NYSC complies with FOIA —Brig. Gen. Ibrahim
The Director-General of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Brig. Gen. Shuaibu Ibrahim, has disclosed that since the enactment of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in 2011, the Scheme has been at the fore-front of ensuring total compliance with the provisions of the Act.
Gen. Ibrahim, stated this during the NYSC Freedom of Information Desk Officers’ Training Workshop, held at RockView Hotel Abuja.
The NYSC Boss said the workshop is aimed at consolidating the successes recorded by the scheme regarding FOIA, and updating the workshop’s participants knowledge on FOIA, as well as enhancing their competence to perform even better.
He urged Nigerians to familiarize themselves with the NYSC Act so as to understand better, the operations of the scheme and its role expectations.
“Let me however seize this opportunity to remind the general public that NYSC has done so much for the unity of the country over the last four decades. Apart from promoting national unity, the selfless service rendered by the young men and women on national service have brought positive transformation in the socio-economic development of the country over the years,” Brig. Gen. Ibrahim said.
Also speaking at the occasion, a Research Professor of Law at the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS), Peter T. Akper, said while records and information kept by NYSC can be requested by members of the Public without showing any specific interest in the information, the Scheme is also bound to disclose such information except with respect to those exempted under the FOIA.
He added that the NYSC has a duty to obey the law and provide conditions necessary for the enjoyment of the right to information by making proactive disclosure of information as required by law.
He said the provisions of the FOI Act are designed to assist public officers to embrace the new ethos of FOIA and discard the culture of secrecy promoted by the Official Secrets Act, while delivering a paper entitled, “FOI Act and Nigeria’s Democracy: Issues and Challenges,” at the workshop.
Prof. Akper said: “The right to access records and request for information is established by the Act. The right is so extensive such that it is immaterial whether or not such information requested is contained in any written form so long as such record or information is in the custody or possession of any public official, agency or institution howsoever described. Again, the FOIA further protects those who receive such information and who subsequently disclose such information.”
At the FOIA Desk Officers’ capacity-building workshop which was themed: “Mainstreaming the Freedom of Information Act into Effective Service Delivery in NYSC Scheme,” the erudite don, said the FOIA is not just an abstract piece of legislation, as its ideals are firmly rooted in the 1999 Constitution.
He maintained NYSC and other public institutions, owe it as a duty to ensure proper organisation and maintenance of information in a manner that facilities public access to such information within seven days, while providing a written ‘Notice of Denial’ stating reasons and the basis for the denial in accordance with the Act.
“The Act is comprised of 32 sections dealing with various aspects such as rights of access to records, the procedure for making requests for information, circumstances under which requests can be granted or refused, exemptions, judicial review and the Attorney General’s oversight responsibility,” he said.
Prof. Akper, explained that the FOI Act seeks to make public records and information freely available, saying the idea behind its enactment is to promote open government so as to engender transparency and accountability in government business.
“To ensure that the enjoyment of the right to information established under the Act is fully protected, the Act imbues the applicant with the right to institute proceedings in the court to compel compliance with the provisions of the Act.
Welcoming guests and the trainees, Mrs. Adenike Adeyemi, NYSC Director of Press and Public Relations, asserted that FOIA confers on the public a rare opportunity and privilege to request for and receive information on specific issues of concern.
“The NYSC has since keyed into this policy of government, having appointed Desk Officers for the Scheme who coordinate the policy of the FOIA, both in the National Directorate Headquarters, Abuja and the 36 State/FCT Secretariats. We also have FOI Community Development Service groups for Corps Members who assist in sensitizing the public on the spirit and letters of the FOI Act.
“It is gratifying to state that the FOIA Desk Officers’ Workshop has become a yearly event where the Desk Officers gather to be refreshed with the FOI current trends and innovations. The training provides them with the requisite platform to interact and rub minds with one another on the challenges they face in the course of carrying out their duties. Beyond that, the workshop provides us with the opportunity for self-evaluation and feedback mechanism, all geared towards improved service delivery,” added Mrs. Adeyemi.
She appreciated the NYSC DG for ensuring that the workshop is accorded the prime importance it deserves and personally attending the event’s opening ceremony.