Accessing public information, freedom of the press and other relevant laws for further research on freedom of expression in Nigeria


How do I access information held by public bodies?

Accessing information from public authorities is part exercising your right to freedom of expression.

In Nigeria, this is regulated by the Freedom of Information Act (2011)

The Freedom of Information (FOI) Act protects the right to access, receive and share information which is an important part of the right to freedom of expression. The Act ensures that public information can be accessed from public officers without any hindrance and by anyone.

How do I make access to information request in Nigeria?   To do this:

  1. Ask the public institution you are interested in who is the officer in charge of receiving requests.
  2. Write a letter or make an oral request to that officer who must put down your request in writing.
  3. The institution must give you a response in 7 days.
  4. If the request is denied, you can apply to the Court for a review within 30 days after the request is denied.

This means that, for example, you can request information on the amount of taxes that the federal government collected in 2021, or ask government bodies such as the National Assembly and the Federal Ministry of Education to publish requested information.


Which laws regulate Nigerian media and freedom of the press?

Together with the Nigerian Constitution and international treaties which protect freedom of expression in general (discussed in What is freedom of expression and how can I identify a breach to my rights?) there are other laws which regulate the media in Nigeria and freedom of the press.

The National Film and Video Censor Board Act

The National Film and Video Censor Board Act established the National Film and Video Censor Board, which has the duty of checking all films and videos put out for public consumption in order to ensure that they do not violate public peace or public morality.

How can I make a complaint if I think there is unlawful censorship?

The Board welcomes complaints and comments from members of the public about, for example:

  • classification or age restriction on the part of a video club operator, retailer, distributor and/or exhibitor. For example, a cinema or viewing center allowing under age viewers to view movies which have been classified for older audiences. Or a video club selling a video with an age restriction of 18 to a person under the age of 18.
  • Failure on the part of a distributor and/or exhibitor to display, clearly and conspicuously, the classification symbol and age restriction imposed on a film, video or poster or trailer.
  • The distribution and/or exhibition of uncensored and unclassified films or video works.
  • An inappropriate classification or age restriction given by the Board to a particular film, video, DVD or computer game.
  • Inadequate and/or misleading consumer information.
  • The failure on the part of a distributor and/or exhibitor to display consumer information with respect to a film or video.

Lodging Complaints:

Complaints can be lodged to the Board through a number of ways, letters, email faxed to the Director-General/CEO of the Board. Please remember to include the following details to enable speedy response:

  • The title of the film or video or DVD or video game
  • The name of the cinema or theatre where the film was seen; or the name of the video outlet or retailer where the video, DVD or computer game was rented/bought
  • The date and time of the exhibition , in the case of a cinema or theatre, or the date of the rental or purchase of the video, DVD or computer game
  • A brief summary of the complaint, and any other information which might be necessary

You can find this and more information about how the board works and how to make a complaint if there is a case of censorship at

The National Broadcasting Commission Act

The National Broadcasting Commission Act established the National Broadcasting Commission which is charged with the duty of performing advisory duties and processing applications for licensing media houses in Nigeria.

The Commission has the responsibility of advising the Federal government on the best and innovative way of gathering information and also to make recommendation to the President through the Ministry of information for the granting of the license to own and manage a media house in Nigeria.


Freedom of expression principles and standards

International organizations such as the United Nations produce documents to guide countries on how to protect human rights. These documents are called soft law. Unlike the regional and international laws (treaties), these international documents act as guidance to countries on how they can protect rights. They are sometimes referred to as Guidelines, Recommendations, Principles or Declarations.

You can find out more information about these recommendations by reading the principles below:

The African Commission Principle on Freedom of Expression

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in recognizing the need to ensure the right to freedom of expression in Africa, laid down guiding principles which will enable state parties to promote and protect the right to freedom of expression within their territories. Read the Principles here.

General Comments by the United Nations Human Rights Committee

The United Nations Human Rights Committee’s general comments on the right to freedom of expression also provides various principles for the promotion and protection of the right which can be readily accessed here.

African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights Resolution on Repealing Criminal defamation laws in Africa.

The African Commission on Human  and Peoples’ Rights in its resolution on repealing criminal defamation laws in Africa, while noting that criminal defamation laws constitute a serious interference with freedom of expression, made a number of recommendations to countries who are parties to the African Charter which can be found here.

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