Communique Issued at the end of the Capacity Enhancement Workshop on Advocacy Skills for CSOs and the Media

COMMUNIQUE ISSUED AT THE END OF THE CAPACITY ENHANCEMENT WORKSHOP ON ADVOCACY SKILLS FOR CSOs AND THE MEDIA ON FOI ACT IMPLEMENTATION IN THE SOUTHWEST AT RICHTON HOTEL & SUITES, ABEOKUTA FROM 11TH TO 12TH SEPTEMBER 2013

Preamble

The Capacity Enhancement Workshop on Advocacy Skills for CSOs and Media on FOI Act Implementation in the South West was organized by the South West FOIA Network and supported by the Democratic Governance for Development (DGD-II) Project and its international partners – the EU, DFID, CIDA and UNDP. A total of 43 organizations from all the states of the region participated in the workshop.

Objectives

The objectives of the workshop were to:

  • Strengthen the advocacy skills of the CSOs to engage the leadership of the three arms of government in the Southwest States in pressing them to concretely implement the provisions of the FOIA in their respective states, in line with the age-long progressive leaning of the region.

  • Provide a platform for generating discussions and relevant actions around FOIA implementation.
  • Devise strategies that the Network could deploy to engage the law-makers in the respective states in the region in drafting and passing acceptable state FOI laws consistent with the FOIA at the national level.
  • Identify with a view to partnering with relevant MDAs, the institutional bodies affected by the FOIA and development partners in ensuring unfettered FOIA implementation.
  • Increase the capacity and skills of CSOs and the Media to embark on relevant activities to increase the level of awareness on the FOIA among members of the public including those at the grassroots.

The workshop was attended by representatives of CSOs and Media in the South West geo-political zone. The keynote address was delivered by Mrs. Abimbola Ibironke Akeredolu, the Hon. Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice for Ogun State ably represented by the Director, Legal Drafting, Barrister Lanre Iyanda.

There were also lead presentations on: ‘Understanding the Role of  Public Officials  and CSOs in the Successful Implementation of the FOIA in Nigeria’; ‘Community Mobilisation for Development: Strategies for CSOs Use of FOI Act in Making Requests’; ‘Traditional and Social Media as Watchdogs of FOIA implementation’; ‘Understanding Essential Elements of Advocacy in Engaging the Authorities on FOI Act: Some Critical Tools for CSOs’; ‘Methods and Strategies for Monitoring the Implementation of Freedom of Information Act’ and ‘The Imperative of the Rule of Law as a Fulcrum for Promoting, Accessing, and Upholding the FOI Act within the Nigeria Context’

In addition, there were plenary and group discussions on: ‘Practical Application of Freedom of Information Act for CSOs/Media: The Right to Ask;’ ‘Tackling the Challenges of Freedom of Information Act in Nigeria’; ‘Producing a position paper or a briefing note;’ ‘Carrying out a media interview’ and ‘Organizing a press conference.’

Observations

After comprehensive discussions of the keynote address and the lead presentations, the participants observed that:

  1. If information is the oxygen of democracy, we find it objectionable that 27 months after the enactment of the FOIA, save for Ekiti State which enacted its FOI Law on 4th July 2011 and is currently in the final stage of passing a more robust amended version, other states in the southwest region i.e. Ogun, Osun, Ondo, Oyo and Lagos are yet to either enact State Level FOI Laws or concretely implement the FOIA.

