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Leak Official Documents, Risk Jail – FG Warns

The Federal Government has issued a stern warning against the unauthorized disclosure of official documents, emphasizing that such acts are punishable offences under Nigerian law.

The warning was delivered by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Senator George Akume, during a workshop in Abuja on Tuesday.

The workshop, organized by the Bureau for Public Service Reforms (BPSR) in collaboration with the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF), focused on the theme, “Renewing hope and strengthening of national unity through effective communication and the role of the Official Secret Acts in maintaining confidentiality and national security.”

During his address, represented by Dr Nnamdi Mbaeri, Permanent Secretary in the Office of the SGF, Akume underscored the critical nature of maintaining confidentiality within the government’s ranks.

Akume highlighted that unauthorized leakage of sensitive official documents is considered a felony, with no defence permissible under the Constitution or the Freedom of Information Act.

He referenced Section 97 (2) of the Criminal Code Act of Nigeria, which stipulates a punishment of up to one-year imprisonment for any public service employee who, without proper authority, copies or discloses any document owned by their employer.

The SGF also recalled measures previously implemented to curb the leakage of sensitive information across Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs). He noted that the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation issued service-wide circulars in August 2021, aimed at tightening the security of official documents and ensuring compliance with established protocols.

He said, “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.”

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.

He said, “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.”

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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