The Lagos State House of Assembly yesterday held a public hearing on the Freedom of Information Bill (FOI). Speaking on the importance of the bill, the Speaker, Adeyemi Ikuforiji said that in order to minimise corruption in the society, people must have access to information. According to him, “In order to minimise corruption we must allow the public to have access to information that is necessary”.
The Speaker also agreed with the stakeholders that before any bill is passed, it should be published on the internet for public consumption. Ikuforiji added that Lagos House forced the National Assembly to pass the FOI Bill at the time it was passed. In his keynote address, the Chairman House Committee on Information and Strategy, Segun Olulade stressed that FOI Act is not a solution to all problems of transparency and good governance but rather one of the tools that can be used to effect good governance. “FOI is the foundation for an open system of governance in Nigeria.
It is important for the healthy functioning of our society and would directly impact the quality of life of people residing in Nigeria”, he said. Earlier while presenting the overview of the bill, Olufunke Oluwole hinted that part of the provision of the bill is the guarantee of any resident to have access to information within the state irrespective of tribe and belief. She added that except for information that would undermine the economic interest and other related matters which are contained in sections 12-14, the bill guides in accessing any information within the state responsibly.
On his part, the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Lateef Ibirogba added that the government has democratised information, saying that without information people would live in ignorance. The Commissioner said that the state government has taken it upon itself to make information accessible to the public. “To us in Lagos, access is a key factor.” He however cautioned members of the press to make good use of the opportunity the bill provides to serve the country better. “As practitioners, the press should be mature, responsible and committed in the way we do our job, we should ensure that the information we give is genuine. Developmental journalism should be our goal,” he said.