Jonathan Signs Freedom Of Information Law

Goodluck Jonathan
By SaharaReporters, New York

Nigeria's leader, Goodluck Jonathan, on Saturday signed into law the Freedom of Information Act as passed by the National Assembly.  That was one day after a copy of the bill was delivered to him by the Clerk of the National Assembly, Salisu Maikasuwa.

In theory, the 18 -page document has now become the official freedom of information law by which Nigerian citizens can seek access to official information, but it remains to be tested. 

The bill, which first made an appearance in the National Assembly in 1999, languished there in the years that followed as legislators squabbled over it and President Olusegun Obasanjo expressed open hostility to it.  It made some progress early in 2007 and was passed by both chambers, but it was then vetoed by President Obasanjo.

After Obasanjo’s departure, the bill finally achieved some traction despite many other hurdles, and was finally passed by the National Assembly last week by the lawmakers who had watered it down considerably.   Among other things, they claimed it would compromise national security.  

In a joint statement today in Abuja, the Right to Know initiative, Media Rights Agenda and Open Society Foundations celebrated the FOI law as a victory for democracy, transparency, justice and development.

"With the new law, Nigerians finally have vital tools to uncover facts, fight corruption and hold officials and institutions accountable," said Ms Ene Enonche, Coordinator of the Right to Know initiative.

Her enthusiasm was shared by Maxwell Kadiri of the Open Society Justice Initiative.  "The new law will profoundly change how government works in Nigeria,” he said.  “Now we can use the oxygen of information and knowledge to breathe life into governance. It will no longer be business as usual."
The new law is a testament to the staying power of civil society, demonstrating how committed groups can work together to ensure laws which support the rights of the people. 

Jonathan’s quick assent to the bill follows earlier indications he had given that he would sign it once it came to him.  In a statement in Abuja today, O.J. Abuah, who is of the Office of the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, said that while the objective of the Act is to make public records and information more freely available, it is also “to also protect public records and information to the extent consistent with the public interest and the protection of personal privacy.”

He pointed out that the new law would protect serving public officers from any adverse consequences of disclosing certain kinds of official information without authorization.

Section 4 of the law provides that when a public institution receives an application for information, it shall make such information available to the applicant within seven days.  If such an institution feels that such information cannot be granted, it is to inform the applicant in writing stating the reasons for such a decision and the section of the law under which the refusal is made. 


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boundage breaking

The challenges of free reporting that press has been fighting since the first newspaper (iwe-iroyin)seems to have gone now but the question is how will press utilize it for the sustenance of democracy and to what extent can the law back the press in case of seditious or libel

how does it affect journalism

how does it affect journalism

The law of defamation should

The law of defamation should be improved, but it isn't the only one that can defend a citizen against a public disgrace. An uncle of mine needed a Stryker hip recall and I know how embarrassing it might be. I think that the doctors' malpractices should be more severely monitored.

with this there can be

with this there can be transparency with journalist they would work with provable facts and not the heresay of some people

He did it under the pressure

He did it under the pressure of both the people in his country and the international community. And it's good that he did, because everyone has the right to do a criminal background check or can perform any kind of inquiry on the people they elect to take decisions on his or her behalf.

This looks to me like a way

This looks to me like a way of cooling down the masses who are tired of corruption, and it's something that should make it seem like it's encouraging transparency. On the other hand, some of the files should be private, just as I wouldn't want anyone to know if I got a NYC traffic ticket or anything that would embarrass someone. But I wonder about the legitimacy of it all and if it's something that any citizen of this country could do.


I have to say that some Nigerian officials are quite funny. Had a long chat with some of my friends who have a criminal justice degrees and I asked them about Nigerian national security. What is that? What national security does Nigeria have? They barely have schools and hospitals which provide minimal services.

those phrases in the FOI Act

Nobody is talking about the flaws of the FOI act. Why were amendments made...this was not what Hon jerry fought for. Can't we ever get something right???

how does it affect journalism

how does it affect journalism in Nigeria

The FOI Act!

The enforcement of FOI is not just begin with the government but individual citizens of the country, in order to be bold and have access to the government, institution budget.


With the (FIO) bill becoming a law,there is no more hiding place for institutions like the NNPC. those who think that, they are above the law. We will now have the details, of the offshore companies and off shore secret accounts they operate. The public will now know, how our money and wealth have been vandalised by a few. We will also know who the accpounting officers, of these secret accounts and who they report to. The public will now know, what they have been doing with our crude, how they are ridiculously discounted at destination and those who benefit from them. Their foriegn coloaborators will now be exposed. There is a a categoty 5 hurricane on the way. So many heads will roll, all of them will be very restless now. This may not give us 100% satisfaction, but at least it is a very gaint leap. I rest my case.

Thanks GEJ

I really appreciate your courage on the Freedom of Information Bill. The next is the removal of the IMMUNITY enjoyed by public officer,if you do this Nigeria is on her path to UNLIMITED JOY.

More greaze to ur elbow, Ur

More greaze to ur elbow, Ur Excellency Sir. And congrats, all u civil society organizations and well-meaning Nigerians for the push. We will continue to soar higher and OUR NIGERIA WILL very SOON be a BETTER PLACE TO LIIIVVVVEEE IIIINNNNNN. Thanks once again Sir!

Is the bill 100% uneditted?

