The National Orientation Agency has harped on the need for people to understand and apply the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act to curb rape, gender violence and drug abuse in the society.
Vitus Ekeocha, NOA’s director in Imo State, said this at a one-day interactive forum organised by the agency for stakeholders on Tuesday in Owerri.
The forum had the theme, “Understanding the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Curbing the Increasing Wave of Rape/Gender Violence, Drug Abuse, Misuse and its Effect on the Society.”
He said drug abuse, trafficking and other social vices in the society were of great concern to government, adding that efforts were being made to ensure that the vices were controlled.
According to him, information is critical in decision making while the quality of decisions people make depend on the quality and volume of information at their disposal.
“The FOI Act provides citizens, students, researchers and politicians easy access to information to conduct studies and understand how government processes policies, systems and the functions of public officers and office work.
“No doubt, the Act is a vital tool to ensure democracy and responsive governance in Nigeria,” he said.
The state’s commissioner for Information and Strategy, Declan Emelumba, represented by Kennedy Amanze, Director of Information in the ministry, decried the increasing wave of rape, drug abuse and gender violence in the society.
He said the people must be educated on the process of how, where and when to speak and obtain facts on issues of interest which was the cardinal objective of FOI Act.
The President of the National Council of Women Societies, Ijeoma Udensi, said the FOI Act signed into law on May 28, 2011, gave members of the public the right to speak out without fear of adverse consequences.
Represented by Chizoba Okafor, Programme Manager of NCWS, Udensi said in curbing the wave of rape, domestic violence, drug abuse and misuse there should be a united push by all stakeholders for stiffer laws and penalties.
She said NOA, media institutions and non-governmental agencies should champion the awareness, information and enlightenment programmes against domestic violence as well as bring to the fore incidents of abuse.
Nazzy Njoku, Deputy Director, NOA in the state, in a paper on “Evaluating the Freedom of Information Act, 2011,” said the forum was to reinforce citizen’s confidence in openness in the governance process and its impact on national development.
The State Commander of NDLEA, Nse Inam in a paper on “Drug Abuse and its Effect on the Society,” described drug abuse as the administration or consumption of drug in a manner deviating from medical recommendation.
Represented by Kayode Raji, the Deputy Commander NDLEA, Nse said illegal or illicit drugs posed many health, social and economic challenges and urged the people, especially the youth to desist from it.
He said a drug user was a danger to the society and quoting from a UN statistics, he said 85 per cent of war crimes were committed under the influence of drugs.
“Drug taking translates to social abuse, prostitution, kidnapping, armed robbery, violence, destruction of future workforce and depletes national income.
“Fighting illicit drug taking is everybody’s business,” Inam said.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the stakeholders at the forum comprised the media, civil society organisations, the police and paramilitary personnel.