigerians are to enjoy maximum benefits of Democracy, the provisions of FOI Act must be known by all and sundry.
He charged NOA and other major stakeholders in the information sector to be proactive to the provisions of the FOI Act.
He assured the people that his administration will put in its best towards the realization of this mission.
During the interactive session, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Human Rights Groups and the public urged NOA to adopt more aggressive approach towards the implementation of the FOI Act. They also requested that the Surgeon General of the Federation should have the power to state the medical condition of public office holders, citing a situation where 4 governors have been away for a long time on health grounds without explanation from any quarter as a case in point.
The NBA said until Nigerians began to challenge violators of our laws in court, the country would not grow. ####

Barth Ndu

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