The signing into law of freedom of information (FOI) laws at the federal level and in several States has opened a new chapter in accessing public information and records in Nigeria.
In addition, the growth in internet penetration and social media usage (participative communications) are providing powerful incentives for citizens advocacy and the monitoring of the public sector.
Information repositories such as public records centres or archives have a pivotal role to play in strengthening democratic accountability.
However, they should not be viewed or operate as location-specific institutions. This means that they must have an internet presence.
There is a continuum in records and archives management beginning with the creation of the record itself and its controlled transfer to the public records centre or archives followed by authorized destruction or inactive storage or final archiving.
It is also possible to have automatic archiving of specific records immediately after their creation.
Clearly, effective records management (creation, storage and security) requires robust internal records protocols and defined standards within Nigeria’s public institutions.
The main barriers to achieving this goal are the lack of political will to establish and adequately fund public records centres or archives in the first place; capacity and technology gaps where they are already in existence; climate (high temperatures and humidity), theft and other personnel abuses.
Good governance is demonstrated through evidence of an accountable, and effective government. It requires an informed citizenry that is in a position to assess the progress that is being made towards the achievement of stated development goals.
Consequently, as the momentum builds towards the 2019 general elections, citizens must be prepared to interrogate candidates about their support for the establishment and adequate funding of public record centres or archives.