Daily Trust Identifies FOI Act Among 10 Laws that have Shaped Nigeria’s Democracy

Peter Moses, Daily Trust, Reporter

The Daily Trust newspaper has identified the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill, passed by the National Assembly and signed into Law by then President Goodluck Jonathan in 2011, as one of 10 legislative instruments that have shaped Nigeria’s democracy since 1999, describing it as a “remarkable piece of legislation that supports accountability, openness, and good governance”.

Written by Peter Moses, the report published on May 26, 2024 and titled “How 10 Bills Shaped Nigeria’s Democracy”, noted that the “FOI Act seeks to promote a more open and democratic society in Nigeria by giving citizens the right to access information held by public entities.”

It recalled that the Bill was first proposed in 1999 and went through multiple amendments and discussions until President Goodluck Jonathan finally signed it into law on May 28, 2011.

The newspaper explained that the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), as the law is officially known, “is a tool for ensuring that the general public has access to information that is held by the government”, adding that “Countless journalists, lawyers, and civil society organisations have been deploying FOIA to hold government officials and agencies accountable for their activities.”

It, however, acknowledged that there were concerns over the level of compliance with the Act by government institutions, observing that in 2021, the House of Representatives said that only 73 of the over 900 public institutions in the country were complying with the provisions of the Act on the disclosure of information.

According to Daily Trust, since 1999, the National Assembly has enjoyed 25 years of uninterrupted legislative proceedings and has passed no less than 816 bills that were signed into law by various presidents.

Some other laws identified by Daily Trust as major legislative instruments passed since 1999 include the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA);  the Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill, the Not Too Young to Run Bill; the Disability Bill, the North East Development Commission (NEDC) (Establishment) Bill; and the National Health Bill.

Media Rights Agenda first proposed the draft Freedom of Information Bill to the National Assembly in 1999 through a number of members of the then House of Representatives whom it partnered with to secure sponsorship for the Bill. It then led a 12-year civil society campaign for the passage of the Bill into Law until it was finally passed by the National Assembly in 2011 and signed into Law by then President Goodluck Jonathan on May 28, 2011.