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Journalists are ignorant of the Constitution – Sani Zorro

*Employ the Freedom of Information in the right to know

By Olajide Fashikun

Former President of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Mallam Sani Zorro, has called on media practitioners to make themselves more familiar with provisions of the Constitution as well as employ more knowledge of the Constitution in their bid to harness more precisely the right to know.

Zorro who is now a member of the House of Representatives spoke at the one-day roundtable on ‘the right to know: Making our democracy more inclusive’ organized by the European Union and endorsed by the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ).

Zorro accused journalists of not maximizing the provisions and existence of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

In the buildup towards enacting the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), it was like the nation won’t survive given the feverish nature of the human rights community, mediamen and even, civil society organisations (CSOs).

It will interest you to appreciate that the law demands from the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) to file annual returns to the National Assembly. In Nigeria today, there are over 600 Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs). In the last three years, the compliance report showed a very poor usage of the law.

He disclosed that, in 2014, just about 60 persons used the law. In 2015, it was worse with 44 persons making use of the law while in 2016, it was operated by 54 persons.

In the application for enforcement, in 2014 there were 33, 28 in 2015 and 41 in 2016. The logic is that Nigerians were not making use of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

As media practitioners, we must re-commit to the opportunities provided by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

As mediamen, we have all the freedom to seek, search and monitor the activities of, for instance, the National Assembly. How many media organisations highlights the roles of the National Assembly? How many media organisations narrow on the roles, institutional and issue-directions of parliamentarians?

The media dictates our lives as a people. It is very important that the NUJ open the eyes of practitioners to their constitutional rights and responsibilities which legalises your practice. You are supposed to know more law than lawyers, more process of law making than parliamentarians and more than ministers.

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