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House Pass FOI Bill, Considers Sovereign Wealth Bill

Source: SAINT MUGAGA - thewillnigeria.com
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ABUJA, Feb 24, (THEWILL) - After years of dilly-dallying, the House of Representatives today finally passed the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill after examining the report of its joint committee on Information and Orientation and Justice.

This is sequel to the earlier passage of the bill by the upper House, a week ago. Both chambers will now meet at a harmonization committee to reconcile areas of difference for onward transmission to the president for assent.

The bill seeks to make public information and records more freely available, provide for public access to public records and information, protect public records and information to the extent consistent with the public interest and the protection of personal privacy. It protects serving public officials from adverse consequences for disclosing certain kinds of official information without authorization amongst others.

The House had last Thursday referred the Bill to its joint Committee on Information and National Orientation, and Justice, to work on the bill and submit its report.

Hon. Seriake Henry Dickson while urging his colleagues to receive and accept the committees' report on FOI bill said, "that this House do consider the report of the Joint Committee on Information and National Orientation and Justice on a Bill for an Act to make Public record and Information more freely available, provide for public access to public records and information, protect public record and information to the extent consistent with the public interest and the protection of personal privacy, protect serving public officials from adverse consequences for disclosing certain kinds of official information without authorization and establish procedure for the achievement of those purposes and related purposes thereof, 2007 (HB.3) and approve the recommendations".

After receiving the report, speaker of the House, Hon Dimeji Bankole who presided over the plenary quickly directed that the plenary be suspended and moved to committee of the whole to consider the FOI Bill clause by clause.

At the committee of the whole the FOI bill which had 34 clauses before was reduced to 32 with clauses 12 and 18 deleted.

In clause one, the title FOI was retained which implies that the expected change of title to ATI was not recommended to the House.

All other clauses of the bill except clauses 12 and 18 were approved. The two clauses were deleted from the bill but clause 12 was said to have been captured in clause 11 of the bill.

Also considered was the sovereign wealth bill, which seeks to build a saving base for future generation, enhance infrastructural development and fiscal stability. After a heated debate for and against, those in favour had their way as the bill scaled second reading? The Speaker then referred the bill to the committees of Justice, Finance and National Planning for fine tuning.

Meanwhile, the house also adopted a motion on matter of urgent public importance moved by Hon Friday Itula centered on the urgent need to evacuate Nigerians living in Libya. The assembly urged the Nigerian government to immediately evacuate Nigerians living in the country amid the unrest and urged the Libyan government to respect the rights of its citizens to peaceful demonstration and choice of who rules them.