The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) is disappointed by the refusal of Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo to sign into Law the Freedom of Information Bill sent to him for assent by the National Assembly last March. We view the President's action as a major set back for West Africa region in the struggle to ensure popular participation in democratic processes.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
President Obasanjo's Refusal to Sign Freedom of Information Law a Set-back for West Africa
ACCRA, GHANA, Wednesday, 9 May 2007: The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) is disappointed by the refusal of Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo to sign into Law the Freedom of Information Bill sent to him for assent by the National Assembly last March. We view the President's action as a major set back for West Africa region in the struggle to ensure popular participation in democratic processes.
Governments and civil society organizations in West Africa, particularly in countries such as Ghana, Sierra Leone and Liberia, which have already initiated similar processes to grant their citizens access to public records and documents, had looked to Nigeria for leadership on this issue. It is regrettable that President Obasanjo lost this great opportunity to provide leadership for the rest of the region.
In so doing, he has betrayed his lack of commitment to transparency and accountability in public service and has once again called into question the sincerity of his much touted war against corruption.
President Obasanjo's action has also resulted in Nigeria's failure to meet its regional and international obligations on this issue. Nigeria has an obligation to adopt a legal instrument to give its citizens access to public records and documents under Article 4 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa, which was adopted by the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights in 2002 and subsequently endorsed by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union; Article 9 of the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption, adopted by the AU in 2003; as well as under Article 19 of the UN's International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, adopted in 1966; the Commonwealth Freedom of Information Principles, adopted in 1999; UN's Principles on Freedom of Information, adopted in 2000; and Articles 10 and 13 of the UN Convention Against Corruption, adopted in 2003.
The MFWA expresses its solidarity with ordinary Nigerians and civil society organizations in the country who have clamoured for this Law over the last eight years. We are confident that their struggles will be rewarded and that the Bill will become Law in the near future.
We commend members of Nigeria's National Assembly for their courageous work on the Freedom of Information Bill so far. We assure them that the international community recognizes their valiant efforts to entrench democracy in Nigeria and uplift the lives of their citizens. We call on the legislators to again demonstrate this courage by invoking their powers under the Nigerian Constitution to countermand the President's vetoing of the Bill. This will put Nigeria on the part of compliance with its international obligations, freely entered into, and enhance the capacity of Nigerian citizens to participate in governance.
Prof. Kwame Karikari