The passage of the Freedom of Information Bill in Nigeria is the right way to go. It will provide constitutional guarantee for Nigerians to access information, unearth corruption, expose wrongdoing and catalyse development.
Take South Africa for instance. Since it passed the bill, its media has become more robust than at any time in its history. Even as the chorus of anti-media sentiment from the government persists, the media emerges stronger rather than weakened.
But I wonder whether journalists and civil society people in Nigeria are prepared enough for the bill. Do they have the capacity to use it to promote peace, stability and democratic institutions ahead of the challenges of the next few years?
We have seen many cases of information abuses. Some media workers, including journalists, engage in illegal and unprofessional acts of demanding for and receiving gratification from individuals and groups seeking media access, reinforcing already deep-seated societal divide.
Is it not time for media workers in the country to receive specialised training on the about-to-be-passed bill to ensure effective use for agenda-setting and development?
I know Nigerian media workers face challenges. Since media owners find it difficult to pay wages due to economic stress, workers are forced to work for several months without pay. They may not concentrate on any training programme due to financial pressure..
The large number of print outlets could hamper the project as very many journalists have to be trained. Then there is the issue of the sharp increase in the number of broadcast stations. It will be difficult to find a private company ready to support the training of so many people.
But South Africa faced challenges as well, yet the media has been able to make significant impact on governance issues. If South Africa can do it, why not Nigeria? It is important Nigerian media workers are exposed to possibilities of using the bill to intensify dialogue on the country's development. If they set agenda for politicians, Nigeria will witness more transparency and accountability.