In conversation with Mr Maxwell Agbudume Kadiri
On 12 June 2023, the Centre for Human Rights Africa Rights Talk Podcast featured Mr. Maxwell Kadiri, a human rights advocate and access to information and freedom of expression expert from the Open Society Justice Initiative, under the Open Society Foundations. This podcast is part of the Centre’s commemoration of the 10 Years of the Model Law on Access to Information for Africa. The session was moderated by Smith Edumebong, Idirashe Amanda Chikomba, and Chrispin Bosire, from the Expression, Information and Digital Rights Unit in the 2023 Human Rights Clinic.
On access to information and democracy, Maxwell pointed out that if a government is defined by the protection of its citizens' right to participate. The right to participate in intrinsically linked to access to information and freedom of expression. He highlighted that access to information is important, relevant, critical, and central to the practice of democracy in Nigeria. It enables accountability for public information because it belongs to the people. With reference to Nigeria, he acknowledged that there were some developments, but a lot has not been done, like updating the guidelines to conform with the model law. Civil society has come on board to push for engagements to ensure compliance and implementation of legislation. However, the government is not actively supporting the implementation of access to information in Nigeria.
Despite the progress being made in adopting access to information laws across Africa, there is inadequate implementation of these laws at the national level. There is limited progress when it comes to the adoption of the Guidelines in elections that have taken place on the continent. The bulk of the electoral disputes in the just-ended elections in Africa is a reflection of the limited implementation of the Guidelines. There is limited proactive disclosure by the relevant stakeholders, leading to mistrust among the voters. He further elaborated that several civil society organisations (CSOs) engaged in fact-checking exercises and other CSOs participated in a drive to curb misinformation and disinformation in the electoral process. These efforts can be seen as having helped in reducing the level of disinformation and misinformation. However, these were still prevalent during the election.
Technology components, software, and portals put the guidelines to effective use by overhauling the processes. There is a gap in proactive disclosure when it relates to the disclosure of information by electoral technology systems. He lamented that there is a need to continue popularising the instruments, hard and soft law, but most of them are yet to be implemented. This is a point of concern and there is a need to continue with initiatives that create awareness of the need to implement access to information standards, principles, and guidelines. Only 50% of the 55 countries in the Region have adopted laws, but still, there is a lot to be done. However, he noted that progress has been made in the adoption of laws like in Zimbabwe which revised its access to information laws in line with the model law. The problem is that the Guidelines have still not been implemented.
On whether or not the Model Law should be amended, Maxwell contested that notion citing that states had not adequately explored it. He rejected the notion that the Model Law needed to be amended to be in tune with the 2019 Revised Guidelines and noted that they should be used as is. In conclusion, Maxwell highlighted that his wish was to see the Model Law being put to effective use, especially by countries who are yet to adopt access to information laws, in addition to the provisions of the Declaration. Chrispin Bosire, Smith Naseri Edumebong, and Idirashe Amanda Chikomba also gave their reflections on the discussion, paying particular attention to their countries namely Kenya, Cameroon, and Zimbabwe.
Mr Maxwell Agbudume Kadiri s a Nigerian trained legal practitioner. He has worked with several institutions including the law firm of Chris Ogunbanjo and Co, Nigeria’s oldest indigenous solicitors practice firm; Media Rights Agenda, a leading Lagos based NGO active in the area of advancing the promotion and protection of transparency and accountability issues in Nigeria, including press freedom, freedom of expression and access to information. He had also worked with the Global Internet Policy Initiative (GIPI), a development-oriented programme, focused on advancing advocacy for ICT Policy and Law Reform in developing countries, where he served as its Nigerian Country Coordinator. While with the GIPI programme, amongst other things, he worked with other stakeholders in developing enabling legislation for Nigeria’s National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) as well as the policy framework around the establishment of internet exchange points. He subsequently joined the Open Society Justice Initiative (The Justice Initiative), an operational arm of the Open Society Foundation. He has also played a pivotal role in developing the field of freedom of information (FoI) in Africa and worked tirelessly and successfully, to promote the adoption of policy and legislative reform initiatives in this field in different parts of Africa, including actively working to promote robust implementation of such new FoI policies, Laws and soft law initiatives across Africa, be it at the sub-national, national, sub-regional, regional and global levels respectively.
This conversation was recorded on 12 June 2023.
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