By Adeyemi Raphael
Nigerians have been charged to demand accountability and good governance from government by using the Freedom of Information Act and Open Government Partnership as a veritable tool for nation building.
This was the core of discussions at a one-day seminar organized in Ilorin, by the Kwara State Directorate of the National Orientation Agency part of the agency’s effort towards sensitizing the public on their civic rights and responsibilities.
In his remarks at the event, the Director General, NOA, Dr Garba Abari, represented by the Kwara State Director of the Agency, Mr Olusegun Adeyemi, noted that it is important for the masses to be empowered with knowledge about how to use the FOI ACT 2011 as well as open government partnership principle in ensuring transparency and accountability, this, he said, will promote good governance in all sectors.
Dr Abari, therefore urged every stakeholder in governance not to be lackadaisical in their attitude; rather, they should begin to ask questions from public offices/MDAs since it is their right to participate in governance.
Also speaking, Baba Ijo Adeolu Otepola, the Deputy Director Planning Research and Strategy, representing the NOA Kwara State Director stated that “Nigeria has been faced with the challenge of effectively utilizing its resources to support equitable economic growth effective service delivery and social cohesion due to lack of openness, transparency and accountability in governance, hence the move by President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to join the OGP”.
The NOA Director further stated that “accountability, citizen’s participation, and technology/innovation are the principles guiding the OGP and with the support of appropriate legislations from the Kwara State House of Assembly, government will be galvanized into real action”.
In their goodwill messages, Mrs Olufunso Owasanoye the Executive Director of Human Development Initiatives, represented by Hon Babatunde Alata commended NOA for the forum and highlighted the effort the NGO has put in to monitor the budget across the country, saying that when resisted, HDI has had cause to demand transparency on budget and its spending through the courts and has won cases in its favour.
The Controller, Federal Ministry of Housing, Arc. Kunle Shonibare charged electorates to know that constituency projects which some elected representatives in the National Assembly claim as their personal project are actually funded from the government coffers, with taxpayers money, hence, the public should ensure that such projects are done accordingly.
Prince Victor Awolola the Director of Personnel Management, who spoke on behalf of all the LGAs DPMs and Budget Officers noted that, under the new administration, government officials can’t afford to hide relevant information, since the AbdulRahaman Abdulrazaq led government is committed to transparency.
Com. Umar Abdulwahab, Chairman, NUJ Kwara Council also urged gentlemen of the pen profession to further deploy their expertise in promoting the ideals of FOI and OGP since the media remains the watchdog of the society.
Furthermore, it was unveiled during a panel discussion, moderated by Comrade Ayuba of the Coalition of CSOs on OGP and Malam Sideek Bola, Deputy Coordinator of Elites Network for Sustainable Development, Kwara State that only one state in Nigeria has domesticated the FOI, hence, Kwara State and other states need to follow suit in making access to information a reality.
The trio of the discussants from Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Office of the Auditor General of the Federation and NOA Kwara were unanimous in their call for more commitment by the state government and individuals who must become interested in ensuring good governance as part of nation building.
The programme which had a quality attendance by Permanent Secretaries, DPMs, NOA COMOs, Media practitioners, Paramilitary officers, NGOs, CSOs and students also featured goodwill messages, question and answer sessions.