  2. Many public institutions in the region and across the Federation are yet to deliver on their obligations under the Act, including the all important duty to proactively disclose certain categories of information stipulated under Section 2 (3) of the Act.
  3. There is also persisting low level awareness on the detailed provisions of the legislation amongst public officials and members of the public, which is militating against robust usage of the law by various stakeholders.
  4. We are concerned that despite the plethora of binding judicial decisions from several superior courts of record, including the apex court in the country, which establish amongst others, the legal doctrine of covering the field, while state like Oyo in the region still insist that the FOIA does not apply to them.
  5. Despite the fact that the 7th Assembly of the Lagos State Parliament, recently revived the process of enacting a State level FOI Law, in a process that dates back to the 6th Assembly, we are concerned about reports of what appears to be an official policy that gags public officials in the state from responding to FOI requests received from members of the public.
  6. While the Act requires private institutions, including CSOs providing public services, performing public functions or utilizing public funds to be proactive in their duty of disclosure in accordance with the provisions of FOIA, we are concerned that this is not being done currently, due largely to a lack of proper understanding of the provisions of the Act.
  7. There is growing concern that journalists in some states in the region, especially those in government owned media houses exhibit tendencies depicting bias, partisanship and lack of professionalism in their work, which negatively affects the FOI compliance process, especially since they are major stakeholders in the FOI project in these States.
  8. In consonance with the letters and spirit of the FOIA, it is believed that proactively disclosing publicly details of the agreement reached in 2009 between the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the Federal Government would have gone a long way to compel the Federal Government to comply with the said agreement and avert the current strike action that has resulted in the over two months closure of Federal and State Universities nationwide.
  9. Unless there is a subsisting appeal by the defendants in the case, the continuing disobedience of the order of mandamus made by the Federal High Court on the 10th of July 2013 directing the Clerks of the Senate and House of Representatives to furnish the plaintiff, with the salaries, allowances and Constituency funds of Senator Ehigie Uzamere representing Edo South Senatorial District and the member representing Ovia Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives Nosakhare Osahon, is symptomatic of the culture of gross impunity and flagrant disregard for the rule of law and court orders by public officials which should attract immediate punitive consequences for all such offenders.
  10. Strong concern was expressed by participants on the call by some serving public officials that the FOIA be amended even though empirical evidence shows that the Law has hardly been significantly implemented by all tiers of government in the country.

Resolutions

The workshop also resolved/recommended as follows:

  1. Members of this Network, CSOs and other stakeholders in the region should be mobilised to sustain focused advocacy with the three arms of government in their respective States to ensure compliance with the FOIA and where desired, enactment of the state level FoI Laws that meet the minimum benchmarks established  in the FOIA.
  2. Public institutions in the region and the nation at large should, as a matter of urgency put in place the requisite framework and machinery for delivering on their obligations under the Act, including the all important duty to proactively disclose certain categories of information stipulated under Section 2 (3) of the Act.
  3. In line with the provisions of Section 13 of the FOIA, governments in the region should immediately embark on robust capacity building programmes aimed at deepening the understanding of public officials on the provisions of the FOIA. Furthermore, such capacity building and sensitization programs should also be extended to members of the public resident in the region.
  4. Following existing judicial decisions from several superior courts of record, including the apex court in the country, establishing the legal doctrine of ‘covering the field,’ members of the Network call on state governments in the region to as a matter of urgency, uphold these existing judicial precedents by implementing the provisions of the FOIA forthwith in their respective states.
  5. The Network commends the 7th Assembly of the Lagos State Parliament for reviving the process of enacting a State level FOI Law in Lagos State and hopes that the process would be completed speedily. In furtherance to this positive development the Network also calls on the executive arm of government in the state to, as a matter of urgency clarify the allegation making the rounds of the existence of an official policy that prevents public officials in the state from responding to FOI requests received from members of the public. The Network also urges all arms of government in the state to commence the process of putting the requisite machinery in place for promoting the public’s right to know as enshrined in the FOIA.
  6. The Network will partner with other stakeholders in the region to carry out capacity building and sensitization programmes for private institutions, including CSOs who provide public services, perform public functions or utilize public funds to be proactive in their duty of disclosure in accordance with the provisions of FOIA.
  7. Members of the Network will carry out advocacy with journalists in some states in the region, especially those in government owned media houses to be unbiased, non-partisan and professional in their work, which also aids the process of FOI compliance in their respective states.
  8. The Network calls on the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the Federal Government to proactively and urgently disclose publicly details of the agreement reached in 2009 as part of the process of resolving once and for all the issues implicated in the current crises.
  9. There should be immediate punitive consequences for all public officials who disregard court orders enforcing compliance with FOIA.
  10. Participants distance themselves from the call by some serving public officials that the FOIA be amended despite the fact that it has not been substantially implemented in any shape or form. We reiterate that at this point in time, emphasis should be on implementing the FOIA, so that its benefits can be enjoyed by all and sundry, including government itself rather than a premature amendment that does no good to the legislation.
  11. In view of the growing recourse to the courts as the most viable forum for resolving FOIA disputes the Network calls on the National Judicial Institute as a matter of urgency and necessity to organise capacity building training programmes on FOIA for the judiciary at all levels. Furthermore, the Network also urges the judiciary as a key arm of government to immediately kick-start the process of complying with the FOIA in all ramifications.
  12. The Network will seek partnership with the Human Rights Committees of the branches of the Nigeria Bar Associations (NBA) in their respective states to provide pro bono services for resolving FOIA disputes.

