Analyzing FOI Law Compliance in Four Nigerian Agencies

21 October 2014

This report is reprinted from the website of the Cleen Foundation. To download the full report, visit www.cleen.org

In March 2014, the Access Nigeria (AccessNG) project trained and deployed 12 representatives of civil society organisations (CSOs) to collaboratively access information from the government agencies at the fore of the fight against corruption and trans-national organized crimes (TOC) in Nigeria. The four focal public agencies are the National Drug Law enforcement Agency (NDLEA); the Economic Financial Crime Commission (EFCC); the National Agency for the prohibition of Traffic in Persons and Other related Matters (NAPTIP) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC).

During the training workshop facilitated by Romania’s Partners Foundation for Local Development (FPDL) and supported by the Partners for Democratic Change and the CLEEN Foundation, civil society monitors were exposed to different strategies to build mutually beneficial relationships and partnerships with these four agencies in order to engender trust. Monitors also delved into Nigeria’s Freedom of Information (FOI) law envisioning it as a pillar to gather necessary information. Once equipped with requisite skills, civil society representatives were organized in groups and assigned a specific agency with the twin objectives of building relationship and accessing information.

Between May and July, members of each observer group make weekly visits to their assigned agency with a goal to better understand the agency, its work, departments and personnel. This interface in theory paves the way for improved access to the agency and future collaborations with civil society groups while also allowing the agencies to cultivate new audiences and networks which can be useful in their future projects. Reports of this collaboration and the data sourced through it were submitted to the CLEEN Foundation on a monthly basis.

Thus far, the exercise shows mixed progress on building collaborations and information sharing between the civil society and public agencies in Nigeria. We note for example that whereas the NDLEA is reluctant to share data, the NAPTIP has gone ahead to share data from its work which have hitherto been unpublished. The ICPC also shared some data but key questions remain which cannot easily be answered from the available dataset. The EFCC routinely publishes some data but has not so far shared the data set requested by the monitors.

The information collected by the monitors suggest that the prosecution of corruption and organized crime cases in Nigeria is a slow and arduous process as the prosecuting agencies are saddled with many cases which could drag for over four years in court. However, a lot remains unknown, for example the number of prosecutors and the average case load of each prosecutor.

In the end, the work of the monitors in this project reiterates that information sharing becomes easier and more participatory when the public agencies understand the project and believe that the information requested would be used judiciously and without bias.

The Findings

The analysis of the reports submitted by these monitors between May and July 2014 highlights the need for anti-graft agencies in Nigeria to collaborate with CSOs in fighting corruption. CSOs are well positioned to assist agencies in projecting their achievements and challenges in order to draw the attention of the relevant authorities who can address these challenges. The reports also revealed that although the FOI Act is a necessary component of fighting against corruption and improving transparency and accountability in this fight, there are other important tools. Relationship building, engendering trust, communicating strategically, and actively engaging on the work of the agencies are equally relevant.

Data Analysis

Record of convictions from the NAPTIP

The NAPTIP monitoring group obtained the report of NAPTIP’s 2013 convictions from prosecution of trafficking in persons and related offences. From a list of 36 cases, a total of 44 persons were convicted. The court with the most convictions was the Federal High Court in Kano where nine different cases resulted in convictions; six cases in Uyo resulted in convictions; five in Ibadan; four each in Benin City and Lagos; and three in Sokoto.

The length of the prosecution varied; the oldest case was the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) v Grace Joshua Mark (Charge No:  HU/21C/2006 at the Federal High Court 4, Uyo). Joshua Mark faced a two-count charge for fraudulently taking a child out of lawful custody contrary to section 19910(d0 and 19 (1)E of the TIP law, TIPPLEA. The case was filed on July 14, 2006 and the accused was convicted on May 30, 2013. Mark was found guilty of the two counts and sentenced to seven years in prison without an option to pay fines on each count. One other case was filed in 2006 and concluded in 2013.

The shortest case was AGF v Michael Ohinke (Charge No:  FHC/KN/CR/2013, Federal High Court, Kano) which lasted two days; it was filed on December 4, 2013 and the accused convicted on December 6, 2013. Ohinke was charged, tried, and convicted of organizing foreign travel which promotes prostitution contrary to section 16 of the TIPPLEA. He was sentenced to five years imprisonment without the option of a fine. Between 2006 and 2013, the average length of prosecution at the NDLEA was 4.5 years.

The NAPTIP monitoring group made requests for specific information from the agency at the beginning of its assignment.  However it later also requested that NAPTIP share any additional information the agency wanted to popularize and disseminate. Some of the requested information included:

  • NAPTIP activities/programs for the first three quarters of 2014.
  • Convictions from NAPTIP prosecution.
  • Facilities and services available at NAPTIP detention centres.
  • Awareness campaigns being conducted by the agency.
  • Total number of cases received by NAPTIP since inception to December 2013.
  • Total number of cases investigated since inception to December 2013.
  • Total number of victims rescued since inception to December 2013.
  • Total number of victims empowered since inception to December 2013.
  • Total number of convictions secured since inception to December 2013.

The agency expressed tremendous interest in the NAPTIP monitoring group’s work under the Access Nigeria project. The office of the Executive Secretary directed key officials to respond to all letters from the Access Nigeria project and to meet with the group members.

Nonetheless, there was an initial delay in receiving datasets and information from the agency as the group and the agency were getting to know each other. However, once the agency was convinced of the genuine intentions of the project, it began responding and has so far released crucial data and information on recent activities. The monitoring group has successfully communicated with key officials in the legal department, receiving both data and information on the work of the NAPTIP in prosecuting TOC in Nigeria.

ICPC Prosecutions

The ICPC monitoring group visited the ICPC’s offices in Abuja and Imo State, initiating contacts with officials in six different departments. As a testament to the improved access and communication with the agency, the ICPC team received additional datasets on cases being prosecuted by the ICPC; updating data acquired under a different component of the Access Nigeria project. The Data sourced by the ICPC monitoring group shows the agency’s heavy prosecution load and shows that the cases are fairly evenly distributed across the country.

 

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