Understanding the Role of Public Officers and CSOs in the Successful Implementation of the FOIA in Nigeria

United Nations Human Rights Council logo.

United Nations Human Rights Council logo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

INTRODUCTION

The Freedom of Information Act, 2011 in its explanatory memorandum, makes public records and information more freely available, provide for public access to public records and information, protect public records and information to the extent consistent with the public interest and the protection of personal privacy, protect serving public officers from adverse consequences for disclosing certain kinds of official information without authorization and establish procedure for the achievement of those purposes. What this means, is that the act creates the right to access to information in the custody of or under the control of public institutions or authorities and establishes a legal regime for the exercise and/or enforcement of this right.

A Freedom of Information Act cannot just work on the basis of requests by individual members of the public. This is an important part of public access to information but it is not the only part. The authorities need to take active steps to disseminate certain key types of information to the public. This way, the public as a whole will be well informed without having to make requests for information. But, in addition, members of the public who wish to request specific information cannot know with any certainty what information public institutions hold, so they do not know what to ask for. Public institutions are all authorities whether executive, legislative or judicial agencies, ministries, and extra-ministerial departments of the government, together with all corporations established by law and all companies in which government has a controlling interest, and private companies utilizing public funds, providing public services or performing public function. It is therefore essential that all public bodies should be required to publish certain key information about what they do. This includes: how the body functions, its objectives, budget, audited accounts, internal structures and staff complement.

REASONS FOR FREEDOM OF INFORMATION

  •  Less corruption:Corruption thrives on secrecy. Individuals and institutions become corrupt when there is no public scrutiny of what they do. The more that they operate in the public gaze the less corrupt (and more efficient) they are likely to become.
  • Freedom from hunger: This may seem like a strange thing to put on this list. Yet, the Nobel prize-winning economist Amartya Sen has argued that famines do not happen in countries with a free press. His argument is that famines are caused by the inaction of governments. Governments do not dare to be inactive on such an important issue when they are subject to constant media scrutiny.
  • A healthier society: This may also seem a strange benefit from freedom of information. Yet, consider, for example, the greatest public health crisis of our time – the HIV-AIDS pandemic. In its early years, HIV infection was able to spread so rapidly because of the lack of publicly available information about the virus and how to avoid it. Countries that had effective public information programmes – such as Uganda, which was once the worst affected in the world – have been able to turn the tide of HIV infection. More recently, the Chinese government’s failure to be open about the gravity of the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) contributed to the spread of the condition not only within the country but in the outside world. Its belated admission of the seriousness of the SARS outbreak immediately made it easier for the public health authorities to bring it under control.
  • A cleaner environment: Many of the decisions taken that cause damage to the environment are made behind closed doors. Most of these decisions could be avoided if all planning decisions had to be accompanied by an environmental impact study – which in turn should be made available to the public.
  • Respect for human rights: Human rights violations, like corruption, flourish in a climate of secrecy. Some of the worst human rights violations, such as torture, are almost by definition something that takes place behind closed doors. An open government – including, for example, publication of investigations into allegations of human rights violations – is far more likely to result in respect for human rights.
  • Respect for privacy: Without freedom of information there is nothing to guarantee that governments (and other powerful bodies) will not amass vast quantities of information about individuals. If the individual always has the right to see what information is held about them, their right to privacy is more likely to be respected. In addition, people have a right to make sure that the information held about them is accurate. If this is not the case, wrong and potentially damaging decisions could be made.
  • A more secure society: This is possibly the most controversial item on this list. The argument in favour of official secrecy is that this is necessary in order to safeguard “national security”. Yet there is a much better argument for saying that public scrutiny of decisions related to defence and intelligence is likely to make for a more secure society. For example, many countries have a long experience of unaccountable intelligence services that direct their activities against domestic political opponents rather than genuine threats to national security. Freedom of information can help to curb such behaviour. Secrecy can lead to corruption and inefficiency in the security services, which in turn undermines security.
  • More effective democracy: Freedom of information is crucial for effective democracy. How can the electorate make an informed choice if they are denied information about what the government – their government – has been doing? Political leaders are more likely to act in accordance with the wishes of the electorate if they know that their actions can be constantly scrutinised by the public.

