Challenges of the Freedom of Information Bill to the Broadcast Media in NTA Uyo

Challenges of the Freedom of Information Bill to the Broadcast Media in NTA Uyo
Challenges of the Freedom of Information Bill to the Broadcast Media in NTA Uyo




1.1     Background of the Study

Since  Nigeria  restored  democracy  in  1999,  many  individuals  and  groups  have  canvassed  for  the  passage  of  the  Freedom  of  Information  Bill  (FOIB)  into  a  piece  of  legislation in the country  as  one of the ways of fast-tracking development at the socio-economic  and  socio-political  fronts  (Odion-Akhaine  56;  Omoera  67).  Severally,  the

FOIB was brought before the national assembly and it is only recently it was made a law,  albeit, in a severely pared or watered down form. Exploring this trajectory of thought one  may argue that it is not yet ‘Uhuru’ (Freedom in Swahili Language) as far as Freedom of  Information  Act  (FOIA)  is  concerned  in  Nigeria.  This,  perhaps,  underscores  the  problematic  that  the  FOIA  as  passed  is  still  on  a  ‘journey’  that  needs  to  be  carefully  monitored so that it can achieve its objectives for the good of the generality of Nigerians.

The  interest  in  the  public  domain,  the  initial  political  foot-dragging  of  the  executive arm, the age-long  legislative elusiveness, and the persistent advocacy of civil  societies and the intelligentsia that birthed the passage of the FOIA have probably made it  the  most  vexed  legislative  issue  yet  in  the  annals  of  democratic  history  in  Nigeria.

Challenges of the Freedom of Information Bill to the Broadcast Media in NTA Uyo

Consequently, this study critically examines the FOIA with particular attention on  how  its  passage  into  law  can  help  the  media  to  be  more  effective  in  Nigeria. The freedom of information bill (FOI) is a bill that, if passed into law, will give every Nigerian access to information, records and documents held by governmental bodies and private bodies carrying out public functions.

It applies to all arms of government: the Executive, legislature and judiciary as well as to all tiers of government: federal, state and local governments.

So far, Nigeria has no law which guarantees citizens access to public records and information. On the contrary, many Nigerian laws have secrecy clauses prohibiting the disclosure of information e.g. the official secrets Act, the criminal code, the penal code etc. Restricting access to vital information starves the press of the legal authority to publish or broadcast what they know to be true. The Nigerian press has for many years been accused of sensationalism as against fact based journalism because their reports appear to be unbacked with evidence.

The FOI Bill has gone through three readings and a public hearing and has been passed by the lower chamber of the National Assembly, and at the senate, it has also passed through three readings and a public hearing awaiting harmonization and presidential assert to become law.

Challenges of the Freedom of Information Bill to the Broadcast Media in NTA Uyo

1.2     History of Case Study

The Nigerian Television Authority, Uyo was established in 1988 following the creation of Akwa Ibom State and in pursuance of the Federal Government Policy of locating one NTA station in every state capital in the country. Generally, In February 1962, the broadcasting company of Northern Nigeria known as BCNN was born. It was commissioned on 15th March, 1962. BCNN was established by the premier of the northern region, the Sardauna of Sokoto, Late Sir Ahmadu Bello. He wanted a medium through which he could sell his government’s policies and bring development to the whole North, because he felt that the existing Radio Station, the NBC was not giving adequate coverage to his government and indeed the activities of the Northern region. The station started in monochrome. In 1963, the RTK (Radio, Television, Kaduna) arm was established, the combination was known and still remained as RTK (Radio Television Kaduna).

The television arm was exercised from the former broadcasting corporation of Northern Nigeria (BCNN) with decree No. 24 of May 1977 which took effect retrospectively from 1st April, 1976.

The objective of NTA is derived from the overall aims of broadcasting in Nigeria. As a medium of communication, television seeks to enrich life of the average Nigerian by influencing positively his social cultural, economic, political and technological thinking. It also brings news and information about national issues. Besides this, it serve as a source of entertainment. Television promotes cultural awareness and seeks to preserve Nigeria’s rich culture.

Through this medium, artistic and intellectual creativity are development. Therefore, all programmes and coverage should be audience-oriented and guided by the nation’s social, political, moral, cultural, scientific, educational and economic goals.

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Peter Hezekiah Lawson (Sir Pee). The CEO of A reputable researcher, Web Developer, ICT Instructor and a publisher of many research works in Education.