A stakeholders’ interactive session was held in Benin City with the aim of building synergy in Domesticating the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill as a tool for promoting good governance, democracy, and citizen participation in Edo State,

The meeting which was facilitated by ResearcherNG on behalf of Digital Rights and Information Partnership (DRIP), brought together stakeholders from the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), the Media, and representatives of Edo State Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs), to brainstorm on the way forward, and affords participants the opportunity to make commitments in ensuring the domestication of the FOI bill in the state.

Speaking, the Policy and Governance Advocacy Officer, ReaseracherNG, Modupe Elizabeth Akinwale, said the meeting was meant to have an open dialogue with members of the CSOs, the Media, and the representatives of Edo MDAs.

“We came together here to discuss the domestication of the Freedom of Information Bill in Edo State. We are also to talk of ways we can promote it and ensure it is promoted.

“ResearcherNG has been doing a lot in that regard, so going forward, we will launch a media and public sensitisation campaign to ensure our advocacy effort keeps going. I believe with much-added effort, we will be able to domesticate the FOI Bill in Edo state,” Modupe said.

Speaking on the power of embracing proactive disclosure for a greater Edo, the Secretary of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Edo State Council, Comrade Andy Egbon, defined proactive disclosure as a voluntary release of information. He said proactive disclosure is crucial in the culture of openness, and that it builds trust.

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“Openness in governance means letting the public see what you are doing”, Andy said.

The Edo NUJ scribe gave the following as elements of good governance: participation, rule of law, cohesiveness, effectiveness and efficiency, equitable and inclusiveness, transparency, and accountability.

“Proactive disclosure enhances transparency and accountability, empowers citizens and stakeholders, mitigates risks and reputation damage, timely access to information, reduces the incidences of relying on the FOI Act and learning from success stories.

“Factors that promote proactive disclosure include public demands for information needed to hold the government accountable, the need to inform the public about laws, their rights and obligations, the demand for information in order to participate actively in decision making, and the provision to the public of information needed to access government services which have expanded significantly with the growth of electronic access to services”, Comrade Egbon said.

On her part, a representative of CLEEN Foundation, Mrs. Blessing Eromon, gave the following as steps in building effective partnerships for the domestication of FOI in Edo state: “stakeholders mapping, capacity building, partnership building, thorough stakeholders analysis, needs analysis, the establishment of the coordination mechanism, shared vision and goal, promoting inclusiveness, and information and resource sharing”.