Monday, January 31, 2011

Pass FOI Bill, librarians urge N’Assembly

The Nigerian Library Association has asked the National Assembly to pass the Freedom of Information Bill as a parting gift to Nigerians.
The body dismissed the fear that the proposed law would only help the media gain unfettered access to government documents, arguing that the bill, if passed, would be in the best interest of the nation.
Chairman of the association, Prof. Lenrie Aina, who spoke with journalists in Ilorin, explained that the unending stay of action on the FOI Bill did not only portend a great impediment to the growth of the nation now, but also to the people’s right to know how they were governed.

Aina, who is also the Dean of the Faculty of Communication and Information Sciences, University of Ilorin, appealed to the members of the National Assembly to ensure that the bill was passed before the end of the tenure of the current legislature.

He said, “The former National Assembly passed the bill after much foot dragging. President Obasanjo however refused to append his signature. But we are sure and almost certain that if the current National Assembly passes the bill, President Jonathan will assent to it.

“The NLA views with grave concern the continuous delay in passing the FOI Bill in the National Assembly. Perhaps, more than any other bill, the FOI Bill has been shrouded in controversy and unending debate.

“The general misconception among a segment of the lawmakers and the antagonists of the legislation is that the bill is tantamount to unfettered freedom of the media to have access to records in the public domain, thereby granting too much power to the media.

“The truth, however, is that the FOI bill is not a media bill. Various other institutions have a stake in the FOI legislation. There are even exceptions to certain issues like defence, security and privacy of individuals.”

Aina said that as professionals in information- related issues, the body owed it a duty to Nigerians to facilitate access to information.

Culled from Punch Newspaper, Monday, 31 Jan 2011, page 6 , writtenBy Emmanuel Addeh)

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