Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Librarians Told to Test The Freedom of Information Act

(l-r) Professor L. O. Aina, FNLA (President, NLA),
Professor Ken Nwogu (Lecturer) and Mr. Jatto
(CEO, National Library f Nigeria) during the lecture
At the 49th  Annual General Meeting/National Conference of the Nigerian Library Association (NLA) held in Awka, Anambra State. The Pre-Conference Seminar titled "Freedom of Information" (FOI) was delivered by Professor Ken Chinemelu Nwogu, Dean, Faculty of Law, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka.

He noted that Librarians, more than anyone should know the limits of the FOI law which was passed by the National Assembly on 23rd May, 2011 and signed into law by President Goodluck Jonathan on 28th May, 2011. According the erudite Professor of Law and Lawyer, it took eleven years for this fit to be achieved. The first FOI was enacted in Sweden in 1776. As at today, 85 countries have some forms of FOI in place. Nigeria has now taken her place in the committee of Nations who have this law in place. 

He differentiated between what Section 39 of the Nigerian Constitution meant by the Freedom of Expression and the FOI. He emphasized that the FOI is not only meant for the media, but also for custodians of knowledge - the Library and Information Professionals. 

Professor Nwogu stated that FOI: 
  • makes public information more accessible to all citizens; 
  • gives right to information; 
  • promotes accountability in governance.access;
In short, "FOI is set to help the Government to run a responsible government." "It also helps the government runs equitable form government"

However, Information will be accessible on written application after which access to the information can be given. The request must be well described in a manner that the officer in charge will understand the request. A form of cost may be involved in the processing of the request. The officer must not decline the request, because the law allows the citizen to ask any question without stating the reason for it. However, in case of denial, the court is the final determinant of the case. 

According the learned Professor, as at now, the law has not been domesticated by the States. He encouraged Librarians to test the FOI law.

The first day ended after a plenary session on papers and Annual General Meeting I on Monday, July 11, 2011

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