Abuja: 28 September 2016, Today marks the first celebration of the Universal Access to Information day, as designated by UNESCO. It is a day so designated to be marked and celebrated worldwide. As Access to Information activists around the world commemorate this day, Right To Know (R2K), Nigeria has released an assessment report on the level of compliance by public institutions in Nigeria with two key provisions of the Freedom of Information 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).
In the five years since the FOI Act came into existence in Nigeria, R2K has observed with concern the low levels of compliance of government agencies. Hence, R2K recognizes that it is pertinent to continue to monitor the level of compliance by public institutions to proactively publish and disclose information about their operations as well as comply with the mandatory obligation to submit an FOI annual report to the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) for the preceding year. It is hoped that compliance levels would improve considerably in the next five years.
Ms. Ene Nwankpa, National coordinator of R2K Nigeria has noted that, “ the 44 public institutions who submitted FOI annual reports in 2016, represent just a fraction of over 800 public institutions in existence”. Furthermore, she notes that “an assessment of the websites of 43 out of the 44 public institutions who submitted FOI annual reports to the AGF in 2016, indicated a below average compliance mark with the proactive disclosure provisions. The Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR) was the only institution with a dedicated FOI portal for receiving and responding to electronic FOI request and publishing information.
She also noted that, “this year witnessed a decline in the submission of FOI Annual reports by public institutions to the AGF, from 60 in 2015 to 44 in this year”. She stated that even “the National Assembly that enacted the FOI Act in 2011 has till date never submitted an FOI annual report to the AGF since the law was passed. As an oversight institution that receives FOI reports made by public institutions through the AGF, it becomes rather ironic to hold any public institution accountable for non-compliance”.
In putting forward the findings of this assessment, R2K Nigeria, calls on the Nigerian government to put in place sanctions for defaulting public institutions to enforce compliance with the FOI Act. R2K wishes to emphasize that the FOI Act is one the most potent systemic tools which can be used to support the current administrations anti-corruption policy.
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