Edo State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Professor Yinka Omorogbe, has asserted that the participation of the people in governance processes is essential adding “you at the end of the day hold the key to whether you have a good government or bad government; whether the government is going the way you want or not.
“For you to be able to do this you have to be driven by knowledge. I have found that a lot of the time in Nigeria we make certain assumptions. We assume that because a person has a degree he is knowledgeable. But you know it is not so.
“Knowledge is something you acquire. And your knowledge often has to be a very specific type of knowledge. You need to know about certain systems and processes to know what you can push or not push.”
She was speaking while declaring open a two day workshop for civil society organisations and journalists on Freedom of Information organised by ANEEJ(Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice) as part of the implementation of CASARN Project.
On the issue of vote selling, Professor Omorogbe stated: “a lot of people need to really understand what happens when you allow somebody to buy your vote for N5,000. You need to know what you are selling. Some think they are not selling anything, they are being sharp and getting money.
“But you’re selling many things. You can be selling your birthright and the birthright of your children. People need to have that knowledge in the same way people need to understand of what benefit a freedom of information act is.
“At the very least I can assure you that knowing that your actions can be can be scrutinised or your actions will not be hidden makes you act better. That’s why even in the area of contract, the mere fact that certain contracts must be made public means that you won’t put in clauses in it.
“You need to understand some of these things. I am in government. We can push so far. But when you people need something you need to understand it and then come and push. I will say very clearly that this government of Mr. Godwin Obaseki clearly understand these different processes and that’s why we have supported the Open Governance Partnership(OGP) and supported all things that have to do with openness, transparency, good governance.
“And many of these initiatives started before I came in and that’s why we have no qualms about open governance and certain things been made available to the public. But now we are at legislative time. The bill has been passed. We now have to ensure that everybody – the people, legislators – know that’s a good thing and is in the best interest of society.
“On that point one thing that the journalists, CSO, everybody need to realise that at the end of the day the interest that we should all be pushing are the interest of society.”
In his welcome address, Reverend David Ugolor, ANEEJ Executive Director, who was represented by Leo Atakpo, said the project “is part of the implementation of the Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption(ROLAC) programme which is funded by the European Union and implemented by the British Council.”
Going further, Ugolor said: “the goal of the CASARN project is to enhance governance in Nigeria by contributing to the fight against corruption, strengthen rule of law and the protection of human rights by reinforcing prevention mechanisms and enhancing civil society and public engagement.
“One of the project’s objectives is to support CSOs/Media advocacy for implementation of Open Government Partnership commitments in Edo State as part of effort to improve oversight, transparency and accountability in the management of resources will also targeting corruption prevention measures. This workshop on FOI issues and advocacy has been designed to get CSOs and journalists to consider the Edo State draft FOI law among other issues.”