WHAT ARE THE ROLES OF PUBLIC OFFICERS?

  • SECTION 3 –Head of institutions shall publish in the Federal gazette a description of the organisation and responsibilities of the institution including details of programme and functions of each division, branch and department etc
  • SECTION 31-Attorney-General & MIN. OF JUSTICE – shall encourage govts and institutions to comply. 3&7
  • Court should be alive to its responsibily.
  • Heads of institutions should constitute FOIA committees, appoint desk officers and train them.
  • Institutions must be proactive by displaying information to the public on the internet, newspapers etc.

ROLES

  •  Make the Act work by adding value. Meet requesters with politeness

The role of public officials in a democracy is to serve the public. This is why they are called public or civil servants. You should meet every person who requests information with this principle of serving the public in mind. You should treat all requesters as equal, and meet them with politeness.

  • Advise and assist them when making their request

You should advise and assist them in making their request, taking into consideration that the requester may not know what information exactly to look for, where to look for it, or how to file a request. Provision should be made to ensure full access to information for certain groups, for example those who cannot read or write, those who do not speak the language of the record, or those who suffer from disabilities such as blindness. In such cases you should help the customer to put their request into writing, include your name and position in the body, and give a copy to the person who made the request. User-friendly systems have been established in Denmark and the Netherlands where applications can be made verbally. The Belgian legislation gives requesters the right to have documents explained to them.

  • Direct them to where the information can be found

If the information requested is already publicly available, for example on an internet site, in information bulletins or in an annual report, you should indicate to the requester where he or she can find the information. If you do not hold the information the requester is looking for, you should direct him or her to the correct person or body where the information can be found.

  • Process requests rapidly and fairly

Requests for information should be processed rapidly and fairly within the time limits prescribed by law. The reasons for any refusal of information should be given to the requester with a comprehensive written explanation.

  • Inform requesters of their rights

The freedom of Information Act made an independent review of any refusals through court of law. In case you decide not to disclose the requested information, you should inform the requester that he or she can appeal this decision by applying to court.

  • You may refuse vexatious requests

Notwithstanding, it is legitimate for public bodies to refuse frivolous or vexatious requests.

  • Keep in touch with requesters.

Keep the requester informed of the progress of their request, if the request is such that processing it will take some time. This will be the case for example when it involves a large amount of information or numerous documents.

So, what do you need to do when you receive a request? Here is a Checklist:

  • Provide the requester with a receipt documenting the request;

  • Provide the requester with a reference number for the request to make it easier to trace the request later on;
  • Explain the procedure of how the request will be handled (for this purpose, the public body could have a leaflet explaining the standard procedure for handling information requests);
  • Keep the person informed of the progress of their request, especially if it involves a large amount of information which will take time to find.

The Role of CSO’s

The Act provides people the right to access government-held information and requires systems to be set up for ensuring transparent and accountable government. The purpose of the Act is to create an informed citizenry capable of participating in the decision-making processes of government at all levels. In this context, the right to information becomes a key tool for ensuring that public authorities more effectively meet their goal of promoting participation and entrenching accountable government at the grassroots level.

Lack of awareness and training and public education are the main reasons why people find it difficult to access information from various government institutions. Civil society organisation (CSOs), especially those working at the grassroots in rural areas need to be aware about this landmark legislation in our country. More importantly they have the specific responsibility to spread awareness about this Act amongst the people and monitor its implementation.

The main roles of the CSOs towards the successful implementation of the FOI Act are;

  • Advocacy

Advocacy is getting the support of key stakeholders

  • Generating awareness

Awareness generation and public

Education

  • Print handbills, posters and pamphlets on FOIA for wide-scale distribution.

