The level of usage of the Freedom of Information Act by members of the public to seek information from public institutions in 2016 remained very low, according to partial user data obtained from the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation.
The data, contained in an aggregation of the reports submitted by 54 public institutions to the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), showed that the Ministry of Budget and National Planning received the highest number of requests for information from members of the public in 2016 with a total of 77 requests, followed by the Legal Aid Council which received 65 requests.
The Akanu Ibiam Federal Polytechnic in Unwana, Ebonyi State, received the third highest number of requests with 54 applications for information while the Central Bank of Nigeria came fourth with 44 requests.
Other public institutions which received fairly significant numbers of requests are the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), which came fifth with 19 requests for information; the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) and the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), which tied in the sixth positions, having received 18 requests for information each; the Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR), which came seventh with 15 requests; the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which came eighth with 13 requests; the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), which came ninth with eight requests; and the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), which tied in the 10th position with each of them receiving seven requests.
All the public institutions claimed to have processed all the requests for information that they received, but the data did not indicate how many of the applications for information that each of them granted out of the number received.
The data also contained a number of curious claims. For instance, the Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians Registration Board of Nigeria, which did not receive or process any application for information throughout the year claims that it has 120 full-time staff devoted to the implementation of the Freedom of Information Act.
Also, while the Ministry of Budget and National Planning, which received and processed 77 applications for information and the Legal Aid Council, which received and processed 65 requests for information, both said they did not spend any amount on the processing of applications for information, the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH), which only received and processed two applications, claimed that it spent N50,000 on the processing of application, the highest amount by far claimed by any public institution for the processing of information requests. The closest to this was an amount of N15,000 claimed by the Supreme Court of Nigeria, which also received and processed two request for information.
Other significant claims on the costs of processing applications for information came from NEITI, which received and processed seven application and claimed to have spent N12,000; the National Teachers’ Institute (NTI), which received and processed only one application for information and claimed to have spent N10,700; the BPSR, which received and processed 15 information requests and claimed to have spent N5,800; the EFCC, which received and processed 19 information requests and claimed to have spent N3,750; and the Federal University in Dutsin Ma in Katsina State, which received and processed only one application for information and claimed to have spent N1,500.