Today marks the 2nd Edition of the celebration of the Universal Access to Information day, as designated by UNESCO. As part of its contribution to the worldwide commemoration and monitoring role it plays in Nigeria; Right To Know (R2K), Nigeria, an Access to Information activism NGO has released an update-assessment report on the level of compliance by public institutions in Nigeria with two key provisions of the Freedom of Information Act (FOI); 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.
Summarily, 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.
The National Coordinator of R2K, Mrs Ene Nwankpa “commends the flexibility, forward looking and leadership of NEITI, FMOJ which have 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 3 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”.
In the 2016 assessment report, only the Bureau of Public Service Reforms complied with the proactive disclosure provisions and additionally had an electronic FOI Portal on its website. In 2017, Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) and Federal Ministry of Justice (FMOJ) have similarly achieved this worthy performance by adopting similar electronic FOI Portals on their respective websites.
In the area of annual FOI submissions to the office of the AGF- Year 2017 recorded 54 submissions as against 44 in 2016. 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. However FMOJ has taken steps to address the challenge with annual submission of reports by creating a platform on its FOI Portal for MDA’s to upload its FOI reports (http://justice.gov.ng/index.php/fmoj-downloads/reports).
R2K, urge all MDA’s to further emulate the progressive steps taken by these 3 FOI compliance champions in the report, encouraging the 3 pace setter institutions to sustain the operation of the FOI Portal to proactively disclose information as well as respond to public inquiries on its operations and services to citizens as part of its everyday duty.
Signed: National Coordinator, Mrs Ene Nwankpa.