Monday, 7 March 2011

Nigeria: Abba-Aji says President Jonathan will not give assent FoI

The controversial presidential advisor on National Assembly issues, Senator Mohammed Abba-Aji, has once again stirred up controversy by claiming that President Goodluck Jonathan will not give the Freedom of Information Bill (FoI) his assent because it violates the Nigerian constitution. Abba- Aji claimed that he will advise the Senate not to follow the House of Representatives and “ throw out” the Bill but this has provoked widespread anger.

Before last week's enactment by the House of Representatives the bill had been languishing in the National Assembly for over four years since it was first presented during the 1999-2007 administration of former president Olusegun Obasanjo.

As a serving senator at the time, Abba-Aji had been at the forefront of opposition to the bill, and he led the group of senators that vociferously opposed it on the Senate floor. This week he has said that he still held the same opinions about the bill and that he was committed to “ fight the Bill to a standstill” and did not regret his previous views.

His principal grievance is that if the bill is passed by the Senate it will give free access to government/official information, or as he put it, “secrets”, stating that all public institutions have information which must be closely guarded for the benefit of “peace, progress and development ”. He called the Bill was “unpatriotic”, and said Nigerians should be wary of giving away the country's secrets to the rest of the world. Despite this, presidential spokesperson, Ima Niboro, stated that Abba-Aji's statements on the Bill were made by the latter as an individual and not as a government representative.

For more news and expert analysis about Nigeria, please see Nigeria Focus and Nigeria Politics & Security.

© 2011 Menas Associates

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