FG threatens to jail civil servants leaking official documents

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The Federal Government has warned that unauthorised disclosure or leakage of official documents, capable of impacting the country negatively, is a punishable offence.

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, George Akume, gave the warning on Tuesday in Abuja, at a workshop organised by the Bureau for Public Service Reforms in collaboration with the Office of the Government of the Federation.

The workshop was themed: “Renewing Hope and Strengthening of National Unity through Effective Communication and the Role of the Official Secret Acts in Maintaining Confidentiality and National Security.’’

Represented by Dr Nnamdi Mbaeri, the Permanent Secretary in the Office of the SGF, Akume said unauthorized leakage of sensitive official documents constitutes a felony, and there is no defence for such, either in the Constitution or Freedom of Information Act.

Section 97 (2) of the Criminal Code Act of Nigeria, provides: “Any person who, being employed in the public service, without proper authority abstracts, or makes a copy of, any document the property of his employer is guilty of a misdemeanour and is liable to imprisonment for one year”.

Akume recalled that the government had devised measures in the past to contain the leakage of sensitive official information in MDAs through the issuance of service-wide circulars by the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation in August 2021.

“This was reinforced by the issuance of another service-wide circular in February 2024 on the unauthorised circulation of official documents with information on social media.

“This was done to re-emphasise other extant regulations prohibiting unauthorised disclosure or leakage of official documents

“There is the need to regulate the activities of the civil society organisations who use the Freedom of Information Act to harass, intimidate and siphon resources from public officers through the dissemination of fake and unfounded information.

“This should be properly addressed by all the practitioners in the communication and related industries,’’ he said.

Akume commended the BPSR for organising the workshop, saying it underlines the importance the government places on the dissemination of correct and truthful information.

The Director-General of the Bureau, Dr Dasuki Arabi, urged participants to equip themselves with the Official Secrets Act and effectively communicate government policies and programmes to the public.

“Your role as communication managers in MDAs is crucial, especially in our increasingly complex information ecosystem.

“In today’s environment, communications and platforms are highly fragmented. The government cannot afford to be reactive.

“It must lead the communication landscape to prevent misinformation and ensure that citizens are all informed about the activities, objectives of government and benefits of its policies and programmes to the citizens of the country.

“Accurate and prompt information delivery is essential and cannot be compromised as its impact on service delivery and governance is profound,” he said.

Arabi tasked the communication managers to take advantage of the training to use the traditional and social media platforms to ensure the public is well informed about government initiatives, programmes and services.


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