Conclusion

The participants appreciate the support provided by the UNDP’s Democratic Governance for Development (DGD-II) and its international partners, the EC, DFID, CIDA to the Southwest FOIA Network for the success of the workshop and calls on them to kindly provide additional support to the Network as it embarks on the process of taking the FOIA implementation campaign in the Southwest zone further.

Signed on behalf of the participating Southwest CSOs:

  • Ayo Adebusoye                                 ………………………………………………………………………….
  • Rita Ilevbare                                      ………………………………………………………………………….
  • Ebofin Michael                                   ………………………………………………………………………….
  • Gbenga Ganzallo                               ………………………………………………………………………….
  • Jide Bamgbose                                   …………………………………………………………………………..
  • Moji Akinsanya                                  ………………………………………………………………………….
  • Tola Winjobi                                        ……………………………………………………………………………….(Zonal Coordinator)
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List of Participants at the Abeokuta Capacity Enablement on SoIA Advocacy Strategy for CSOs and the Media

S/N

NAME

SEX

ORGANIZATION

ADDRESS

PHONE

EMAIL

1.

Pastor (Mrs.) E. Yinka Odedele

F

Gender Equality and the Girl Child Development Foundation 33 Irese Road, Shagari Village, Akure

08034716144

08053790625

gegcdf@yahoo.com

2.

Prof. A. A. Ilemobade

M

Upline  Resources Foundation SGB Adesida Road, Akure

08034545538

08033946058

urfoundation2000@yahoo.com

3.

Kemi Oyewole

F

Global Network for Community Development 1 Oyewole Street, Ajalogun, Off Ijare Road, Ikere-Ekiti

07064208901

kemigncd@yahoo.com

4.

Adebisi Ademola

M

Save Our Land 44 Olofa Estate, Ofatedo

08035141040

adexconsult2@yahoo.com

solnigeria1@gmail.com

5.

Bamgbose Jide

M

Justice Development and Peace Commission, Ibadan St. Patrick’s Catholic Church Compound, Basorun

08056718663

Jidebam60@yahoo.com

6.

Nike Obatayo

F

Adenike Obatayo Hope Foundation (ADOHF), Formality Gender Equity Network (FGEN) Suite 3 and 4 Fajuyi Hall, Ado-Ekiti

08266661555

08044974295

genoekiti@yahoo.com

genoekiti@gmail.com

adohoffice@gmail.com

7.

Franklin Oloniju

M

Life and Peace Development Organisation Akure

08032153120

lapdo4development@gmail.com

8.

Gbenga Ganzallo

M

Women Arise for Change Initiative 26 Adebowale Street, Ojodu-Berger, Lagos

08037223313

gbengaantonio@gmail.com

9.

Olaniji Olutowo M Media Advocacy Partnership Ikeja, Lagos

08136927229

sotanolam@yahoo.com

10.

Omolara Olusaiye

F

CSO Media Network 15A Harvey Road, Off Alagomeji, Yaba

08060563329

omolara01@yahoo.com

11.

Elegbede Tayo

M

ARL Foundation Lagos

08081100438

tayojet@gmail.com

12.

Ayo Adebusoye

M

NNGO, Lagos 151 Akowonjo Road, Egbeda, Lagos

08037191342

ayo@nnngo.org

13.

Adebesin Abiodun

M

JDPC 1 Bishop Emeritus Compound, Ijebu-Ode

08062034717

adebesin4u@yahoo.com

14.

Imam Shaikh Busairi

M

World Islamic Peace Foundation (WIPF) Imam Ajimofowoku House, Yemetu-Aladorin, Box 7647, Secretariat, Ibadan

08032230454

imambusairi@yahoo.com

15.

Revd. Mrs. E. O. Ajayi

F

Bemel Community Development Initiative Plot 5, Caren Estate, Eruomu Layout, Old Ife Road, Ibadan

08033242310

bettytundeajayi@gmail.com

16.

Agnes Tola Winjobi

M

CAFSO Women’s Rights Action Group Plot 5 Akingbade Street, Off New Gbagi Market, Ibadan

08033456377

yinkuswinco88@yahoo.com

17.

Rita Ilevbare

F

FIDA High Court Premises, Ekiti Judiciary, Ado-Ekiti

08033551144

ekitisjf@yahoo.com

18.

