RTK Nigeria Paints Picture of Dismal Government Effort

6 October 2015

The Right to Know Nigeria has released as study showing abysmal government performance on the disclosure of information.

“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,” according to the Proactive Disclosure Assessment (PDA) Report.

The 11-month study focused on agencies that had submitted their annual freedom of information law 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.

The low proactive disclosure rate was based on finding that the average disclosures were “basic” – “limited to basic information about the structure and general functions, which falls far below the legal requirement.” The group added:

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.

No Excuse

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.

The report also found “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, the report says, “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.

Even 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,” turned in a bad performance.

“Nor have any of the judicial institutions vested with the powers of adjudication in the protection of the Right to Information, complied with same,” according to the report.

Besides urging all institutions to comply with the law, R2K called 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.”

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