  • Spread awareness about FOIA through wall writing, group discussions, pamphlet distribution, rallies, street plays, awareness camps etc.
  • Inform people about governments duty to proactively disclose information;
  • Share successful case studies on use of FOIA by ordinary citizens in order to enable people to appreciate its value and importance;

  • Building capacity among the community on FOIA.
Capacity Building
  • Organise FOIA workshops seminars, inter-face at wards, local govt, town halls, CDA, youth org., States and Federal level with the purpose of increasing awareness and knowledge about FOIA.
  • Organise FOIA workshops for CSOs, media, government officials, women organisations, professional organisations, market men and women, traditional institutions members of Self Help Groups,  retired government officials, teachers, media.
  •  Using provisions under the act in monitoring public service delivery

It must be borne in mind that awareness creation in citizen and capacity building of government officials ned to be done side by side in other to strenghten the demand side for accessing information as well as the supply side for giving information. Kudos to the organisers and sponsors. Hope sponsors will continue to give support to CSOs to continue the momentum tha will be generated.

Using Provisions Under The Act in Monitoring Public Service Delivery

Participation in governance is at the heart of any successful democracy. As citizens, we need to participate not only at the time of elections but on a day-to-day basis – when decisions on policy, laws and schemes are being made and projects and activities are being implemented. Public involvement not only enhances the quality of governance but also promotes transparency and accountability in government functioning. But in reality how can citizens take part in governance? How can the public understand how decisions are being made? How can ordinary people find out how tax money is being spent or if public schemes are being properly run or whether the government is acting honestly and fairly when it makes decisions? How can government servants be made answerable to the public they are supposed to serve? Social audit?

What is Social Audit?

Social Audit is an independent and participatory evaluation of the performance of a public agency or a programme or scheme. It is an instrument of social accountability whereby an in-depth scrutiny and analysis of working of a public authority vis-à-vis its social responsibility can be undertaken. It also enables the Civil Society to access whether a public authority lives up to the shared values and objectives it is committed to. It provides an assessment of the impact of public institutions non-financial objectives through systematic and regular monitoring based on the views of its stakeholders.

Benefits of Social Audit

The primary benefits of Social Audit are:

  1. Complete transparency: In the process of administration and decision-making, Social Audit ensures an obligation on part the Government to provide full access to all relevant information.

  2. Rights Based Entitlement: Social Audit propagates rights-based entitlements for all the affected persons (and not just their representatives) to participate in the process of decision making and validation.
  3. Informed Consent: Social Audit provides for the right of the affected persons to give informed consent, as a group or as individuals, as appropriate.
  4. Immediate Answerability: Social Audit enables swift and prompt response by the elected representatives and Government functionaries, on their relevant actions or inactions, to the concerned people.
  5. Speedy Redress of Grievances:  Social Audit ensures speedy redress of grievances of the affected people by the public agencies.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I want to appreciate the efforts of the organisers for putting up this programme. I urge CSOs, Media and NOA to collaborate and make FOIA work well in Nigeria. I salute the Undp and others for sponsoring the event. Finally, please let us ‘Do the right thing to  transform Nigeria’.

REFERENCES

1. Freedom of Information Act 2011

2. Sohini Paul; Roleof civil Society  Organisatios in Implementation of RTI in India

3. ATI, Kohima; Right to Information Act, 2005 and the Role of NGOs, CSOs RTI Cell

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The Imperative of the Rule of law as a Fulcrum for Promoting, Accessing and Upholding the FOIA within Nigeria

presented by A. A. Adewole Esq.

Going by available statistics published by the United Nations, about 90 countries the world over have this type of law operating in their respective domains. The FOI Act Nigeria was signed into law on 28th March, 2011 by President Goodluck Jonathan. Lagos and Ekiti States have domesticated the law albeit with slight variations to suit their local situations.

As discernible from the long title of the Act, it is “An Act to make Public records and Information freely available, provide for public access to Public Records and Information, protect public records and information to the extent consistent with the public interest and the protection of personal privacy, protect serving public officers from adverse consequences for disclosing certain official information and establish procedures for the achievement of those purposes and for related purposes…”

From the coinage of the topic of this presentation, it can be deduced that the essence is to properly place the “rule of law” as a sine qua non for a successful operation/ application of the Freedom of Information Act and its local variants (as adopted and enacted by some states in the Federation) in our country. But before delving into the topic proper, it is necessary to deal with the issue as to whether or not the F. O. I Act is of general application in all the component states of Nigeria. I will say that the position on this as at today is still fluid but it suffices at this point to mention that some states including Lagos and Ekiti have enacted their own versions of it.

