The Clerk of the House of Representatives, Yahaya Danzaria says the 1962 Oath of Secrecy Act remains in force to prevent the leakage of government’s official documents.
He said maintaining secrecy on official government documents remains important for the civil service, hence the existence of the law.
Mr Danzaria spoke on Tuesday at the opening ceremony of a three-day training workshop for staff of the House of Representatives, themed: ‘Legislative Work Ethics and Behavioural Conduct at Work Place’.
He stated that the training was organised to ensure that legislative staff give lawmakers the needed support to carry out their functions.
“Civil service considers as very important the need to maintain secrecy on official government documents. The Oath of Secrecy of 1962 has remained in force in the civil service to demonstrate the premium government places on official documents. An official who divulges official secret in the civil service is said to have divided loyalty,” Mr Danzaria said.
Over the years, getting information from government agencies has been difficult in Nigeria, despite the existence of the Freedom of Information Act.
Passed into law on February 24, 2011, the FOI Act guarantees access by the general public to most data and information held by government agencies. A few issues such as those bordering on national security are, however, exempted.
Shun ethnic, sectional sentiments
The clerk also warned staff against ethnicity and other acts that constitute serious misconduct.
He stated that “ethnicity is the use of ethnic and sectional sentiment to confer unmerited and undue advantage to people of same ethnic origin.”
Mr Danzaria said there are instances where an “ethnic group attempts to dominate the leadership of some government institutions because of the number of officers from such region. Leadership of such institutions is treated as the exclusive preserve of the dominating region.”
He noted that the use of ethnic cards in civil service is against the provision of section 14(3) of the 1999 Constitution.
Also speaking at the event, the Clerk to the National Assembly, Oladele Ojo, said the quality of the laws produced by the National Assembly depends on the quality of staff supporting the lawmakers.
He stated that though non-lawmakers cannot present bills, the final product depends on the staff of the National Assembly.
“Although it is the legislators that have the monopoly of presenting bills during plenary, most of you play critical supportive roles in ensuring the enactment of quality bills. These could be in the conduct of research, drafting, and scrutinising bills, while some of you are responsible for cleaning up the bills and authentication of bills by me, before forwarding for presidential assent.
“Your roles in the law-making process are therefore critical to the sustenance of democracy in Nigeria and well recognised by management,” he said.