Last week, Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan signed into law the Freedom of Information act. Passage of the legislation is clearly a step forward for the aspiration for more open government and strengthens the credibility of the civil organizations that have worked so long to achieve it.
Inspired by the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, this legislation has been a goal of Nigerian civil groups for more than a decade. Like the U.S. legislation, the Nigerian law guarantees public access to information held by public institutions and provides protection for whistle blowers.
Chidi Odinkalu has a brief history of the progression of the bill here.
Civil society organizations initially proposed the legislation and have been dogged in lobbying for it. Previous governments, by contrast, dragged their feet.
Passage of the legislation may strengthen President Jonathan’s credibility with civil society, at least for the time being. But, key to its effectiveness will be how the bill is actually implemented in an environment where government institutions and procedures are often still developing.