Has the bill not been editted like the electoral law,the constitution and other bills?I bet nigerian politicians would have tampered with some vital parts of he bill that will jail them and insert the one that will give them power to decide whether they should give out information or not.

Somebody should ask SA why it

Somebody should ask SA why it doesn't address GEJ as president. It's shows their inner hatred and bitterness.

what are we celebrating? a

what are we celebrating? a bill that will allow officers to dance back and forth.....well we wait and wonder Johnny boy quickly accented to the bill.

let us not abuse it

The most important thing for us to note here, is not to abuse the FOI bill.. Its a good start for the president. We hope he wld give the Petroleum act and the land use decree the same treatment. However, while Nigerians are busy praising the president for a job well-done, Sunday Njokede of the Irish Congress party and head of the national association of blackmailers is at his best. Attempting to draw back the clock of progress to his premodial way of thinking. He should be to told to be positive about his adopted country for once! Ride on Jona! Na God give u!


Welldone GEJ. We now believe you that transformation has really started. Signing of the FOI and appointment of Anyim as SFG are pointers that we are in for good times. I commend you for rejecting Ojo Maduekwe the thief and member of the cabal that held the nation to ransom. Please continue in same spirit for we must surely and steadily get out of the wood we have been buried by wicked rulership. Bravo.God bless Nigeria.


This is a wonderful developmemt. After over 50 years of independence,14 heads of government and thirteen years of our nacent democracy, GEJ is the only one bold and dedicated a enough to sign the FOI bill!

No mater how whittled-down the current version is, it is a good starting point.

Mugambos like Sunday Njokede should please acknowledge a good effort when they see one and not disturb us with their parochial and failed political wogwash.

On the FOI bill, my heroes are Jerry Ugokwe, Abike Dabiri and GEJ!! Good bless Nigeria!!!

Good attempt!!

That was a good attempt by Mr.President(FOI). But that's not all;we need ELECTRICITY-POWER,POWER,POWER.all we need is POWER!!!!

Information rules the new world

Information rules the world, and access to the right information is the key to the future. Imagine how everyone of us from different parts of the world meet @ Sahara Reporters to read news, and then meet @ for business.

Information rules the new world

Information rules the world, and access to the right information is the key to the future. Imagine how everyone of us from different parts of the world meet @ Sahara Reporters to read news, and then meet @ for business.

Very ambitious, but I wouldn't hold my breath...!

Lastly, can anyone vouch that the disclosed information would not have been doctored before reaching its intended recipient? We should have put our houses in order first, and dealt with our corrupt and lying ways, before clamouring for the FOI Law.

In the UK (and other places) where similar Law works, at least, one is certain and guaranteed that the disclosed information would be accurate, the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth! Can anyone vouch for the accuracy of the disclosed information in Nigeria? Are Nigerians MAN enough to shop or grass 'OGA'? And would 'OGA' let go any damaging or incriminating information? In these days of 'Xerox' or Photocopying, hmnn, I wonder!

Even though I wouldn't hold my breath, a good start, nevertheless, and also not a bad start for Mr President! Who said Nigeria cannot have a new awakening or a new beginning? I'm really excited that the votes of majority of Nigerians that voted were not in vain or wasted!

It is too ambitious!

I'm afraid for the Law and posit that it is too ambitious, the expectation that the information must be provided within 7 days (especially in a country where the postal system is not very effective or efficient). I guess it could be DHL (couriered), but then, who picks up the tab? The disclosure doesn't come CHEAP!

I'm also afraid that the Law could be prone to abuse and frivolity, with many people abusing the process and jostling for mundane and frivolous information, just like the Electoral processes/Tribunals have been abused, with every Tom, Dick and Harry rushing to the Tribunals. The Tribunals are inundated with far too many frivolous and vexatious cases.

$12billion gulf oil windfall

Now that we can have access to information, can someone tell us what the heck happened to the IBB $12billion gulf oil windfall and Okigbo panel reports?


Thank you Mike for the history of the making of the Freedom of Information Bill and Hon Jerry Ugokwe. I remember many times Hon Jerry Ugokwe appeared on television and newspapers between 1999 and 2006 defending and pushing the Freedom of Information Bill. Hon Ugokwe is a great mind and a greet Nigerian that President Goodluck Jonathan should have in his new cabinet. I always admired him on the floor of the House of Reps when he was a member. He should have been standing behind President Jonathan while he was signing the Bill. Hon Jerry Ugokwe God will reward you for all your service to Nigeria in the House of Representatives.


Country without justice, who can foi bill work?

FOI Bill

It will be infair to talk about Freedom of Information Bill without leting the world know that Hon. Jerry Ugokwe was the initiator of the Bill. He initiated it in 1999 (when Hon Abike Dabiri was not even a member of the House of Reps) and got it passed and the Senate did not pass it. In 2003 he reintrodued it and got it passed in the House of Representatives. Later the Senate passed it but President Obasanjo claimed that the bill was missing on the way and did not get to the Villa. In 2007 Hon Abike Dabiri dusted the bill and represented it and since Hon Ugokwe did not return to the House of Reps Hon Dabiri put her name on the bill and it has eventually bill passed and signed by Mr President Goodluck Jonathan. It will only be fair that the FOI Bill be named Hon Ugokwe bill and let due credit be given and let honour be given to whom honour is due. Hon Ugokwe deserves all the credit.

who gives a ****

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