Before considering how rule of law will perform the three identified functions of Promoting, Accessing and Upholding the Freedom of Information Act, there is the need to put the term “rule of law” in proper perspective. It was coined by A. V. Dicey a renowned British Jurist in 19th century. Several connotations and denotations have been given to the term.

Two of them are as follows:

  • “…influence and authority of law within society, especially as a constraint upon behavior of government officials”.
  • “…implies that every citizen is subject to the law”.

The modern conception of rule of law developed as a concept distinct from “rule of man”. It involves a system of governance based on non-arbitrary rules as opposed to one based on the power and wish of the absolute ruler.

In its simplest form, the rule of law principle posits that everybody is equal before the law, the governed as well as the governor.

            At this juncture, it is apposite to pause and ask, what actually is the relationship/nexus between the principles of rule of law and the Freedom of Information Act?

            According to Doctor Mack Cooray in his article titled the “rule of law”, following form Professor A. V. Dicey’s writing about rule of law certain essential characteristics have emerged as its components. They are:

  1. Supremacy of law which means that all persons (individuals and government) are subject to law.
  2. Concept of Justice- which emphasizes interpersonal adjudication, law based on standards and the importance of procedures.
  3. Restriction on the exercise of discretionary power.
  4. Doctrine of judicial precedent.
  5. Common law methodology
  6. Legislation should be prospective and not retrospective.
  7. An independent judiciary
  8. Exercise by Parliament of legislative power and restrictions of exercise of legislative power by the executive.
  9. An underlying moral basis for law.

In the same vein, a group known as the World Justice Project has indentified four universal principles that must be upheld under rule of law. These are:

  1. Government and its officials and agents as well as individuals and private entities are accountable under the law.

  2. The laws are clear, publicized, stable and just are applied evenly, and protect fundamental rights, including the security of persons and property.
  3. The process by which the laws are erected, administered and enforced is accessible, fair and efficient.
  4. Justice is delivered timely by competent, ethical and independent representatives and neutrals who are of sufficient number, have adequate resources and reflect the makeup of the communities.

Those four cardinal principles of the world justice project appears to me to be a collapse of the nine components distilled form A. V. Dicey’s writing. They can be said to encapsulate all that are required for the rule of law to prevail in a society.

As revealed by the long title to the Freedom of Information Act, the purpose of that law is to give Nigerians access to information on acts and activities of government, also to protect public sector workers who in the course of their employment or tenure of office reveal certain facts which revelation hitherto will amount to an offence from being sanctioned for such revelation once it is shown that it was done in public interest. People who act in such way are now referred to as “whistle blowers”. The F. O. I Act has thirty sections in which it attempts to cover the field on all perceived areas needed to ensure that the intendment of the law is achieved. It covers issues such as right of access to public records (section 2); recording and keeping of information by public institution (section 3); request for access to records and how such request is processed sections (4,5,6,7); what to do where access is refused (section 8); grounds for denying a request (sections 12,13,15,16,17,18,20); right to challenge a denial in court (section 21); procedure to be adopted by the court in treating such matters (sections 22,23,24,25, & 26); materials exempted under the act (section 27); protection of an officers of public institution or any person acting on behalf of such institution from civil or criminal liability from disclosing requested information, also protection of a public officer who discloses information without authorization in given circumstances and also protection of the receiver of such information (section 28); among others. Without gainsay, the F. O. I Act contains quite a number of salutary provisions which if properly and sincerely applied will go a long way in the quest to tame corruption in our society. The Act has also responded albeit in part to the clamour to make the fundamental objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy as contained in Chapter II of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria justiciable. This is because the F. O. I Act affords Nigerians opportunity to participate in governance as provided for under section 14(2) (c) of the 1999 constitution.

