Freedom of Information Act

Some 116 public institutions did not comply with “proactive disclosure” requirement of the Freedom of Information Act, according to a new survey by the Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC).

The centre and its monitors put initiated FOI requests for procurement records or information and that monitors been taken to site or to take photographs of projects and contracts stated in the 2014 appropriation act.
None of the 116 institutions that received the FOI requests proactively disclosed procurement processes, according to PPDC ranking.

Some [agencies] say they have their vision, mission and mandate on their website—and that forms part of what the FOI Act requests,” said Seember Nyaget, chief executive officer of PPDC at the launch of the report in Abuja where agencies questioned its ranking and methodology.

“We are carrying out the research based on the fact that we asked for procurement information, and procurement information also falls under the proactive disclosure requirement—and with regards to that, there is no proactive disclosure.”

Among those that responded, only 10—including Nigerian Export Promotion Council, Veterinary Council and Federal Character Commission—replied to the request within seven days.

Seven others, including EFCC, Bureau of Public Sector Reforms (BPSR) and the Teachers Registration Council—took up to 14 days to respond, while 28 more took 15 to 90 days to respond.

The remaining 71, including defence agencies, did not respond at all.
BPSR director-general Joe Abah said, “What the ranking tries to achieve is more than the ranking—that citizens have a right to information.”

Much of the defence sector’s non-disclosure came under label of national security, and could prompt discussion with the office of the National Security Adviser to re-classify security documentation in efforts to make clear what security agencies can disclose, analysts at the launch of the survey report said.
Only 22 institutions did full disclosure, according to the survey, and 10 others—including two defence agencies—did partial disclosure.

Others, among them 12 defence agencies, Bureau of Public Enterprises, the ICPC, federal public hospitals and mother ministries, did not disclose any information whatsoever, National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development ranked 30th, alongside National Health Insurance Scheme, which ranked 23rd without proactive disclosure.

NHIS has argued it couldn’t respond to the disclosure request because some of the files demanded were with the Department of State Security and its procurement process was terminated in the wake of investigations into controversial purchases at the agency, according to its assistant director for procurement Musa Aliyu.

NIPRD said its officials in charge of FOI requests were not around or on leave when the requests were made.
“There’s still a lot more to be done. You are talking about changes, and people always resist change,” said Stella Anukam, director of the FOI Department, run under the ministry of justice.

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