Partcipants Adopt Strategies to Promote the Right of Access to Information in Health Matters in Nigeria

Participants at two pilot workshops organized by ARTICLE 19, the Global Campaign for Free Expression, in partnership with the Center for the Right to Health (CRH) and Media Rights Agenda (MRA), have adopted strategies to promote the right of access to information in health matters in two states of Nigeria, Enugu and Lagos.

In the absence of a comprehensive Freedom of Information law in Nigeria, the workshops were aimed at raising awareness about access to information provisions in existing laws, regulations and policy documents, including health budgets, and their potential for ensuring access to government held information with particular focus on health provisions and access to health information in Nigeria.

ARTICLE 19, the Global Campaign for Free Expression, in partnership with the Center for the Right to Health (CRH) and Media Rights Agenda (MRA) held two two-day Workshops on the Right to Information and Health in Nigeria.

The aim of the workshops was to strengthen and better protect access and right to information pertaining to healthcare budget in order to strengthen good governance, accountability and transparency of the health sector budget in Nigeria.  The workshop will facilitate knowledge sharing on advocacy and outreach campaign strategies and is expected to strengthen networking among Nigerian civil society actors.

Participants at the workshops held in Lagos (on April 20 and 21) and in Enugu (on April 23 and 24, 2009), agreed on a two-pronged strategy for strengthening and better protecting the right of access to information in the healthcare sector in order to enhance good governance, accountability, transparency and efficient public service delivery in Nigeria.

They decided to reinvigorate the campaign for a comprehensive national Freedom of Information legislation while also carrying out advocacy activities aimed at empowerment of citizens at state levels through the adoption of practical mechanisms for ensuing that they have adequate information from public authorities and healthcare institutions necessary for them to safeguard their right to health.

In addition, the participants, drawn from among medical professionals, media practitioners and civil society organizations in health and related sectors, agreed to use transparency provisions in existing state laws, regulations and policy documents, including healthcare budgets, gender equity and HIV/AIDS policies, to push for greater access to information and better delivery of health care services to Nigerian citizens.

Ahead of the workshops, researchers and data collectors in Lagos and Enugu States began a scoping exercise to identify, track and collate laws, regulations and policy documents in the two states which contain access to information provisions.  Participants at the workshops endorsed proposals that the reports from the research exercise be published and disseminated to civil society actors working on health issues in the states as well as other stakeholders who would then be trained to use these provisions to demand information from public authorities and health institutions in the states.

The workshop participants further suggested the use of traditional means of communication such as theatre, recitals and comic strips, to popularise access to information and that advocacy and campaign material be produced in more accessible formats, such as by simplifying them, translation into local languages and using audio packages, leaflets, posters, etc.   They adopted a plan of action for giving effect to these strategies.