All said and done, the F. O. I. Act is in itself a microcosm of what the rule of law concept is all about in that it seeks to ensure that government, its employees, appointees elected officers as well as agents operate within the ambit of our laws and the Act also empowers the citizens as watch dogs for the said purpose. But laudable as the Act may be it is not yet Uhuru until its provisions are tested and bounced against real life situations vis-à-vis the well established tenets of the rule of law that we can then talk about its having achieved its purpose. To facilitate this, I want to make the following suggestions:

  1. Public Officers (career and political) must readily play their roles as enshrined in the Act. There is the need for a thorough re-orientation of the said officers in this regard considering the situation prior to the enactment of the F. O. I Act.

  2. Government at all levels too must remove all impediments that can hinder the smooth operation of the Act and show sincerely.
  3. The Judiciary must also be ready and exhibit capacity to play its role in a positive and most effective manner in adjudicating on issues that arise from the operation of the act.
  4. The citizenry too must be vigilant and be ready to seize the initiative in making the Act work. Knowing that a vast majority of the populate lack the wherewithal to do this, the Media and the Civil Society organizations amongst others are expected to be pro-active and be the vanguards in this area.
  5. Where the need arises to have a review of some of the provisions of the Act, the legislature should respond promptly and do the needful.
  6. There is also the need to publicize and simplify the provisions of the Act for quick and easy understanding of the masses.
  7. Access to the court where judicial review becomes necessary must be made easy and affordable for the generality of the populace.

The above suggestions of mine are by no means exhaustive. But I consider them the minimum that must be met in order that the F. O. I. Act can be made to work.

I thank you all for your attention.

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Understanding Essential Elements of Advocacy in Engaging the Authorities on FOI Act: Some Useful Tools for CSOs

What Advocacy is Not

Advocacy is not a noise making exercise as some people are wont to believe. Though it might be necessary to drum the beat of change into the hearing of the target authorities, this goes beyond noise making; it is speaking out. Advocacy is not blind agitation, though it involves the use of pressure to effect a change. Though implied, advocacy is not just proposing changes to the existing policies; it subsumes creating new policies where none existed before. Advocacy is not an information-education-entertainment initiative though it can inform, educate and communicate to the people the benefits of socio-economic policies that might impact on the lives of all irrespective of gender or status.

TearFund’s

seeking with, and on behalf of, the poor, to address the underlying causes of poverty by influencing the decisions of governments, companies, groups, and individuals whose policies or actions affect the poor’ (Tear Fund 1999).

What Advocacy is?

The word ‘advocacy’ takes its roots from the Latin ‘ad vocare’ meaning to speak for someone. ot only speaking for but also speaking with the people proposing or recommending something or someone for better options. It implies identifying a cause, believing in it, mobilizing and influencing others to support it so as to change the policy or programme that is negatively affecting that cause.

Kinds of Advocacy

The following are common kinds of advocacy, though the list is not exhaustive:

  • Feminist advocacy: focuses campaigning solely on women’s identity and ideology.

  • Gender advocacy: believes in equity of resources between male and female, young or old.
  • Policy advocacy: may be targeted towards the executive or the legislative arms of government, works towards changing the existing programme of actions or   set of principles and policies or enacting a new one for the benefit of all especially the common man.
  • Legislative advocacy: sometimes used interchangeably with policy advocacy which may emanate from the executive arm of government, focuses on working with and using only the parliament to effect a change in policy or enact a new one.
  • Confrontational advocacy: this deals more with strategy of achieving a change at all cost by all means without necessarily promoting dialogue.
  • Legitimate advocacy: This is advocating for a change through compliance with recognized rules, standards or traditions.
  • Egocentric advocacy: suggests pressing for a change for a selfish reason.
  • Demonstrative advocacy: This is a type of advocacy in which the advocates themselves take up the responsibility of the target of advocacy so as to show deficiency of the latter or to challenge the latter to take a cue.
  • Sectoral advocacy: while focusing on campaigning for a reform and a change in policies it targets the specific sector of the economy such as health, water, agriculture, education, land and housing etc. both in public and private sectors.
  • Economic advocacy: focuses attention on economic issues affecting the nation such debt cancellation, reform, due process, pro-poor budgeting, extractive industries etc.
  • Social Service advocacy: this is related to both economic advocacy and sectoral advocacy as the main focus here is campaigning for social welfare of the people in which donors, for example, should provide funds directly to the government who will factor this into the national budget example is Direct Budget System (DBS).
  • Media advocacy deals with strategy of achieving advocacy goal through the use of media both print and electronic.

