The Senate President,
The Speaker, House of Representatives,
Honourable Members of House of Representatives
National Assembly, National Assembly Complex,
Three-Arms Zone, P.M.B. 141, Garki-Abuja,
You owe Nigerians a specially duty to update us regularly on the stages of the Freedom of Information Bill. The importance of this bill requires a monthly update till it becomes an act/law. Am aware that this bill has a lot of sensitivity attached to it, but for the sake of transparency this bill should be passed. In my own thinking, this bill should be the next priority after the yearly budgets. What Nigerians don’t understand is how long will it take you the law makers to pass this bill? I suggest you people should conduct an opinion poll to determine how urgent Nigerians want this bill to be passed into law.
The delay in the passage of this bill is intentional. This delay is also against the national interest. What you the law makers fail to understand is that this bill if passed into law would strengthen the nation’s democracy, guarantee transparency in politics and the revenue sector which is in dire need of transparency. You should follow the path of the judiciary which has done Nigerians so much proud by saving our democracy. Freedom of information bill if passed into law would guarantee transparency, and transparency will bring credibility to government. Right now our government is lacking credibility.
Nigerians are tired of our official Secret Act which makes it impossible for the government business to be conducted in the open. Many countries have long passed the freedom of information Act. Credible government all over the world conducts their business in the open. Nigerians have the right to know how government spends their money. Government owe this as a duty to explain how every kobo is spent. We want to know how government awards their contracts, to whom, and what the criteria are.
Every government department, ministry or agency should conduct all their businesses in the public. This is for every one of us to see for ourselves. As a matter of urgency all tiers of government, all ministries, and government agencies should have a working web site. This web site should also be updated regularly. Every person should be free to access every information online without having to travel miles to have one. Nigerians all over the world should be able to access information from every part of the globe. Every governmental issue that affects the Nigerian society should be available online for us to see. More foreign investors might be willing to visit Nigeria only if they could access this information from there home countries. Wealthy Nigerians in Diaspora will likely invest their money back home when they have all the information they need. With internet, information cost little or nothing.
With freedom of information and access to documents, Nigerians can ask the oil and gas companies to disclose how much is being remitted to government purse. Presently am not sure Nigerians are aware of how much is remitted to our government. It is our right to know. Canada and Norway have made the disclosure of every revenue to be mandatory. With revenue transparency, Nigerians can hold the government to account for how every revenue is spent. It will bring accountability.
I read on the Guardian newspapers of 25th February 2009 online version that the Senate has announced a legislative measure to boost the operations of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). This is with a view to re-invigorate the anti corruption crusade. Honestly this measure will have no effect without the freedom of information act. The EFCC cannot catch every corrupt government official, but with the freedom of information act, Nigerians can request for every detail of government transaction. This way Nigerians can catch many corrupt officials.
The much expected electoral reforms will have little or no impact if Nigerians cannot have access to government documents. Without freedom of information, electoral reformation will not be complete. Nigerian people are the government. Power belongs to them. Therefore give them their right of information. This is the time for you to prove that, there is no skeleton in your cupboard by passing the freedom of information bill. May God bless Nigeria.
Chinedu Vincent Akuta
An activist and leader of “Support Option A4 Group” Leicester-UK