Adeniji Jesupemiwale

M

Added Value Initiation (AVI) 8 Omotayo Street, Off Ilare Road, Ado+Ekiti

08062829718

jesupemiwale2003@yahoo.com

19.

Kemi Adesina Sajebi

F

Youth Network on HIV/AIDS Population and Development Ota, Ogun State

08036965678

kemiadesina30@yahoo.com

20.

Olu Ogunrotimi

M

Environmental Development and Family Health Organisation Olorunsogo Street, Opposite School of Nursing, Ado-Ekiti

08034719196

oluogunrotim@yahoo.com

21.

Kosoko Adesola

F

Lagos State Television Lateef Jakande Road, Agindigbi

08023115497

adesolakosoko@yahoo.com

22.

Chika Izuora

M

Leadership Lagos

08033315611

stanizuora@yahoo.com

23.

Wale Akintade

M

JONAPWD, Ondo 3 Dare Ajayi Street, Akure, Ondo

08038633440

jonapwdondo@yahoo.com

24.

Mojisola Akinsanya

F

Commonwealth Women’s Organisation Nigeria 28, Ibadan Road Camp, Abeokuta

06033276770

jisolaus@yahoo.com

25.

Adebayo Samuel

M

Royal Concept International Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State

070563218086

adebayosamuelsound@yahoo.com

26.

Azeez Tajudeen

M

JONGO Osogbo, Osun State

08061268470

tjong4sure@yahoo.com

27.

Ebofin Michael

M

Justice Development and Peace Makers’ Centre,  Osogbo Osogbo

08030012325

michoebofin@gmail.com

28.

Dr. Daniel Tola Winjobi

M

Campaign 2015 plus International 5 Akingbade Street, Box 1500, Agodi-Ibadan

08030618326

080200828222

tolawinjobi58@yahoo.com

campaign2015@gmail.com

29.

Aladejare Abimbola

F

The New Generation Girls & Women Development Initiative (NIGAW) Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State

07033163838

newgenerationinitiative@gmail.com

30.

Michael Olatubosun

M

Diamond Radio University of Ibadan

08023577565

miketonbosu@yahoo.com

31.

Dayo Bamgbose

M

CISCOM D Ibadan, Oyo State

08033505916

ciscmday@yahoo.com

32.

Enike Vincent

M

Vinmot Foundation Osogbo, Osun State

08138591526

enikevincent@gmail.com

33.

Ilesanmi Adetoun F.

F

Garnet Youth Synergy, Osogbo Osogbo, Osun State

08076480829

iadetoruba@yahoo.com

34.

Hon. Adeshola Afariogun

M

African Foundation for Environment and Development (AFED) 29, Bolanle Awosika Street, Off Ilogbo Road, Ota, Ogun State

08033248636

shoal@afariogun.com

35.

Segun  Olatunji

M

Punch Newspapers Abeokuta, Ogun State

08034320077

segunolatunjiu@ogun.com

36.

Oguntoyinbo Tolulope

F

CELSUM, Osogbo Osogbo, Osun State

08026579556

37.

Tunde Hassan

M

HEDA Resource Centre 20 Mojidi Street, Ikeja, Lagos

08035220935

08022662653

tunisky@yahoo.com

hedagenda@yahoo.com

38.

Eyitayo Fabunmi

M

Centre for Social Reconditioning and Development (CEPSOR) Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State

08038490652

cefsord@gmail.com

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Group Two Work on Planning Process of Press Conference Strategy

TASK

As part of a capacity enablement workshop on FOI Act coming off in seven day’s time, explain the planning process of a press conference component of the workshop while you give a practical demonstration of how you are going to deliver the address and field questions from the press. You may organize a mock press conference and inform the plenary what happens after the conference.

PLANNING PROCESS

  • At the planning process, CSOs will meet to decide the goal and objectives of the press conference
  • Decide action steps (what to do)

Assign responsibility to members:

  • Who does the script writing
  • Who read the script
  • Who takes the narrative
  • Who drafts and send letters
  • Who moderates the conference
  • Who does the introduction
  • Identification of allies in the media outfits
  • Selection of media houses to used
  • Come up with budgets
  • Decide stakeholders to be part of the conference
  • Follow-up the letters sent media houses
  • Come up with Action points (maximum of one page)
  • Decide the Venue for the conference, Date and Time
  • The Conference

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Group Three Work on Press Release

TASK

PRESS RELEASE

Come up with a press release either as a rebuttal to statement credited to a public official on non-applicability of FOIA in a hypothetical state of the federation or as the position of your organization on the applicability of FOIA in a hypothetical State. You may need to consider: content, style, presentation and photograph (if necessary).

