By Sam Eyoboka & Olayinka Latona
THE Freedom of Information Bill which was signed into law recently by the newly inaugurated President Goodluck Jonathan has been described by eminent Christian clerics, as a milestone in the political history of Nigeria.
Reacting to the develop-ment, the National Presi-dent of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Pastor Ayo Oritsej-afor, the Prelate, Method-ist Church Nigeria, His Eminence Sunday Ola Makinde and director of Social Communications at the Lagos Catholic Archdiocese, Rev. Mons-ignor Gabriel Osu, all hailed the courage of the president to sign the bill into law.
They unanimously accl-aimed the development as a right step in the right direction, arguing that the president, who had ple-dged to end Nigerians’ lamentations, has amply demonstrated his commi-tment to the nation’s tran-sformation.
Urging all Nigerians to shun religious, ethnic and other primordial sentiments, Pastor Oritse-jafor said the electorate should take advantage of the passage of the FoI Bill into law to join hands with the newly inaugura-ted administration of President Goodluck Jona-than for the consolidation of democracy in the na-tion. According to him, the president had, by sign-ing the bill into law, demonstrated more than any other president, his personal commitment to transparency, accoun-tability and good gover-nance, adding that the president has thus empo-wered the nation’s citiz-ens to hold public office holders to accountability.
“I believe that Nigerians will take advantage of the Act to now hold politi-cians to their responsibi-lity which is the begin-ning of the anti-corrupt-ion war. Despite the short-comings of the Act, Nig-erians must now expect accountability and trans-parency in governance,” he added.
Makinde, one of those religious leaders who had clamoured for trans-parency in government, was also delighted by the news of the assent of the FoI Bill, saying that it is the first noble step by this administration to institute of culture of prudence in public governance.
Reacting in a phone interview, the Methodist Prelate hailed President Jonathan for the courage and called on Nigerians to rally round him in prayers and supplication for him to succeed in the task of nation building.
The Lagos Catholic Arch-diocesan director of So-cial Communications, Monsignor Osu descri-bed as a welcome deve-lopment the president’s assent to the FoI Bill after a long debate by both arms of the National Ass-embly.
According to the Catholic spokesman, though the Bill as presently constitu-ted is not what the Media had been clamoring for, but it is worth celebrating because “in the history of Nigeria’s political evolu-tion this is the first time that a president had demonstrated his will-ingness to enthrone true democratic principles.
“I hope that the incom-ing National Assembly will see the need to amend the current Act in accordance with univer-sally accepted tenets of democracy. That is the only way the nation can truly shout, Hurray, at last democracy has come to stay in Nigeria,” Osu argued.
A female journalist with a Federal Government medium, Miss Nwadin-ma Peters also hailed the presidential assent, arg-uing that the job of the journalist will be greatly enhanced as there will be free flow of information to the practitioners.
According to Miss Peters who has traveled far and wide in the course of the practice of journalism, the sky is now the limit for any serious minded jour-nalist and indeed any Nigerian who is desirous of accountability and transparency in public governance.
In her words: “Investigative journalism, which has gone out of fashion because of the dearth of information by public officers who often hide under the cloak of Official Secrets Act, will now bounce back and that is the beauty of democracy.”