Reps Passed FOI Bill, Four Years After

Almost four years after it was debated in the House, members of the House of Representatives yesterday passed the Freedom of Information bill which has been renamed the Right of Information Bill 2011.
The bill, which seeks to make it easier for Nigerians to have access to information on government activities, was reintroduced in the National Assembly in 2007, shortly after the current session of lawmakers was constituted. The bill was sponsored by Abike Dabiri (ACN, Lagos), a former journalist.
The bill provides the right of access to public information or records kept by governments, public institutions or private bodies carrying out public functions for Nigerians and non-Nigerians in whatever form an applicant wants it, as long as it does not affect the preservation or presentation of the information. “This is intended to increase the availability of public records and information to the citizens of the country in order to participate more effectively in making administration of laws and policies, and to promote accountability of public affairs,” Aliyu Ahmed Wadada, chairman of the House Committee on Information and National Orientation, who co-authored the bill, said.
The bill, which protects public officers who disclose information under the law, also compels public offices to keep accurate and up-to-date records of their activities and provide absolute access to applicants who do not need to demonstrate any specific interest in the information being requested. Right to know For the bill to become law, however, the Senate will have to pass its own version. Passage of the bill by the Representatives is expected to put more pressure on the Senate to do likewise.
Presently, the Senate’s version of the bill is with its Committee on Information. The House leadership said yesterday that it would send its version of the bill to the Senate for concurrence and harmonization before it is forwarded to the president for assent. Calls and text messages to the spokesperson of the Senate, Ayogu Eze and his deputy, Anthony Manzu, to ask for when the Senate will pass its own version of the bill did not go through.

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