Other kinds of advocacy are self-explanatory including self-advocacy, customer advocacy, consumer advocacy, child advocacy, cycling advocacy, trails advocacy, prison advocacy, patient advocacy and so on and so forth.

Purpose and Objectives of Advocacy

The main purpose of advocacy is to engage authorities or governments in dialogue so as to effect a change in their existing policies, practices, beliefs and ideas that are anti-people and not poor-responsive.

In addition where there were no policies before, advocacy would aim at causing the authorities to enact new policies on emerging issues that are adversely affecting the lives of the people.

Advocacy is necessary in order to: influence the policy makers as a means of addressing roots and causes of the particular problem; contribute more effectively to reducing poverty and preventing deaths and suffering through the use of wide range of intervention; reach a large segment of population and broaden the scope of program impact; and increase financial and material support for programmes.

Objectives of Advocacy

  • Change laws/policies,
  • Enact new legislation (e.g. pre-2011 FOIA),
  • Change position of policy makers and or authorities,
  • Change action of policy makers and or authorities.

Secondary Objectives

In the process of carrying out each or all of the above objectives, we could be carrying out and achieving other objectives that we might or we might not have planned for. Secondary objectives could be

  • Increasing social organization and participation,
  • Strengthening CSOs (NGOs, CBOs, FBOs)etc  alliance,
  • Increasing public awareness,
  • Increasing media awareness on an issue that is not necessarily germane to the issue on focus,
  • Increasing access to policy-makers by the poor masses
Whether as a group or as an individual, there are certain qualities an advocate should possess. These include but are not limited to:
Being passionate;Being diplomatic;Being persuasive;Being sensitive

Being tactful;

Being resilient;

Being credible;

Being dependable;Being knowledgeable;Being resourceful;Being strategic;

Being pleasant;

Having communication skills and;

Using lobbying skills

Methods/Strategies/Tools

 Advocacy methods might be used synonymously with tools or strategies for the purpose of this discourse. In order to make advocacy effective, it should be communicated through a variety of methods and activities. It is vital when advocating to use methods that complement each other in order to have the greatest impact on the widest selection of targets possible because if methods are not coordinated, resources can be wasted and objectives undermined. It is also important to represent the interests and views of the widest selection of people as advocacy sometimes is a game of number.

LOBBYING

“Lobbying”, derived from the word “lobby”, is a tool used in advocacy by the pressure group that tries to influence a politician on a particular issue. Lobbying involves two or more people. It is building of alliances in order to exert pressure on decision-makers and accomplish expected results; it can sway decision-making in a favorable way for the best interest of the community; and it also plays a major role for organizations striving to influence government policies towards their interests. Therefore, lobbying is considered as an action consisting of conducting interventions intended to influence directly or indirectly the development, implementation or revision processes of legislative (or executive) measures, standards and rules.

Different kinds of lobbying strategy

Lobbying a decision-making body: Initiating a bill for legislation could emanate from any arm of government or the public – The executive bill or The legislature or members of the public.

At whatever level the bill is initiated lobbying might be necessary in order to fast-track the bill into law or make the executive accede to it. Lobbying could take place within the legislature among the lawmakers themselves or within a particular committee or between one committee and the other while members of the public could also lobby the legislators in their surgeries or in the house of parliament.

