Marking the global Right to Know Day, The Right to Know (R2K), Nigeria today released a Proactive Disclosure Assessment (PDA) Report on the status of public sector compliance with the obligation to proactively discloseinformation underNigeria’s Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, 2011. The assessment was carried out over the course of 11 months, from February 2014 to December 2014.
Proactive disclosure remains one of the statutory obligations under the FOI Act that public institutions must meet. The public institutions assessed are those that have made commendable effort to meet another statutory obligation under the FOI Act – by submitting their annual FOI compliance reports to the Office of the Attorney General’s office (OAGF) in 2012 and 2013, in compliance with Section 29 of the FOI Act.
Of a total of 39 government institutions assessed, the report finds that none had complied with the obligation to proactively disclose information – no institution obtained even a 20% compliance rating. The average standard of disclosure is limited to basic information about the structure and general functions, which falls far below the legal requirement. Furthermore, the statutorily recommended methods for disclosure were underutilized, websites are cumbersome to navigate, and have dated information. No website has a designated FOI portal or information schedule that would facilitate ease of accessing and understanding information.
Ene Nwankpa, National Coordinator, R2K stated, “It is very disappointing to find that 4 years after the passage of the Freedom of Information Act, public institutions remain oblivious to and uninterested in FOI implementation. There is no excuse – the basic infrastructure, tools and manpower for information dissemination are in place. MDA’s 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 report also finds a lack of cohesive, organised and electronic document management system, and inadequate intra-institutional information sharing practices pose the biggest obstacle to providing information, both proactively and in response to information requests. Also, despite a legal obligation to ensure the same, most institutions do not have functioning FOI units or desk officers, and staff and officers of these institutions do not have the requisite training to ensure successful implementation; which contributes to their opposition and resistance to proactive disclosure. This has resulted in sector-wide subpar performance on the obligation to release information proactively.
R2K also indicts public institutions such as the National Human Rights Commission, which is chaired by one of Nigeria’s strongest advocates for Freedom of Information and which ought to lead by example in the protection of the fundamental Right to Information, and to be at the forefront of FOI implementation at an institutional level, has never submitted an Annual Report on FOI Implementation to the OAGF and is not implementing proactive disclosure. Nor have any of the judicial institutions vested with the powers of adjudication in the protection of the Right to Information, complied with same.
R2K reiterates the need for ALL public institutions so defined by the FOI Act, to comply with all their obligations under the Act, including proactive disclosure of information.
Furthermore, R2K calls on the Office of the Attorney General (OAGF), as part of its regulatory powers over the implementation of the FOI Act, to develop sector-wide guidelines and template for proactive disclosure in compliance with the FOI Act, akin to the OAGF’s 2013 Guidelines on FOI implementation generally.
To read the full Proactive Disclosure Assessment Report and Executive Summary, please click here.