INEC releases communication policy, sets up FoI unit

The Independent National Electoral Commission on Sunday released its revised communication policy with a promise to set up a Freedom of Information Unit and make the public have legitimate access to documents within the confines of the law.

The commission said the FoI unit would have direct responsibility for reviewing or considering applications for information from members of the public and determining what records, documents or information that should be disclosed.

The FoI unit, under the supervision of the chairman of the commission, would be responsible for ensuring regular training and re-training of INEC officials, both within and outside the unit, on their FoI Act-related obligations.

The Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, said this in his explanatory comments on the revised communication policy, which specified the roles for INEC staff and responsibilities of its spokespersons.

The document made available to journalists in Abuja also provided clear rules of engagement between INEC, its public audience and the various departments.

The FoI Act came into effect on May 28, 2011, the day it was signed into law by former President Goodluck Jonathan.

Yakubu said, “It is quite clear from these definitions that the FoI Act applies to INEC and that the commission is under a legal obligation to comply with the law and fully implement it.

“INEC fully intends to comply with the provisions of the FoI Act, as this will further enhance its transparency and accountability, while also reinforcing its public image of integrity and credibility as well as strengthening public trust and confidence in the commission.

“INEC will set up a Freedom of Information Unit and designate a senior official, of at least Assistant Director level, as the head of the unit.”

He said INEC would ensure the provision of appropriate training for its officials in the light of Section 13 of the Act, which provided that every government or public institution must ensure the provision of appropriate training for its officials on the public’s right to access to information or records held by the government or public institutions.

Yakubu said, “The FoI Act places two major obligations on INEC as a public institution. The first obligation is to publish certain types of information proactively and routinely, even without any request from anyone for the information.

“The second obligation on public institutions is to respond speedily, not later than seven days, to requests for information from members of the public.”