By Tobi Soniyi in Lagos
Out of over 800 Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) in Nigeria, only 54 submitted annual Freedom of Information reports to the Office of the Attorney General of the federation.
A statement issued yesterday in Abuja by Rights to Know (R2K), a civil society organisation which monitors compliance with the FOI Act, said the year 2017 recorded 54 submissions as against 44 in 2016.
The National Coordinator of Rights to Know, Mrs. Ene Nwakpa, said: “Quantitatively, this slight increase still remains a gross under-performance overall, against the backdrop of over 800 Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA’s) in Nigeria.”
She noted that the Federal Ministry of Justice had taken steps to address the challenge with annual submission of reports by creating a platform on its FoI Portal for MDAs to upload their FoI reports.
The group also released an updated assessment report on the level of compliance by public institutions in Nigeria with two key provisions of the FoI Act; notably, Section 2(3 &4) relating to the provision on Proactive Disclosure—and Section 29 (1,2 &3) obligating an FoI Annual Submission to the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) on or before every first of the month of February.
The report found that the Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR), Federal Ministry of Justice (FMOJ), and Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) scored high on the indicators used for the assessment.
“This is as a result of the collaborative engagements by R2K, Nigeria with these three public institutions to deepen FoI implementation with support from MacArthur Foundation,” Nwakpa said.
She commended the flexibility, forward looking and leadership of NEITI and FMOJ which she said, emulated BPSR to advance a progressive and tech-powered processes in FoI implementation to ease disclosure, deepen transparency and facilitate accountability in the country.
She also stated that “this innovative effort by the three public institutions have ensured that development of FOI portal is now a mandatory line item on the access to information components of the Open Government Policy (OGP) National Action Plan.”
Accordig to her, only the Bureau of Public Service Reforms complied with the proactive disclosure provisions and had an electronic FoI portal on its website.
But in 2017, NEITI and FMOJ adopted similar electronic FOI portals on their respective websites.
R2K, urged all MDAs to emulate the progressive steps taken by the three organisations by proactively disclosing information and responding to public inquiries.