Questions on the Right to Know in Nigeria
1. What is the Right to Know?
The right to know can be defined as the inalienable right of each person, in this case, that of Nigerian nationals and residents, to access information and documents held by public or private institutions performing public functions.
2. Right to Know, right to information, access to information, freedom of information: what difference?
There is no difference, those are the expressions used indifferently to mean one and the same thing.
3. Freedom of information, freedom of the press, freedom of expression: what difference?
4. Why is the right to know important/useful?
The Right to Know is a tool for democratic governance and citizens’ participation, and is of utmost importance because information is the life wire of every society and the vital ingredient for the effective sustenance of modern democracies.
For the people to participate actively and meaningfully in the governance process in any democratic dispensation, and further provide support for the effective implementation of progressive government policies, they need to be fully informed on what is happening.
Access to information is also important for social cohesion, in that it enables transparency and mutual respect in relations between government, public organs and users of national and local public services.
5. Who has the right to know?
The Right to know is a right for every individual human being irrespective of his or her social status or standing in society, nationality, gender, profession, age, race or any other consideration.
6. Who has the duty to inform?
The obligation to inform lies primarily with public institutions that have custody of the information or document requested and private institutions in specific cases.
7. Where in the world are there laws on access to information?
Over 85 countries around the world have adopted access to information laws; in Africa, they include: Angola, Ethiopia, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Niger, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe. In addition, there are also several other countries like Nigeria that do not have a full blown, all encompassing access to information laws, but nevertheless enable access to information through various statutory instruments and in diverse sectors of public administration.
8. How is the right to know implemented?
Freedom of information is implemented in several steps:
9. How is the right to know protected/guaranteed in Nigeria?
The right to information in Nigeria is guaranteed by Section 39(1) of the 1999 Constitution and the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court have ruled and recognised that the right to access information is a fundamental human in the cases of Archbishop Okogie & Ors V. Attorney General of Lagos State and Dr. Basil Ukaegbu V. Attorney General of Imo State respectively.
10. Some examples of RTI provisions under the Nigerian Law
Examples of access to information provisions (list non exhaustive):
11. How do I know my right to information is being violated?
I know my right to information is violated when my request for information addressed to a public organ or a private institution performing public functions is denied without any justification, or when such justification is not legitimate according to the generally accepted principles of an access to information law. Violations of the right to information can take different forms, notably:
12. What is Right to Know (R2K) Initiative doing about the right to know in Nigeria?
R2K recognises that passing an FoI law is only the start of the transformation of a society from a culture of secrecy to one of openness, implementation of the law being the most essential part of this process. Government having circumscribed the legal, policy and institutional framework of access to information in Nigeria, R2K seeks to lead the way for advocacy towards the effective implementation of access to information provisions in existing laws. And to also advocate for the adoption of a general freedom of information law in Nigeria.
Specifically, R2K project on Freedom of Information and Access to the Public Service will seek to:
13. How can I or my organization get involved?
The realization of a fully open society in Nigeria implies the effective implementation of access to information provisions in existing laws as well as the adoption of a general FoI law in the country. The involvement of all actors of society will be necessary:
Ordinary Citizens should change their attitude towards government, and become more demanding in their interactions and relations with public institutions/organs: if information is denied, citizens should file administrative appeals or resort to ordinary courts to demand protection of their right to information which has been violated.
Media: access to accurate information is particularly important for the media professionals in the course of their work, and they should be at the forefront of filing requests for access to information.
CSOs: like the media, civil society relies strongly on access to information to advance its missions. R2K will provide training to CSOs on accessing information, utilising FoI in their work and assisting their constituents in accessing information.
Parliamentarians: Are key players in the quest for open, democratic society. They can use FoI during the “questions to government” sessions as well as in their regulator of government action capacity.
Public officials should change their attitudes and be more amenable to serve and assist the public in their requests for information or documents.
The Business Community also needs access to information as it enhances the ability of educators and students alike to undertake serious academic research work with access to the information that they require for such undertaking.
Faith based Institutions also need FoI as it reaffirms the teachings of the age old aphorism in most holy books that you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free. Access to information enhances the ability of religious institutions to further the ability of their congregation to move towards piety and demand same from their leaders at all levels.
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Dr Joe Abah (DG BPSR)
"Great job, the society should be made aware of these rights"
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