Information gives people power because no matter how minute the information may seem to be, a person with information is more powerful than one without information. When information affects life and wellbeing, it is essential that people have that information.
In collaboration with ActionAid Nigeria, a training on The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was recently held for people living in rural communities. They learned that this Act was passed in 2011 to give Nigerian citizens the right to have information based on all aspects of government in order for them to increase the accountability of the people in positions of power and leadership. Having the right information can dispel rumours while enabling communities to have first hand knowledge of what is happening, and thus to hold public officials accountable. This enables the citizens to ask relevant questions and get proper feedback for their own communities.
Participants were delighted with the training. One said that he benefited from the programme because of a previous encounter with an official concerning project in the community. A borehole was drilled but after a few months it was no longer working, and the community felt helpless about how to address the problem. He said he now had the tools to speak to such officials.
One woman said that the training helped her understand more fully how the government worked, and how it was possible to find out what the government was doing. She said she not only learned for herself but was ready to return to her community to teach other women about the FOIA.
Group work during the training gave participants the chance to make plans on how such training would assist them to acquire crucial information for development in their own communities as it enabled them to see what assistance government bodies had planned to do, and tools to challenge the officials to ensure that they fulfilled their mandates to the communities.
All participants were enthusiastic about the training and were determined to use it beneficially as well as to help others in their communities to know more about the FOIA.