In an era marked by a growing emphasis on transparency and accountability, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) play a pivotal role in fostering an informed and engaged citizenry. Recognizing the significance of empowering CSOs with the tools to access information, the NEHIH, as part of its efforts on the USAID-SCALE Project, hosted a Technical Workshop on Freedom of Information (FOI) in Adamawa state.
CSO FOI Training Overview:
The FOI training was designed to equip CSOs with the knowledge and understanding of the FOI Act, and the importance of domestication in the state. Key presentations and discussions centered on increasing the knowledge of FOI for the CSOs in attendance, increasing their capacity to engage with the state in a bid for domestication, and supporting them to become vocal advocates and champions in the communities and with the groups they interface with. The workshop provided an opportunity for learning, knowledge exchange, and collaboration for all in attendance.
Key Focus Areas:
The Key sections and provisions in the bill were broken down for participants, and key interpretations of persons, groups, and organizations covered in the bill were presented. This provided a working knowledge of key areas in the bill, what it covers, who it covers, and the redress mechanism available under the Act.
Participants were also given a view of the existing legal rights contained in the bill, the legal frameworks underpinning Freedom of Information, and a comprehensive understanding of the rights and obligations associated with information access. This provided the CSOs a better understanding of the nuances of FOI law, ensuring they can navigate the legal landscape with confidence, and engage with relevant stakeholders for domestication of FOI into Adamawa state law.
Another critical aspect of the training was to impart practical skills in crafting and submitting FOI requests. CSOs learned how to formulate clear and compelling requests, enhancing their chances of obtaining valuable information from public institutions.
Beyond access, the training emphasized the strategy used to obtain information for effective advocacy. The CSOs were given a road map to explore and leverage acquired data to drive policy change, raise public awareness, and strengthen their impact on social issues.
Some of the challenges that were highlighted during the event were information access denial, legal loopholes, and public servants needing to be aware of the Freedom of Information Act. However, participants worked together to develop ideas on how to mitigate these challenges and pledged to play their part in sensitization and advocacy.
Benefits for CSOs:
CSOs emerged from the training empowered with the knowledge and tools to be effective advocates for transparency and accountability in the state
The program provided a unique opportunity for CSOs to connect, collaborate, and build a network of like-minded organizations committed to fostering transparency.
The FOI training stands as a beacon for CSOs striving to champion transparency. As participants immerse themselves in this enriching experience, it is expected that the ripple effect of their newfound knowledge will catalyze positive change, creating a more transparent and accountable society, even beyond Adamawa State.