This strategy calls for five different functions of the members of parliament that can be used by pressure groups:

  • Contribute to improving a bill in committee

  • Question decision-makers
  • Liaise with the executive on behalf of his constituency
  • Make suggestions
  • Assist the executives
  • Remind authorities

Direct lobbying: This is an approach built on personal communication between the lobbyists and the lobbied. Personal communication subsumes: presentation, contact, meetings, letters, informal conversation, telephone conversation and so on. It involves getting one’s position across to the decision-makers without an intermediary. The techniques used in direct lobbying are:

  • Oral presentation
  • A letter to a VIP
  • Informational meeting;
  • Approach to support committees
  • Contact with Clubs, Associations or Foundations etc.

An example of a situation in which direct lobbying could be useful is when a personal contact is made to, for example, the Chairman House Committee on Legal Matters so as to pressure her committee to enact a bill on FOIA in the state.

Indirect Lobbying: This strategy aims at achieving the same result as in direct lobbying but with the help of an intermediary but one is more efficient than the other. In the example given above, the chair of the House Committee on health is a woman, her committee is a committee that is directly involved in enacting such bills on health-related issues, and the committee was approached directly. However, an issue might be on increasing budgetary allocation to education to 26 percent, for instance. A group of two or three “unskilled” lobbyists might decide to approach a lawyer to draft such a bill on their behalf for the benefit of the community and submit it to the House of Representatives through the Speaker’s Office or the Clerk of the House. The Speaker might assign this bill to the appropriate committee to handle it and for subsequent presentations (readings).

The 3-man lobbyists do not make any move about the bill other than the job given to the lawyer. Lobbying only takes place at the instance of the lawyer who uses his professional skills to draft the bill and persuades the Speaker’s office to help submit the bill to the appropriate house committee for hearing. More indirect method is for the lobbyists to approach the family members, friends, and associates of any of the legislators requesting them to engage the latter in such (legislative) matter of interest since they are likely to listen in deference to such relations and cronies.

Lobbying community leaders(Gate keepers): Among the community leaders are the traditional rulers, the heads of the households, heads of towns’ unions, political leaders, heads of markets and trade groups, and religious leaders. The non-state actors could approach these people so as to lobby them to support a legislation that would impact on the wellbeing of the community.

To influence the community leaders on issues dealing with tradition, one should know how to develop arguments drawing from their own references since they are keepers of tradition in their own right. For instance, one needs tact and wisdom to convince the traditional leaders the need to support the legislative campaign on the harmful effect of the female genital mutilation or widowhood practices, for example, as the practices are rooted in the tradition of the people. However, it is important to prove to them that their status is not threatened.

Lobbying aimed at public opinion: The best methods of lobbying are often those that are discreet as described above. Some of the time, those methods do not succeed because of the “unskillful” manner lobbying is handled by the personalities involved or because of lack of understanding or the ulterior motive of the authorities concerned. However, when it is clear that the latter factor overbears the former, then public opinions should be resorted to in order to influence the decision-makers.

In this case, every available strategy at the disposal of the lobbyists could be used. This includes media campaign, mass protest, mass mobilization, propaganda, letter writing, petition, strike action, stakeholder lobbying etc. A combination of these methods are being used in Nigeria to garner support for and pressure the National Assembly to pass the Freedom of Information Bill.

Collaborating/Partnering

These are situational agreements in order to defend a common interest or to oppose a common opponent. It is a forming a group of organizations or individuals committed to working in the long-term on the issue of advocacy. There are two types of collaborating:

Collaboration of individuals: it is made up of a large pool of volunteers with strong personal commitment; freedom to come in consensus on issues without external influences.

Collaboration of organizations: this type of collaboration is made up of organizations. Each organization comes with its strength, followers, resources, expertise and reputation.

Advantages of Collaboration

  • There is strength in numbers, achieving goals that single organization or individual cannot.
  • More publicity.
  • Expanded pool of resources and varied skills.
  • Expanded knowledge/support base.
  • A leadership/staff with good diplomacy and negotiating skill.

