Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Clarion call on Federal Government Press

The Nigerian Senate earned my commendation over its resolution compelling the Federal Government Press to print authentic versions of the National Assembly legislations.

On Thursday, July 28, 2011, Senator Paulinus Igwe (Ebonyi Central) had moved a motion calling the attention of the Senate to the illegal publication, distribution and sales of laws passed by the National Assembly. He observed that such act is in clear violation of the Authentication Act 2004. According to Senator Igwe, “the Act stipulates that the printing of any Act of the National Assembly is vested in the Government Printer who shall endorse on the back of the publication that it is published by authority.”

For sometimes now, multiple versions of the amended 1999 constitution, Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) as well as other Acts of parliament are being illegally printed by some shrewd businessmen and hawked on major streets of some states. In Abuja, the Three Arms Zone is the most notorious sales point. I recall the frustration I went through before the 2011 elections trying to access the genuine editions of the newly passed electoral laws meant to regulate the conduct of the polls and resolve post election disputes. Though belatedly, it is heart-warming that the Senate, after thorough deliberation, had deemed it fit to pass the vital resolution aimed at awakening the Federal Government Press to its lawful duty.

It is, however, important to stress that though those who illegally print and circulate bogus versions of our legislations are blameworthy; the government too must share in the censure. The legal department of the National Assembly, Nigerian Copyright Commission, the Presidency, Federal Ministry of Justice and Federal Ministry of Information under whom, I assume, the Federal Government Press is, must all share in the fault. If these ministries, agencies and departments had networked and coordinated to ensure prompt publication and circulation of these legislations as soon as they were signed by the president, the vacuum the illegal printers are trying to fill would not have been there.

I am proposing an amendment of the 2004 Authentication Act to mandate the printing of all National Assembly legislations by FGP within a period of 60 to 90 days of the signing of such legislations into law by the president. That is, however, in case such proviso is not currently in the Act. Also, Federal Government Press must be properly funded and equipped with competent personnel and modern machineries to perform its assigned legal responsibilities. Additionally, there must be well advertised sales points nationwide. Furthermore, all the 36 States should find a way of ensuring that the authentic copies of legislations passed by the state assemblies and signed by the governors are circulated nationwide through well publicized sales points. Finally, it will be helpful if our parliament and ministries of information could make available new Acts on their websites for easy access.