Following controversies as regards the applicability of the FOI Act in states where the law has not been adopted or domesticated, the Executive Director, Àfrica Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), Rev David Ugolor has tasked Governor Godwin Obaseki on the urgent need to revisit the Edo State draft Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill.

Rev. Ugolor noted that the draft Edo State FOI Bill prepared by the State’s Ministry of Justice has been subjected to intense scrutiny and consultations with stakeholders, including Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) under the Open Government Partnership (OGP) framework insisting that “what is left is for the Governor to forward same to the State House of Assembly for consideration and passage into law”.

Ugolo said that if states have their own FOI law, it will bring to an end the raging controversies about the applicability of FOI Act at State levels where several groups both within and outside Edo State are now in court in their bids to resolving them.

Represented by Innocent Edemharhia, ANEEJ Programme Manager, Rev. Ugolor spoke during an interactive session with journalists at the ANEEJ corporate headquarters in Benin City on Friday

Ugolor who said that the aim of the media parley was to draw the attention of the Edo State Governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki to the draft Edo State FOI Bill, added that ANEEJ was presently working with Gatefield and other organisations under the “Keep it Open” cluster to advocate for the enactment of the Freedom of Information Law in Edo, Kaduna and Adamawa States under the Strengthening Civic Advocacy and Local Engagement (SCALE) project, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), being implemented by Palladium.

According to him “the goal is to democratize the civic space and foster an enabling environment for civic space/digital rights in Nigeria by advocating for enabling laws, policies and regulations within the civic space for digital rights and freedom of information.

“Interestingly, during the first tenure of Mr. Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki as governor of Edo State, a draft Edo State FOI bill was prepared by the legal drafting team of Edo State Ministry of Justice. The draft Edo State FOI Bill has also been subjected to consultation with stakeholders including Civil Society Organisations under the Open Government Partnership (OGP) framework. But since the governor’s second term in office, work on the draft bill has not been taken forward.

“We have had engagement meetings with some stakeholders both state and none state actors to join us in this advocacy effort, we will sustain such advocacy effort and engage more stakeholder to support our advocacy issues”.

Ugolo said that the press conference was called to draw the attention of the Governor, to the draft Edo State FOI Bill and appeal to him to revisit the draft bill and present same to the Edo State House of Assembly as an Executive Bill for consideration.

The push for the FOI Act he said was to make public information, records and documents assessible to the public. He pointed out that CSOs and other stakeholders have been engaging state governments on the need to enact their state FOI Laws and thanked the Governors of Ekiti and Imo States for enacttng their state’s FOI Laws.

“The FOI Act is intended to make public information, records and documents more freely available to the public. It also mandates the government to proactively disclose information and set up FOI desk to swiftly respond to FOI requests from the public.

“Civil society organisations and other interest groups have been working at subnational level, engaging State government on the need to have their States FOI law”.