NAME OF ORGANISATION: Organization 3.

PRESS RELEASE

TITLE OF POSITION: NEED FOR A STATE TO IMPLEMENT FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT (FOIA) NOW

Our attention has been drawn to the fact that “A” STATE is yet to implement the FOIA two years after its passage by the National Assembly and the assent to it by the president.

Our position for the applicability of the FOIA in this state has become imperative in view of the recent workshop on “Capacity Enhancement Training on FOIA for CSOs in the Southwest”. The revelation at this workshop shows the compelling need for our dear states to apply the FOIA. For us, it can no longer be business as usual.

For the purpose of education, the FOIA is the first law that empowers Nigerians with the right to access the records of public institutions (Ministries, Departments and Agencies) as well as the private sector, where they perform responsibilities of public nature. The Act which is a codification of the right to know and also a fundamental human right of every Nigerian citizen, grants all persons the legally enforceable right to access public held records. Moreover, the signing of the FOI Bill into law is an opportunity for the clearest demonstration ever of the power of civil society working together to influence public policy and initiate reform.

The whole Act borders on the issue of the right of access of anyone to public record and information. Section 2(1) of the Act categorically declares and establishes the right of any person to access or request information “which is in the custody or possession of any public official, agency or institution howsoever described”, whether such information is in a written form or otherwise.

However, after the two day workshop, which incidentally was held in this state, we strongly hold through this medium to appeal to the government of this State to, as a matter of urgency to implement this act in order to save our nascent democracy.

More so, the rationale behind our position steps from the fact emerging from the workshop that a sister state has already passed the law and another has held a stakeholders’ meeting on it. Therefore, for a state that prides itself as a pacesetter of the nation, there is the need and the time is now to have the application of the FOIA.

Among other benefits, is the need for free flow of information between the government and the governed, the public and the private institutions and the general public.

Our organization is ready to provide in areas of advocacy, to facilitate the implementation in order to contribute to the promotion of freedom of speech, human right and strengthen the rule of law in the state.

In conclusion, we want to appeal to all relevant authorities to take the bull by the horn to create an enabling environment for the applicability of the FOI Act.

Signed Organization 3.

  • Omotayo Elegbede                         tayojet@gmail.com
  • Olamiji Olutowo                              sotowolami@yahoo.com
  • Imam Busairi                                   imambusairi@yahoo.com
  • Kosoko Adesola            adesolakosoko@yahoo.com
  • Ilesanmi Adetoun F.                        iadetoun@yahoo.co.uk
  • Comrade Tunde Hassan                  tunisky@yahoo.com
  • Rotimi Niyi                                                niyirotimi@gmail.com
  • Kehinde Akinyemi                 trustmaninogun@gmail.com
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Group Work on Lobbying or Face-to-Face Meeting

TASK

As Abeolumo Human Rights Coalition, one of the NGO groups at the workshop, role play how you are going to approach the chairman House Committee on info so as to correct erroneous impression of the Attorney General and suggest the need to adapt/enact the FOAI in Eletikun state of Kogberegbe.

The group identified the problem statement first which is the fact that the FOI bill has been passed and by virtue of law should be binding on all federative units but some states are trying to exempt themselves.

The following steps have been outlined:

  1.  Write a letter to book an appointment with the Chairman House committee on information.
  2. Prepare for the advocacy meeting.

Note: while preparing for the advocacy meeting, it’s necessary to first identify why previous attempts has been abortive.

  • Identify members that would form the advocacy team. The team should include major stakeholders such as the media, vulnerable groups, NCWS and so on.
  • Identify lead speakers and delegate roles to each of them.

Introduction by 1st speaker (member of the CSO coalition and also a media correspondent of the House of Assembly, this person is also the one who used the practice of lobby to get the Chairman to fix an appointment with the group)
Paper presentation by 2nd Speaker (coordinator of the coalition group)
Conclusion by 3rd speaker (representative of the NCWS group)

  • Develop a position paper which should include quotations from the FOI Act.

Note: while presenting the paper, it should be emphasized that the federal law supersedes the state law.

Also references should be made to past achievement by the group, in other South-West state.

  • Go as a team to see the chairman, do a paper presentation and then make the Chairman House committee on Information make a commitment that would enable the group to do a follow-up and come up with fruitful outcome.
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