A compliance and transparency ranking exercise by a coalition of Nigerian civil society organisations revealed how many federal parastatals violated the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
The coalition, which includes the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), BudgIT and the Public-Private Development Centre (PPDC), disclosed in a report that over 170 Nigerian Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) violated the FOIA in 2023.
The ranking was based on how they responded to FOI requests and the relevance of the information they revealed. At the annual event held in Abuja on September 28, the coalition said over 200 MDAs were assessed, after which the winners were unveiled to commemorate the United Nations’ International Day for Universal Access to Information.
The Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC), and National Orientation Agency (NOA) were eventually announced as the top three winners of the FOI ranking. On the other hand, 136 MDAs scored below 15 points out of a possible 100. They were assessed for proactive disclosure (60 points), level of disclosure (20 points), and level of responsiveness (20 points).
The MDAs were honoured for their adequate compliance with the FOIA and for revealing a series of information relating to the receipt or expenditure of public or other funds of the institutions, the names, salaries, titles, and dates of employment of employees and officers.
Sixteen MDAs received an overall score of zero. They include the:
- Advertising Regulatory Council Of Nigeria (ARCON).
- Border Communities Development Agency.
- Council Of Legal Education.
- Defence Headquarters.
- Federal Staff Hospital.
- Industrial Arbitration Panel.
- Military Pension Board.
- National Commission For Mass Literacy, Adult And Non Formal Education.
- National Education Research And Development Council.
- National Food Reserve Agency.
- National Office For Technology Acquisition And Promotion (NOTAP).
- National Primary Healthcare Development Agency.
- New Partnership For Africa’s Development (NEPAD.
- Nigerian Airspace Management Agency.
- Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC).
- Radiographers Registration Board Of Nigeria.
“We must do everything to protect and expand the online space in accessing information,” said Gloria Ahmed, the National Coordinator of Open Government Partnership. “The FOIA is 12 years, and it is expected that the Act grows to reflect its age and exhibit added features.”
She also said: “Despite the prevalent challenges, FIOA has kept Nigeria steadily on the path of giving its citizens more access to information, granting the right to request information and mandating public institutions to make such information readily available, with stipulated sanctions for erring institutions.”
In 2011, replicating a law that was already in force in many parts of the world, former President Goodluck Jonathan signed the FOIA to give the Nigerian people access to information on government activities in the custody of any public institution or where public funding was utilised. The law also mandates public institutions to proactively disclose essential information on their websites.
However, the implementation of the law has faced challenges. Many state governments have failed to domesticate and recognise it, and various federal institutions still find ways to circumvent the provisions.
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