The Nigerian Senate and the House of Representatives yesterday passed the harmonised version of the Freedom of Information Bill (FoIB).
The Nigerian Senate and the House of Representatives yesterday passed the harmonised version of the Freedom of Information Bill (FoIB). The effort, which was unanimously voted for, came on the heels of the adoption of the report of the conference committee of both chambers.
The conference had reconciled the two different versions of the bill that had been passed earlier by the two chambers.
Chairman of the conference committee and spokesman of the Senate, Senator Ayogu Eze, who presented the report of the committee, said the committee met on Thursday, May 19, to harmonise the areas of differences in the two versions of the bill.
According to him, “after a thorough scrutiny of the two versions of the bill, the conference committee recommended the adoption of the House’s version of the bill in all clauses except clauses 1, 4, 8, 10, 11 and 14 where the Senate version was adopted,”
Senate president David Mark while congratulating his colleagues on the passage of the bill, noted that the bill had generated a lot of controversy and thanked God it had been finally resolved.
“This particular bill has generated a lot of controversy but, finally thank God, it is through and we hope that all the parties involved will be responsible so that this bill will be beneficial to everybody,” he said.
Nonetheless, an elated Eze dedicated the successful passage of the bill to journalists. Their persistence and perseverance culminated in the passage of the bill at last, he said.
In the House, the motion for the adoption of the report was moved by the chairman of the Justice Committee, Hon Henry Seriake Dickson, who sponsored the new version of the bill after the lawmakers rejected the one initiated by the chairman of the committee on Diaspora, Hon Abike Dabiri-Erewa.
The lawmakers had passed the bill on February 24 and sent it to the Senate for concurrence.
With this adoption, the sojourn of the bill has been concluded in the National Assembly but only the signature of President Goodluck Jonathan will empower the bill to become a law.
The Newspapers Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria (NPAN) has said the passage of the FoI Bill by both Houses of the National Assembly was a significant development in the quest for accountability and transparency in public service and, by extension, good governance.
A statement signed by the president of NPAN, Chief Ajibola Ogunshola, said: “Coming as it did in the final days of this administration, and preparation for the inauguration of another, it is likely to set the tone for a new thinking in government and the entire public service that the old order is set to change.
Certainly, it is a major impetus to the efforts at combating corruption, one which is likely to empower all the appropriate groups and processes in their monitoring and whistle-blowing responsibilities.”
Meanwhile, the Senate yesterday confirmed the appointments of justices Nwali Ngwuta and Mary Peter-Odili asjustices of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, but rejected that of Justice Olukayode Ariwoola. No reason was given for the rejection.
This was contained in the report of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters presented by the chairman of the committe, Senator Umaru Dahiru from Sokoto South.
Similarly, the Senate received the nomination of Professor Ben Nwogwu for appointment as executive secretary of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) sent to it by President Jonathan for screening.
The Senate also received the report of the screening of members of the board of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), just as the upper legislative chamber formally adopted its amended Standing Rules which came into effect yesterday.