Journalist slams implementation of FOI law by Our Correspondent
The Freedom of Information Law came under strict scrutiny on Thursday as the editor of The Nation newspaper, Mr. Gbenga Omotoso, said the law has not achieved the purpose which it was set achieved when passed as those assigned the responsibility of implementing it has frustrated its implementation.
Omotosho, who is a Commissioner-nominee of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu in Lagos State, was speaking when he appeared before the House of Assembly of Assembly ad hoc committee for the screening of the nominees at the Lateef Jakande Auditorium on Thursday.
According to him, the Freedom of Information law in the country is not working, “the implementation is not working”. He said when you write asking for information there is always no response from the authorities concerned and “if you go to the code of conduct for assets declaration information of government officials they will not give you.” Adding that even if you want to explore the court option by going to court to press for access to the required information, that is a long process.
Talking about managing perception of Lagos, Omotoso said it is the duty of everybody, although he said it can be done through training of information officers, mobilising the members of the public and dissemination of government actions and policies to all the nook and crannies of the state.
Omotoso said more importantly was for everybody to put up a proper behaviour especially people in position of authority for others to emulate. “Perception can be managed through regular interactions with members of the public, letting people know what you are doing right, it is the responsibility of all of us to guard the image of the state,” Omotoso said.
He said though technology has a major role to play in dissemination of government policies and activities to the people and enhancing the peoples’ perception about the government, but the problem of lack of power especially in the rural areas limits its capacity.
“We can manage perception by constant engagement through technology and deploying same for the purpose, but the problem of power supply in the rural areas limits its capacity.” He thus advocated marrying the traditional mode of information dissemination with modern system of passing information for more effective result.
Answering another question on coping with life outside his known comfort zone of managing a news medium, Omotoso said journalism like politics is all about service, politics is a call to service, it is an honour and it will be a seamless movement for him.
The chairman of the committee, who is also the Chief Whip of the Assembly, Hon. Rotimi Abiru, commended Omotoso who was the eight and the last person to be screened on Thursday. He said: “It has been a long process, you have been here since about 10.am and this is almost 5.00pm; I commend your patience, you are cool and calm despite the pressure,” Abiru said.
Also speaking while answering questions from members of the Lagos Assembly ad-hoc committee during his screening, another senior journalist and immediate past Secretary to Lagos State Government and commissioner-nominee, Mr. Tunji Bello, said the menace of refuse in the state was because the past administration abandoned a working refuse disposal system under LAWMA to introduce a system that could not cope with the volume of refuse generated in the state.
He said the LAWMA personnel have already been trained and with specialisation in different areas of refuse management before being taken out of the system which created a vacuum that the operatives of the newly introduced model could not cope with. He said the solution to the situation may already be on the way with the introduction of sorting refuse at point of generation and separating same into different refuse bags as being introduced by the current governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
Bello, who said he worked as the speech writer of the late Chief MKO Abiola as a journalist, lawyer and former commissioner for the environment in the state, advised that the state must intensify efforts on waste management and conversion. “There are a few areas you can set up dumpsite in Lagos State because the state is below the sea level.
You cannot set up a dump site in Lagos Island, except in places like Agege, Abule Egba and others. “On flooding in Lagos, we have nine main drainages in the state, and while six are developed, three are not developed and flooding is always when there are blockages in the flow of flood to the Lagoon in these drainages.
“The Lagos Mainland drainage system is the oldest and it has about six divisions. The tertiary drainages and channels must link up with primary channels,” he said. This was corroborated by the Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Rotimi Abiru, who stated that everybody was concerned about the environment in the state. Abiru advised Bello to impress it on the government that the state could not afford not to improve on the environment.