The Executive Director, Civil Empowerment and Rule of Law Support Initiative (CERSLI), Sam Kargbo (SAN) has charged journalists in Nigeria to deploy the instrumentality of the Freedom of Information FOI Act to demand accountability from government and its officials.
Kargbo represented by Tony Abolo, veteran journalist, and media consultant gave this charge at a one-day training programme on the essentials of writing freedom of information letters to public and private institutions in Nigeria organised for freelance and on-line journalists in Edo State.
“We believe this seminar comes in handy for two reasons. The first is that Edo State is on the cusp of a governorship election in 2024. Issues concerning physical and human infrastructure like roads, health care, education and security of lives and property took centre stage in the past seven years in Edo State.
“There were reports that online and mainstream journalists had difficulties in accessing government information, and this is in spite of the reported interest of most subnational governments like Edo in the Open Government Partnership, OGP, thematic areas of zero tolerance to corruption, citizen participation in governance and access to information.
“Second is the key role that journalists, especially online and freelance journalists can play in interrogating infractions in governance. To do this within the ambit of the law, and avoid issues related to fake news, misinformation, disinformation and unnecessary media censorship with responsible reportage of news-related stories and investigations. This FOI seminar becomes pertinent.
“CERLSI expects that at the end of the seminar, online and freelance journalists will be strategically positioned to engage state actors to make requests that will lead to promoting free, fair and credible elections in Edo State and Nigeria,” Kargbo said.
Bob MajiriOghene Etemiku, Deputy Executive Director, CERSLI in his presentation took time to educate participating journalists on the key essentials of a valid FOI letter.
Etemiku advised journalists to avoid the pitfalls of writing an FOI letter that didn’t contain a valid and easy to access permanent address of the writer or the requesting entity not being a legal personality as these could lead to the failure of any FOI request.
He expressed confidence that the participants would be in a good position to effectively engage state actors with the FOI to ensure good and purposeful governance including the entrenchment of free and credible elections in the state ahead of the 2024 governorship polls