Nigerian House Member Pledges Action on FOI Bill

17 January 2011

A key Nigerian legislator has promised to move forward with freedom of information legislation, according to media accounts.

In related developments, Nigerian editors urged passage of a FOI law and a top government minister spoke out for FOI and media reform at a regional conference.

The chairman of the House Committee on Information, Ahmed Aliu Wadada, was quoted in The Vanguard as saying his committee will approve a bill. The House returns to session on Jan. 18 amid controversy about House finances.

The paper reported that he “dismissed as untrue reports that the House had dumped the FoI Bill, pledging that once the lawmakers returned from their end of year break, serious work would be done on the bill, which is the longest on the shelf of the legislators.”

The Vanguard article by Clifford Ndujihe continued:

“What may happen is that the bill is likely to be re-committed to the Committee on Information for fresh public hearing and once that is done, my panel will give it accelerated hearing and submit the appropriate report to the House for its passage. There is no hidden agenda at all about it. Nobody stands to benefit from the nonpassage of the FoI Bill at all,” Wadada said.

Top Minister Urges Regional FOI

Meanwhile, at a meeting in Abuji of the member nations of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), minister of information and communications, Labaran Maku, supported enactment of freedom of information for the whole region as advocated establishment of a common regulation and ethics for the media practitioners.

According to a NEXT report

He challenged participants to develop a policy that will support the growth of the media sector, as well as inculcate in the practitioners the core values required to make them function as unifiers. He called for the promotion of freedom of information across the region.

“If we really want to run a democracy that is accountable to the people, and think about a proper communication process between the governed and their leaders, then the sub-region, of necessity, needs a freedom of information bill that cuts across the entire sub-region, because citizens have been finding it difficult to access information.

“It is important that we have a media that unites across the boundaries of tribe, religion and have common values and ethics that can help the media stand above the divisions and offer both parties in conflict the opportunity to express themselves without being part of the conflict,” he said.

On the place of technology in communication management, the minister called for transparency, pointing out that in this modern age, there are only a few things that could be hidden from the public.

Editors Support FOI Passage

The Nigerian Guild of Editors over the weekend of Jan. 15 in Lagos passed a resolution that among other things noting that the National Assembly has been considering FOI legislation form more than a decade, according to The Nation.  The editors welcomed a pledge from Maku,who attended, to work for approval of a FOI law. The Guild urged all political parties to support passage.

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