Nigeria’s public institutions perform poorly in FOI rankings

Public institutions in Nigeria have remained unresponsive to Freedom of Information requests, separate assessments by two organizations have shown.

The FOI Act, signed into law in 2011 by then President Goodluck Jonathan, ‎was enacted to allow access to public records and information.

But institutions have continued to ignore the provisions of the law.
In an assessment by Right to Know released on Monday,‎ all 39 government institutions assessed failed to comply with proactive disclosure – records made available without requests, a statutory obligation under the FOI Act.

‎No Nigerian institution obtained “even a 20 percent compliance rating,” according to the survey which was carried out between February and December 2014.

The public institutions accessed are those that had made their statutory obligation of submitting their annual FOI ‎compliance reports to the Office of the Attorney General in 2012 and 2013.

The survey noted that the average standard of disclosure was limited to basic information about their structure and general functions.
In addition, the assessment stated, statutorily recommended methods for disclosure were under-utilized, websites cumbersome to navigate and with dated information.

None of the websites had a designated FOI portal or schedule for easy access to information.

“It is very disappointing that four years after the passage of the Freedom of Information Act, public institutions remain oblivious to and uninterested in FOI implementation,” said Ene Nwankpa, National Coordinator, Right to Know.
“There is no excuse – the basic infrastructure, tools and manpower for information dissemination are in place. MDAs for the most part have websites, IT departments and resources for information technology, and for the various methods of disclosure.

“There is no reason why in over the course of 11 months of the survey, negligible efforts were made in this regard.”

The assessment further noted that, despite a legal obligation to comply, most government institutions did not have functioning FOI units or desk officers, nor were staff adequately trained to comply with the provisions of the Act.

Also on Monday, the Public and Private Development Centre released their 2015 FOI Compliance Rankings of 116 public institutions as well as 14 Security Sector Organizations.

None of the institutions assessed proactively disclosed information.
Out of the 116 public institutions, only ten – including the Nigerian Export Promotion Council, Veterinary Council of Nigeria, Consumer Protection Council, Federal Character Commission, and National Insurance Commission – responded to an FOI request for information within seven days.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Bureau of Public Service Reforms, National Library of Nigeria, and Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria responded to FOI requests with two weeks, the survey noted.

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