Nigerian House Speaker Promises Action on FOI Bill

18 February 2011

The Speaker of the Nigerian House of Representatives, Dimeji  Bankole, has said the House will get committee reports soon on Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation, according to media reports such as one by Shola Adekola in The Nigerian Tribune.

The House is awaiting a report on the bill from two committees. Bankole said he expects their report Feb. 22 or 23.  The committees were only recently told to act on the long-delayed bill. (See previous Freedominfo.org report.)

He told reporters: “We are expecting the report any moment from now and I am sure that it will come in Tuesday or latest  by Wednesday, and you can hold me to that.”

The sudden revival of the bill, thought dead by many, has raised hoped, but still is has sceptics.

Writing in The Daily Independent, Emma Maduabuchi reported (in part):

In reaction, however, critics, especially journalists were hardly swayed by the Speaker’s pledge. Some even insist that the pledge coming at this time, could be a ploy by the Speaker to win in the April election. Those who hold this view do so on the backdrop that it was the same Bankole’s House of Representatives which on Thursday, January 2, last year, rejected deliberations on the Bill with excuses that were hardly convincing to Nigerians. Remarkably, many members of the House then had, on the flour of the House, demanded that the Bill be thrown out in its entirety.

Lanre Idowu, publisher and trustee of Diamond Awards for Media Excellence (DAME), sees Bankole’s promise as a welcome development. According to him, Nigerians should not disturb themselves in trying to know whether Bankole and his members would be able to achieve the feat, stressing that the end of the administration was at hand, and Nigeria would soon discover whether he was telling the truth.

He added that Nigerians should not rejoice yet about the statement until they see what version of the bill they would pass.

“There are different versions of freedom of information law, varying from one country to the other. So at the end of the day, we will know what version they are giving to Nigerians, and it is only then we will know whether we are to rejoice or not,” he noted.

 Notwithstanding, analysts have interpreted the inability of the National Assembly to pass the bill into law since 2007, in different ways.

 For instance, there were those who alleged that the House of Representatives, indeed the whole of the National Assembly, were reluctant on passing the bill into law because they feared it would work against them. Though relatively young in age, Bankole has, at different occasions, proven to be solid in political brinkmanship with his survival of the proverbial banana peels of the National Assembly for more than three years that he has been on the saddle.

 Sometime in June last year, for instance, there was an explosive rumble in the House when a former Chairman of the House Committee on Information and National Orientation, Dino Melaye, gave the Speaker an ultimatum to resign or be forced to quit. Melaye was also said to have promised to make the House ungovernable if Bankole failed to resign voluntarily. But Bankole had survived the storm, even as Melaye and his colleagues in the agitation ended up being suspended from the House.

 

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