YIAGA AFRICA’s Accountability and Social Justice Program officer, Tracy Keshi has urged members of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and the media to take advantage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2011 to demand accountability from leaders, public institutions and even business owners in their communities.
According to Mrs Keshi, “we encourage Nigerians to frequently make use of the FOI Act, 2011 to make requests and demand for accountability from their leaders”. “You do not have to be a CSO or media house to make FOI requests to public institutions. As an individual, you can make an FOI request using personal letterhead.” The workshop, supported by Department For International Development’s (DFID) Strengthening Citizens Resistance Against Prevalence of Corruption(SCRAP-C) under its #Upright4Nigeria campaign is an interactive capacity building training session with youth based CSOs and the media, who will after the training use their platforms and skills acquired, mobilise and sensitize the youths in their communities on how to use these accountability tools to engage in the fight against corruption.
“The FOI Act is not an end in itself but a means to an end. You can also approach the court to compel the public institution involved to release the information requested for. That is why the CSOs and the media should collaborate in holding the government accountable” Keshi states.
“If you are requesting for information from an organization or public institution under the Act, remind them they are mandated by the law to disclose information in their custody”, she says.
Speaking at the event was Program Assistant, Michael Agada who said, “Let us not think of approaching the anti-corruption challenge from an individual perspective. We are here to achieve synergy. We are saying that we cannot do it alone. That is the point of this synergy. We need to confront this situation and compel things forward,” he stated while facilitating the session on Social and Behavioural Change.
In the lead up to the training, YIAGA AFRICA’s program officer, Tracy Keshi, spoke on the role of the citizens in the fight against corruption on the early morning radio show with Sunrise FM 96.1 FM in Enugu. “Corruption has to do with our way of life too. It is about attitudinal change. If you say no to corruption, and I say no to corruption, together we can begin to reduce corruption in Nigeria.”
“As citizens, we also need to understand that corruption do not only exist in the corridors of government, it also exists within our immediate environment. We need to purge ourselves of everything that helps corruption thrive in Nigeria. Are you doing everything right? Are you holding your leaders accountable? Do you even know what to hold to account?”, she said.
DFID sets out to work with Citizens, Civil society Organizations, media and public institutions for the SCRAP-C project under its #Upright4Nigeria campaign launched in 2017 and domiciled under the anti-corruption project in Nigeria (ACCORN). They have adopted different approaches that will contribute to a reduction in corruption in Nigeria in five years (2017 – 2022)
The participants representing various CSOs and media platforms also had a media parley yesterday, 12th June, where they discussed and explored different avenues where they could collaborate and laid the groundwork for how they can seek to reduce corruption in Nigeria.
“Most times, the media reports high profile corruption cases, to inform the public. So, as CSOs, we are supposed to take advantage of these information, use the FOI to request for more information, mobilize citizens in our wards, constituencies and LGAs to demand for accountability,” a participant states. Likewise, if the Civil Society Organizations have worked on anti-corruption issues, the media can help them amplify it,” the facilitator, Tracy Keshi elaborates.
#Upright4Nigeria is the mantra for the CSOs and the Media now under the SCRAP C project as they proceed to sensitize others in their community on the basis of the movement, while it continues to mark a turning point in the anti-corruption efforts across Nigeria.