A 24-page ‘2023 National FOI transparency ranking’ has said that over 170 Federal Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of 238 ranked are flouting provisions of the Freedom of Information Act (FoI) by not actively respond to requests made through the law.
The ranking was jointly produced by the Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC) BudgiT, Basic Rights Watch (BRW), Right to Know and Media Rights Agenda (MRA); and Accountability Lab was presented on Tuesday in Abuja.
In the report, an analysis of 238 public institutions ranked by their responsiveness, disclosure and proactive disclosure level shows that the National Population Commission (NPC), Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Nigerian Correctional Services, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and 136 other agencies did not attempt a response to FOI requests.
The research also showed that 136 MDAs scored below 15 points while the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission, Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission and National Orientation Agency emerged as the most compliant public institutions with 70.3 points, 64.6 points, and 63 points respectively.
According to the FOI ranking, the responsiveness of ministries reduced to 47 per cent from 70.4 per cent recorded in 2022 adding that only two institutions had full proactive disclosure of public information in 2023.
Resource constraints, inadequate tech-savvy staff, outdated information, and disregard for requests without valid reasons were also identified as challenges in the report, which recommended electronic means of communication as a solution.
Also, the Head of Investigations at the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, Olugbenga Adanikin, charged all MDAs to proactively disclose and disseminate information to Nigerians on their portals or websites.
He said that this was to promote a more transparent and accountable government, increase citizen participation and improve public service delivery.
“Civil Society Organisations and other stakeholders in the media space including journalists have had reasons to utilize the FOI Act to demand information of public interests, such as road contract details, loan agreements, and budget releases to public institutions to mention but few. Agencies of government can proactively disclose information to Nigerians through their respective websites.
“Today’s event represents another opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to nation-building through the effective use of different art, and also an avenue to recognize relevant agencies of government that have either been proactively disseminating information to Nigerians or swiftly responding to Freedom of Information requests as required by law,” Adanikin said.
The National Coordinator, Open Government Partnership (OGP), Gloria Ahmed, in her keynote at the event themed, ‘The importance of the online space for access to information’, said the FIOA has kept Nigeria steadily on the path of giving its citizens, more access to information despite the prevalent challenges.
She also urged the representatives of agencies to make use of technology to enjoy the benefits that freedom of information brings.
“Over the past 12 years, despite the prevalent challenges FIOA has kept Nigeria steadily on the path of giving its citizens, more access to information granting the right to request information and mandating public institutions to make such information readily available, with stipulated sanctions for erring institutions.
“While citizens can walk into an office or any public institution to request access to information of interest, it is worthy to mention that it is a lot easier to get this information online and for the institutions to publish information about their institutions online, so as to reduce the traffic of people who come into their offices ask for information,” Ahmed said.