*Constitutes conference Committee
By Inalegwu Shaibu
ABUJA – The Senate has set up a six man conference Committee to harmonise the grey areas with the House of Representatives in the Freedom of Information Bill, FOIB.
Senate President, David Mark, while constituting the conference Committee, Wednesday, after the passage of the bill charged the media to act responsibly with the new law in gathering and dissemination of information.
The bill which was overwhelmingly endorsed by Senators before its passage grants Nigerians the enforceable right to access and use public information as long as such is not against the national interest.
Specifically, clause 2 of the bill provides that, “Every citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has a legally enforceable right to, and shall, on application be given access to any information or record under the control of a government or public institution or private companies performing public functions, provided the disclosure of such information or release of such record(s) shall not compromise national security”.
The Senate President in his remarks after the passage of the bill applauded the bill and cautioned the media to make good use of the bill.
According to him, “This bill will make information freely available, provide for public access to public records and information and protect public records and information to the extent that it will be consistent with the public interest and protection of personal privacy. Protect serving public officers from adverse consequences for disclosing certain official information and established procedures.”
Senator Mark also applauded his colleagues for ensuring the passage of the bill, saying, “I want to thank you my colleagues once more for taking the pain to pass this bill which has being in the public domain, we have been the subject of discussion in this country because of this bill on freedom of information.
“At the risk of sounding like a broken record let me say once more that this bill is not a media bill and when the media wants to hijack the bill and give an impression that we don’t want to pass it because people in public offices have something to hide is wrong.
“With this we now have opportunity to tell the media to tell us their source of information, because they also will always say that they cannot disclose their source of information, because with this bill everybody will now get information freely and I think they are very much aware of this bit of it.”
The Senate President while setting up the conference Committee noted that there is a difference between the FOI bill passed by both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
He noted, “Obviously there is a difference between this one and the one that is passed in the House of Representatives and we are going to have a conference committee on it and as quickly as possible I think we should get the names of the conferees so that we can get this bill out of the way. “
Members of the Committee are Senators Ayogu Eze, Anthony Manzo, Kamarudeen Adedibu, Garba Talba, Otaru Ohize and Victor Ndoma-Egba