To be successful in advocacy, it is important to build alliances. This allows for uniting forces, better complementing each other’s effort and having more leverage. This requires trust relation between the advocacy group and its allies. Building alliances is carried out in five stages

Identification and choice of partners

  • Getting to know the partners through its name, mode of operation, orientations, strategies, activities and interests.
  • Sharing the objectives with the partners and taking interest in achieving the same objectives.
  • Definition of each partner’s participation.
  • Managing and maintaining partnership once it is established6.

Media work

Media work is also a very important method of advocacy; the media work has the chance to influence the image of the government because most governments care about their image. Because the media is the maker and shaper of images, their role is then very important in making advocacy successful. There are three types of media:

  • Print media ( news paper, journals, magazine etc)
  • Electronic media ( television and radio)
  • Social media (twitters, facebook, netlog, etc)

The media can play a key role in:

  • Building awareness and changing public opinion on issues
  • Generate action from its audience
  • Put direct pressure on government by placing it in the spotlight
  • Protect and enhance reputation
  • Investigate and expose issues
  • Influence government policy, both directly and through its power to influence and mobilize opinions.

Different campaign demands different media strategy, it is therefore important to identify target audience and find the specific media that will best reach an audience or a number of different audiences and media strategy should specify about what action is needed7.

Campaigning

Campaigning is choosing a specific course of action on the basis of available information and resources which will be most effective in achieving identified objectives. It is an organized course of action to achieve change by convincing the target audience. When campaigning, the following principles must be put into consideration:  focus, clarity, credibility, relevance, timing and commitment.

Mobilization

Mobilization is a very important method of advocacy that subsumes synergizing the critical masses of the people, financial, material and technical resources for a common purpose. In simple terms, the types of resources concerned are individuals, groups, money, contribution in kind, labour, expertise and administrative support, including premises for meetings, supplies and equipment10.

It is important to mobilize the community that will benefit from the change. Among the benefit of community mobilization is that it improves program design, quality result and evaluation. Also, it increases community ownership and community, individual and group capacity to identify and satisfy their needs9.

Resource Mobilization

Resource mobilization is also playing a vital role in advocacy because without resources, advocacy could not survive. In order to maintain this effort in long term, time and energy must be invested to secure the necessary funds and resources. Types of resources and sources that could be used:

Personal contributions which comprises subscriptions, contributions in kind, income generating activities, from all the members of the advocacy group.

External contributions which comprise donation, legacies, sponsoring, collections, contributions from institutions, companies and various organizations that have been approached.

Letter writing

It is a written message packaged and sent to someone for a purpose including the conventional messages sent by post and email messages sent through the internet. A large number of letters can be a good way of demonstrating the extent of awareness and concern in the society about certain issue. Individual letter can demonstrate a depth knowledge and personal concern, while letters from eminent people can have a particularly great impact. However, letter-writing is such a flexible technique that it can be used in many different ways. Letters can be directed to the necessary authority to make a change on the issue addressed11.

Petition

Petition is a written document signed by a large number of people that asks somebody in a position of authority to do or change something. Petition is also used as an advocacy method. It has a tradition in public protest that goes back many centuries.  Some of the benefits of petition are:

  • It can provide a good focus for group and public activities.
  • It is a simple way of allowing people to express their support.
  • It can illustrate the level of public/community on an issue.
  • It is easy and cheap to organize12.

 Choosing appropriate advocacy methods

There are no simple rules for choosing the best advocacy methods. Your choice will depend on many factors:

  • The target person/group/institution;
  • The advocacy issue;
  • Your advocacy objective;
  • The evidence to support your objective;
  •  The skills and resources of your coalition; and
  • Timing – for example, external political events, when a law is still in draft form, immediately before a budgeting process, time of year, stage of advocacy process.

Factors to Consider in Community Mobilization on Advocacy Concern

FACTORS TO CONSIDER CONDITIONS THAT FACILITATE ADVOCACY CONDITIONS THAT INHIBIT ADVOCACY
Magnitude of the problem
Political support
Socio-cultural context
Resources (time, money, skills of staff, and community, equipment and supplies)
Organization
Feasibility of response
History of  community participation
Accessibility (geography, climate etc
Representativeness of other areas in the country
Remarks: Weigh your pros and cons to draw conclusions

 

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