THE MISCHIEF THAT FREEDOM OF INFORMATION TENDS TO CURB

Freedom of information is the liberty of a person or people to publish and get information.

6/17/2022 5 min read

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THE MISCHIEF THAT FREEDOM OF INFORMATION TENDS TO CURB

Freedom of information is the liberty of a person or people to publish and get information. Access to information is the ability for a person to search, get information effectively. This might involve “scientific, indigenous, and traditional knowledge. Freedom of information is the liberty of a person or people to publish and get information. Access to information is the ability for a person to search, get information effectively. This might involve “scientific, indigenous, and traditional knowledge.

Access to government information by the public through the open publication of information, and formal freedom of information laws, is largely seen as a vital basic element of democracy and integrity in government.

Freedom of information is similar to freedom of expression, which can involve any medium, whether oral, writing, print, electronic, or through art forms. This shows that the preservation of freedom of speech as a right involves not only the content, but also the mode of expression. Freedom of information is a different concept which may result in conflict with the right to privacy in the content of the Internet and information technology. Regarding the right to freedom of expression, the right to privacy is a known human right and freedom of information acts as an extension to this right.

The Freedom of Information Act 2011) was passed into law by the National Assembly on 24th May 2011 and President Goodluck Jonathan on 28th May, 2011 gave his assent.

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) surpasses the Official Secrets Act (OSA), originally enacted in 1911, which banned the unauthorized transfer, reproduction, or retention of any classified matter. The Act related not only to public institutions but also to private organizations providing services, performing functions or utilizing funds for the public.The core philosophy of Freedom of Information is that public servants are custodians of a public trust on behalf of a population who have a right to know what they do. In particular, the FOIA aims to remove the mystery and exclusion with which public servants cover the ordinary operations of government and public institutions. It also aims to change the mode of management of public records and information.

The Act is built on the assumption that it would be open, placing on those who wish to keep public information away from the people, the responsibility of justifying their reasons for doing so.

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT BENEFITS

  • Better management of records and enhanced public relations.

  • Record quality was improved and record accessibility was enhanced.

  • FOIA ensured the development of record retention standards that reduced the cost of record storage.

  • FOIA improved agency responsiveness to public information needs. There will therefore be better public understanding of and more faith in agency work.

  • FOIA fostered greater public participation in agency decision-making.

  • Finally, FOIA served broad public interests. Easier access to information ; greater awareness of laws by the public, rules, regulations, policies, and procedures; improved government efficiency and responsiveness; enhanced public participation in federal government affairs; improved public trust in the federal government; and better quality information at lesser cost.

  • Everyone can access any information or record, subject to specific exemptions, in the possession of any public institution or private institution utilizing funds, performing functions or providing services for the public.

  • Everyone has a right to get a request for information within seven (7) days.

  • Everyone will enjoy easy access to information on issues such as health and social development projects, public procurement and public budgeting, public private partnership projects, asset declaration of serving public officials, etc.

  • Everyone can supervise the degree of service delivery from government and their effectiveness in areas such as social policies, projects and policies, maternal, neo-natal and other medical care services, basic education and poverty eradication programmes.

  • Everyone can now learn how budgetary allocations to repair, provide for, or fund public utilities such as hospitals, roads, power, potable water, etc. in the community are utilized and make sure that the right persons are held accountable for non-or shoddy performance.

  • Communities can make sure of the preservation of their local environment through adequate information, helping them to advocate against projects and programmes that affect the local environment and livelihoods negatively.

  • Communities and citizens can gain access to information for ascertaining whether or not they receive value-for-money for public works projects and investments.

  • Government and the general public alike can now watch the allocation and flow of public resources that are scarce to ensure that there is equal distribution of development projects across the country.

  • The Parliament can get information and records to conduct its oversight role more effectively.

  • Legislators will have real information needed to make good laws and improve their ability to perform their legislative oversights duties effectively. ·

  • Business owners will be able to assess risks and operate their businesses more efficiently as get gain more knowledge of complementary investments, competition or risk factors.

  • Contractors bidding for contracts can ascertain whether the award of such contracts followed the due process provided for in existing public procurement processes, regulations and legislation.

  • Farmers can get information as to how much support they get from government with regards to investments in farm nutrients and implements and also know where these are deployed and for whose benefit. ·

  • Budget administrators can more efficiently track where funds in the budget have been allocated and how much has actually been spent.

  • Journalist and the press can make sure that they do factual reporting, removing a culture of rumour and conspiracy; and encouraging informed and healthy public debate.

  • Grant administrators will get to know how research grant allocations to academic and other charges paid daily to provide facilities in the market.

  • Policy makers will gain access to trusted information from which they can get empirical data for grading the successes of government policies and changing them where needed.

  • Students, researchers and academia can get accurate and original data for important researcher projects.

  • Career professionals can gain from the creation of jobs in the management of public records: the FOIA will provide new revenue sources for consultants involved in public policy formulation, information management, policy research, dispute resolution, compliance officers, auditors and accountants as well as legal practitioners, amongst many others.

  • Nigerians can exercise their electoral franchise from an informed position, inspiring them to become more active participants in the civic process.

  • Anti-corruption measures will be complemented by the FOIA and anti-corruption agencies would be better resourced to carry out the fight against corruption. The public will have the necessary assurance about whether or not governance works for the people and, if not, who is responsible.

In Conclusion, it is evident that freedom of information has so many benefits and also curbs so may mischief by public agencies saddled with the responsibility of utilizing funds, performing functions or providing services for the public.

NB: This article is not a legal advice, and under no circumstance should you take it as such. All information provided are for general purpose only. For information, please contact chamanlawfirm@gmail.com

WRITTEN BY CHAMAN LAW FIRM TEAM

EMAIL: chamanlawfirm@gmail.com

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