Reps To Pass FOI Bill Latest Friday - Dickson

Listen to article

ABUJA, Feb 21, (THEWILL) - The Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Justice, Hon. Seriake Henry Dickson today assured that the Freedom of Information Bill (FOIB) will be passed by the lower house before the end of the week.

The bill was first introduced in both houses of the National Assembly in 1999, and was passed in 2007. However, the then President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo withheld his assent forcing media rights organisations, the media and other stakeholders to renew the clamour for a fresh passage.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Dimeji Bankole had last week in a plenary session, directed Committees on Information and Justice to work at a Committee level and hold a Public Hearing on the Bill, with a view to laying a report for passage this week.

At an interactive session between the joint-committee, Media Rights Coalition, Good Society and Justice Coalition, ActionAid and other Civil Society Organisations, the lead Chairman of the Joint-Committee, Rep. Ahmed Aliyu Wadada (PDP/Nassarawa), reiterated that “The FOI Bill is not opposed to by the legislators.”

He said, “For us as politicians, it will do us good if the Bill is passed, because there is a lot of misinformation given to the public out there, that is not true, because there is a lack of openness on the part of government.”

In his contribution, the co-chairman of the Joint-Committee on the Bill, Mr. Dickson admitted that “The Bill has suffered quite some delay and caused some anxiety”, but he however noted that “there are issues about the content of the Bill.”

In the course of a clause-by-clause consideration of the draft instrument with the civil society agencies present, Seriake explained that, “the justification for this Bill is that by the Constitution of this country, freedom of information is guaranteed, but there is no corresponding guarantee procedure for access to information.”

The civil society team at the occasion had variously suggested that the Bill be either titled: “An Access to Public Information Bill (ATI) or Access to Information Bill, etcetera.

The civil society groups also suggested that the Bill be amended to include clauses that would allow access to information on Nigeria to not only citizens but “foreigners” who may want to do business with Nigeria.

A member of the Committee from Rivers State, Rep. Sekonte Davies, in his contribution, blamed the delay in the re-enactment of the Bill to the fact that “Majority of the members have not read it.”

Hearing on the Bill, is expected to end Tuesday.