NOA sensitises Plateau rural areas to FOI Act

10The Plateau office of the National Orientation Agency (NOA) on Monday began the sensitisation of the rural dwellers to the provisions and benefits of the Freedom of Information Act (FOI).

The Director, Mr Musa Chantu, who led the NOA team to some local government areas, including Qua’pan, said the law had provided an opportunity for electorate to challenge their representatives on the absence of some development projects.

“You can request for, and have access to details of finances meant for your area and challenge your representatives to go after them or account for them if the funds had been released,’’ he said in Qua’pan.

He said that voters now had the right to documents hitherto classified as top secret, pointing out they should use the right to get informed so as to make informed decisions.

The NOA official advised the people to take the campaign seriously and stressed that those in attendance must enlighten those that were absent.

“You must also make efforts to fully understand the provisions of the act, to be effectively guided in all your actions,’’ he said.

Chantu advised them to make enquiries on the running of government before demanding explanations on issues, stressing that such knowledge would help them to force leaders to be more accountable.

The NOA boss, however, explained that the act was limited in some areas, especially those bordering on security, legal and health matters.

Other limitations include the client and journalism confidentiality privileges.

The director tasked corporate organisations and public institutions to acquaint themselves with the provision of the law, and to assist members of the public, who might need to explore its provisions.

The District Head of Piapung, Mr Emmanuel Kumshem, who spoke at one of the sessions in Quan-Pan, thanked NOA for the initiative and called on his subjects to take advantage of the exercise to get more knowledge.

He said that their awareness of FOI privileges would give them a sound sense of belonging, especially on the programmes of government affecting the rural residents.

Chantu, who reviewed the exercise, described it as “very successful so far’’.

He said that residents of Kwa, Chip and Piapung Districts in Qua-Pan Local Government Area had shown great enthusiasm, while those in Pankshin, Mikkang, and Shendam local governments had asked for more copies of the FOI Act.

“From what I have seen so far, the sensitisation campaign is going on smoothly, and is measuring up to our expectations.

“The massive turn out of people is an indication that even those at the rural levels are becoming more aware of the need to always yearn for knowledge.

“As you can see, in every of the points that we visited, the turn out of people was massive and also cuts across age, religious and literacy divides. This is very good,’’ he said.

“This suggests then that our mission in NOA will not be in vain; by the time Nigerians are fully aware of the workings of this Act, it will be a catalyst for the actualisation of our developmental strides,’’ Chantu said.

The director said public office holders would soon be compelled to become accountable and responsible, using the provisions and privileges offered by the law. (NAN)


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