Campaign for a Freedom of Information Act
1993, the Civil Liberties Organisation, Media Rights Agenda
and the Nigerian Union of Journalists agreed to work together
to campaign for the introduction of freedom of information legislation
objective of the campaign was to lay down as a legal principle
the right to be informed about administrative documents as a
necessary corollary to the guarantee of freedom of expression
and to prescribe rules for the exercise of this right.
1994, Media Rights Agenda produced a draft bill entitled the
Access to Official Information Act. The content of the draft
was based on consultations among the three groups, the experience
of other countries operating freedom of information legislation
and suggestions made by practising Nigerian journalists in the
questionnaires administered by Media Rights Agenda. The draft
became the basis for further discussions and debates on the
March 10 and 11, 1995, the three participating organisations
jointly organized a two-day technical workshop to examine and
revise the draft, taking into consideration the views of other
interest groups, which might use the proposed legislation. Participants
in the workshop included human rights workers, journalists,
lawyers, university lecturers and representatives of the National
Broadcasting Commission and the Federal Ministry of Information.
thrust of the debate at the workshop was aimed at achieving
a consensus among the various interest groups that are affected
by the availability or otherwise of a legally protected right
of access to government held information.
on discussions at the workshop, Media Rights Agenda produced
a revised second draft of the proposed legislation later that
Civil Liberties Organisation, Media Rights Agenda and the Nigerian
Union of Journalists continued to invite views from concerned
parties within Nigeria and in the international arena on the
March 16 to 18, 1999, Media Rights Agenda, working with ARTICLE
19, the International Centre Against Censorship, in London;
and the Nigerian National Human Rights Commission, organized
a Workshop on Media Law Reform in Nigeria at Ota in Ogun State.
The workshop was attended by 61 representatives of the media,
both independent and state controlled; regulatory bodies; the
legal profession; international institutions, including the
United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and
Expression, Dr. Abid Hussain; local and international non-governmental
organizations; and other interest groups.
substantial part of the workshop was devoted to discussion of
the draft Freedom of Information legislation, which was further
reviewed. In The Ota Platform of Action on Media Law Reform
in Nigeria, a consensus document which emerged at the end of
that workshop, further recommendations were made on the content
of the draft legislation.
recommendations contained in that document were effected in
the revised draft of the proposed legislation.
after the inauguration of the new civilian government, President
Olusegun Obasanjo announced his plan to present to the National
Assembly for consideration and enactment into law an anti-corruption
Bill. On June 10, 1999, Media Rights Agenda wrote to President
Obasanjo expressing support for his avowed commitment to fight
corruption in Nigeria and his plan to present an anti-corruption
Bill to the National Assembly.
however, observed that accountability and transparency in Government
were crucial to any meaningful anti-corruption crusade, arguing
that accountability and transparency could not be possible if
citizens have no right of access to information held by the
State or its agencies or if no mechanism exists for giving practical
effect to the right to freedom of information.
therefore requested President Obasanjo to also present the draft
Freedom of Information Bill to the National Assembly for consideration
and support efforts to secure its enactment.
by a letter dated July 19, 1999, signed by his personal assistant,
Mr. Ojo A. Taiwo, President Obasanjo advised Media Rights Agenda
to send the draft directly to the National Assembly.
to the receipt of the letter from President Obasanjo, Media
Rights Agenda, representing the sponsoring organizations for
the Bill, met with members of the National Assembly with the
objective of identifying possible arrowheads for the campaign
efforts and to secure their support for the Bill.
Bill was subsequently sponsored in the House of Representatives
by Dr. Jerry Sonny Ugokwe, Honourable Tony Anyanwu, and Honourable
Nduka Irabor and published in the Federal Government’s Official
Bill has now gone through two readings on the floor of the House
of Representatives where it received widespread support with
no opposition. It was then consigned to the House Committee
Bill is due to come before the House of Representatives for
the third and final reading and possibly, passage, when its
resumes from its present vacation.
Freedom of Information Act, draft
of Information Act, with Committee comments