Maritime media has been encouraged to utilize the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act as a tool to spur development of the nation’s shipping sector.
Chairman of Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Lagos Chapter, Mr. Adeleye Ajayi made this call while addressing maritime stakeholders and journalists on Thursday, during a reception and lecture organized by Maritime Reporters’ Association of Nigeria (MARAN) to honour the new NUJ boss.
Ajayi, who is also a former President of MARAN, stressed that the FOI Act enacted few years was set up to promote, enhance and develop the nation’s democracy.
His words: “The Act was signed into law on 28th May, 2011 by President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration. The debate lasted for over 12 years, but the law was passed to enable the public access government information in order to ensure transparency and accountability.”
According to him, the challenges to the Act demand consistency, perseverance and right attitude from advocacy groups, citizens, and public officials.
“If the consistency at which human rights advocacy are using the Act to demand for government information continues, and the sensitization at grassroots increases, the law will before long be able to achiéve its aim to promote public transparency and accountability and deepen democracy in the country.”
“Maritime stakeholders should note that the Freedom of Information law is a very powerful tool that should be implemented effectively for the growth of the industry,” he said.
He, however, expressed delight that the availability of five maritime media associations hasn’t hampered the rapport between various groups, even as he proposed a uniform umbrella to regulate the sector’s media practitioners.
Also speaking at the event, a former President of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Prince Olayiwola Shittu commended Ajayi on his emergence as NUJ Lagos Chairman, describing the veteran journalist as humble and diligent.
Meanwhile, speaking on industry issues, Shittu condemned the approach of the federal government to give revenue targets to agencies that should be service-driven.
According to him, the drive to attain and surpass revenue targets has seen most agencies lose focus on the core services and values they ought to provide.
“Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON) and National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) are good examples of agencies that should be service driven, but you can’t get anything from them without paying,” Shittu lamented.
Noting that shipping companies in Europe and Asia have increased freight charges for cargoes destined to Nigeria as a result of scarcity of containers, he blamed the Nigerian government for the port inefficiencies that has made the country a dumping ground for empty containers.
In the lead paper presentation on, “National Development: The Challenges and Prospects for the Proper Implementation of the Freedom of Information Act in Nigeria’s Maritime Industry”, Mr. Emeka Okoroanyanwu also admonished operators in the maritime industry to make information available to the public.
He argued that lack of transparency breeds and engenders corruption and the only way to eliminate corruption and other untoward tendencies in the maritime industry is for government agencies and parastatals to remain transparent, while the media is allowed to perform its constitutional duties unfettered.
“The provision of information is a key element in mobilizing a strong citizenship for development. Citizens need detailed and accurate data and information on the activities of the government to help them contribute meaningfully to the debate on appropriate strategies for socio-economic planning, growth and development. People cannot play their full part in society without access to information. They cannot exercise their rights and claim their entitlements without information, nor can they participate fully in democratic processes,” he said.
The revered journalist posited that information is the life wire of the society, stating that without information flow, the human society will brood in the dark and be in jeopardy.
“A society without freedom of information is akin to a ship without a compass. That society will head to the rocks,” he opined.
The event was attended by a wide array of maritime journalists from various associations, including past Presidents of MARAN such as; Mr. Ray Ugochukwu and Elder Asu Beks.
Some maritime industry bigwigs like the President, Shippers Association Lagos State, SALS, Rev. Jonathan Nicol, former General Manager, Public Affairs, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Capt. Iheanacho Ebubeogu, among others, also graced the occasion.