The passage of the Freedom of Information Bill represents a historical event for Nigeria’s Democracy. This Bill is the longest in Nigeria’s legislative history which was first presented in June 1999 during the first National Assembly. The Bill has undergone three readings and a public hearing in each chamber before being passed by the House of Representatives.
Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre would like to express its recognition of the Honourable Members of the House of Representatives for having passed the Freedom of Information Bill. Special mention has to be made of the patriotic task undertaken by the Honourable Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, and other Honourable members who worked assiduously for the passage of the bill.
CISLAC would also like to thank the Freedom of Information Coalition and Civil Society groups for having played a proactive role in its passage and would like to encourage Civil Society groups to keep their high profile regarding people-oriented policy advocacy and lobbying activities.
As a matter of fact, the Bill constitutes a major step towards the full recognition of fundamental democratic rights and freedoms. As stated by the Freedom of Information Coalition: “The Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill is a Bill that, if passed into law, will give every Nigerian a legal right of access to information, records, and documents held by government bodies and private bodies carrying out public functions”.
Actually, the Bill provides for Nigerian citizens basic rights concerning information, given the fact that, currently, there are no laws guaranteeing citizens access to public records and information. The aim of this Bill is to put an end to the culture of secrecy and arbitrariness concerning disclosure of public information. This Bill will allow Civil Society representatives, the Media and Nigerian citizens to access essential public documents.
This law does not only represent a serious achievement for Nigeria’s citizenry, Civil Society and the Media, but also for the overall Nigerian political system. It will contribute to the betterment of governance and transparency levels of Nigeria’s democracy and equal Nigeria to any other democratic country in which, only information affecting national security or personal data protection, remains inaccessible to citizens.
Consequently, CISLAC urges the Distinguished Members of the Senate to follow the patriotic example of their colleagues at the House of Representatives and assume their democratic responsibility by diligently passing the bill. CISLAC would also like to call on His Excellency President Goodluck Jonathan to act in the interest of Nigeria’s citizens and give his assent to the bill as soon as it is harmonised by the National Assembly enabling Nigeria to advance in its democratization process.
Auwal Musa Rafsanjani