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Stakeholders adopt Benin declaration on access to information

By Joseph Onyekwere
03 October 2022   |   3:27 am
Stakeholders have adopted the Benin City Declaration on Access to Information at the sub-national level.

Stakeholders have adopted the Benin City Declaration on Access to Information at the sub-national level. 

The adoption was at a one-day colloquium organised by Rural Development, Information and Legal Advocacy Centre (RUDILAC) in collaboration with Edo State Ministry of Communication to mark the International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI) 2022. 

The theme of the colloquium was: “Artificial Intelligence, e-Government and Access to Information.”

The event was held at John Odigie Oyegun Public Service Training Centre, Benin City, on Thursday. 

Stakeholders at the event included Board Chairman, Rural Development, Information and Legal Advocacy Centre (RUDILAC), Prof. A. D Badaiki; RUDILAC President, Aigbokhan President; Leo Atakpu of African Network for Environmental and Economic Justice (ANEEJ); Dr. Uyi Ojo of Environmental Rights Action (ERA) and Odion Polycarp of the Nigeria Police Force. 

The declaration is meant to promote anti-corruption, human rights protection, good office practice and participatory governance in various states. 

It was agreed that government’s obligation to honour access to information commitment is inalienable and basic democratic good governance practice. 

The group emphasised that various state commitments to inform the public on COVID-19 precaution during the pandemic was proactive disclosure in default that must be sustained post pandemic.

It was reiterated that the decision of the Court of Appeal, Benin City in Osakue v EDOSACA, where it held that state government must pass Access to Information Law before Freedom of Information Act of 2011 can be enforced in the state should not be treated in vacuum as some states have extant open government legislation that fills the gap. 

According to them, Article 9 (1) & (2) of the African Charter, which Nigeria is a signatory, guarantees right to information and sub-nationals require no further legislation or direction to comply. 

Edo State Government was requested to forward the Access to Information Bill as an Executive Bill to the House of Assembly for passage.

The declaration is to ensure that sub-national government bodies respect the principle of transparency, accountability and public access to information in their operation and to provide for comprehensive legal guarantees for the right to access information held by all public bodies and requiring them to publish key categories of information.

The declaration also calls for protection of digitised records and information by complying with extant privacy regulation and also passing a privacy legislation.

The organisations that endorsed the declaration include ANEEJ, ERA, RUDILAC, CONGOS, EDOCSO, VGN, Freedom Ambassadors, FOI Counsel, Connected Advocacy, Youth Empowerment Advocates, FGGSC, Nigeria Police Force, JDPC, journalists and other individuals present.