The Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria, NPAN, is full of praise for the House of Representatives for fulfilling its pledge to pass the long-delayed Freedom of Information (FoI) Bill. The House passed the bill on Wednesday.
Reacting to the development yesterday, NPAN President, Chief Ajibola Ogunsola said it was also “pleasing to note that the National Assembly has overcome the misconception about the FOI Bill as it is about to pass this very important legislation into law. The passage of the bill by the House on Thursday, February 24, as the former British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, once said, showed that “The truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but, in the end, there it is.”
“With the patriotic step taken by the House, NPAN would like to enjoin the David Mark-led Senate and President Goodluck Jonathan to accord the bill the necessary attention it deserves.
“For long, the nation has been denied the benefits that go with unhindered public access to information. As NPAN has consistently affirmed, the media has not pretended that it would not benefit from the passage of the bill; but the greater benefit will be for the government and the ordinary citizens, most of who will settle their private disputes with the affected government agencies, long before such issues reach the attention of the media. The Act will also ensure that government is accountable to the people it serves while its legitimacy and credibility are enhanced before the public.
“But all stakeholders should not relent until the bill finally becomes law. In August 2004, the lower House had passed the bill but it remained for over two years at the Senate. Unfortunately, the former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, refused to assent to it after the Senate eventually passed it in November 2006.
“It has been established that information is the lifeblood of democracy and we must remain forever vigilant to protect that right. It is commendable that the House of Representatives has finally realised that the FOI law is not a privilege or special concession to the mass media, but an immense service to the generality of the populace. Its value in advancing the practice and ideals of democracy is incontestable. It will be to the lasting credit of the current parliament and the President if this bill becomes law before the administration makes its exit in May this year.
“Over to you, Senate President Mark, as the nation anxiously waits.”