Nigeria: President Jonathan signs the Freedom of Information Bill into law

By Correspondent Chinyere Ogbonna – President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has signed the Freedom of Information Bill,FOI, 2011 into law.

The Bill which was passed by the outgoing National Assembly was conveyed to the Presidency on Friday, May 27, 2011. President Jonathan assented to it on Saturday, May 28.

The objective of the Act is to make public records and information more freely available, and to also protect public records and information to the extent that it will be consistent with the public interest and the protection of personal privacy.

The FOI Act also seeks to protect serving public officers from any adverse consequences of disclosing certain kinds of official information without authorisation, and to establish procedures for the achievement of these purposes.

The harmonised version of the FOI bill which has been at the legislature since 1999 was passed into law by the National Assembly on Tuesday, thereby bringing to rest pressure and calls on the federal government to pass the bill into law.

The bill, among other things, provides the right of access to public information or records, and protects officers who disclose such information.

The new law would also give government bodies a week to produce requested information and also makes it a criminal offense to destroy records. A Nigerian lawmaker Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, who was a seasoned journalist told newsmen on Wednesday that the latest version of the bill is stronger than the first one presented in 1999.