PRESS STATEMENT BY ANEEJ ED, REV DAVID UGOLOR, ON THE NEED FOR EDO STATE GOVERNOR TO RE-VISIT THE DRAFT EDO STATE FOI BILL

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PRESS STATEMENT BY EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, AFRICA NETWORK FOR ENVIRONMENT AND ECONOMIC JUSTICE, ANEEJ, REV DAVID UGOLOR, ON THE NEED FOR EDO STATE GOVERNOR TO RE-VISIT THE DRAFT EDO STATE FOI BILL. OCTOBER 28, 2022, BENIN CITY, EDO STATE

Gentlemen of the press!

I wish to welcome everyone of you to the corporate Head Office of the Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice, ANEEJ, as critical stakeholders in our quest to enhance citizens access to information in Edo State.

You may recall that on 28th of May 2011, President Goodluck Jonathan signed the Freedom of Information Bill into law. 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. Since then, civil society organisations and other interest groups have been working at the subnational level, engaging State government on the need to have their State FOI law. If States have their own FOI law, it will also bring to an end the raging controversy about the applicability of FOI Act at State level where several groups both within and outside Edo State are now in court.

Advocacy effort in this regard has so far paid off in Ekiti and Imo States, where the governors have enacted their own state FOI laws. The effort to get other State governors to take the same step has continued till date as ANEEJ is currently working with Gatefield and other organizations under the “Keep it Open” cluster program to advocate for the passage of FOI law in Edo, Kaduna and Adamawa States. The “Keep it Open” cluster program is part of the SCALE (Strengthening Civic Advocacy and Local Engagement) project, currently being implemented by Palladium with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).  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.

Through the keep it open program, we are focusing on advocating for the adoption of laws and executive actions that protect the civic space notably:

  • Passage of the digital rights and freedom bill into law at the national level
  • Domestication of Freedom of Information Act at the subnational level in Edo, Kaduna and Adamawa States

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 efforts and engage more stakeholders to support our advocacy issues.

That is why this press conference has been called to draw the attention of His Excellency, Mr. Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki, Edo State governor, to the draft Edo State FOI Bill and appeal to the governor to revisit the draft bill and present the bill to Edo State House of Assembly as an Executive Bill for consideration.

We urge you to convey our message to the Governor and the entire public of Edo State through your various media channels.

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I thank you all.

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