Out of over 500 public institutions which draw on the nation’s annual budgets and which are covered by the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, 2011, only 73 submitted their annual FOI implementation reports for the fiscal year 2021, recording yet another year of poor compliance by Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government covered by the Act.
This was disclosed by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN) in his consolidated FOI Act Implementation Report for the Fiscal Year 2020 submitted by some public institutions which he submitted to the FOI Committees of the two Chambers of the National Assembly in fulfillment of his obligation in the FOI Act.
Section 29(1) of the FOI Act requires all Public Institutions to submit to the Attorney-General of the Federation on or before February 1 of each year, a Report containing among other details, the number of FOI requests received by Public Institution; the number of determinations made by it; the number of appeals made by persons under the Act; the total amount of fees collected and the extent of manpower committed to the task of processing requests under the Act.
Section 29(7) and (8) requires the Attorney General of the Federation to submit to the National Assembly an annual report of the implementation by public institutions on or before April 1 of each year.
In the report, the Attorney General of the Federation disclosed that pursuant to the UNESCO’s General Conference Resolution dated November 17, 2015 declaring September 28 every year as the International Day for Universal Access to Information, his Ministry, in conjunction with the House of Representatives Committee on FOI (Reforms of Government Institutions) and a host of Civil Society Organizations’ participated at the 2020 Access to Information day which had the theme: Access to Information- Saving Lives, Building Trust, Bringing Hope at the Olusegun Obasanjo Auditorium, Federal Ministry of Justice, Headquarters, Abuja on September 28, 2020.
He also listed other activities carried out by the Ministry of Justice in fulfillment of its oversight role of the FOI Act.
The number of public institutions that submitted their annual implementation reports for the 2020 fiscal year represents a decline from the rising numbers of public institutions that have been submitting their reports annually.
May 28, 2021 marked the 10th anniversary of the signing of the FOI Bill into law by the then President Goodluck Jonathan.
A total of 89 public institutions submitted their reports covering the 2019 fiscal year. The total submitted this year coincided with the number submitted for the 2017 fiscal year.
The following figures show the number of public institutions that submitted their annual implementation reports from for the other nine years.
- 16 Public Institutions for 2011 fiscal year
- 32 Public Institutions for 2012 fiscal year
- 51 Public Institutions for 2013 fiscal year
- 60 Public Institutions for 2014 fiscal year
- 44 Public Institutions for 2015 fiscal year
- 54 Public Institutions for 2016 fiscal year
- 73 Public Institutions for 2017 fiscal year
- 70 Public Institutions for 2018 fiscal year
- 89 Public Institutions for 2019 fiscal year
The report shows that of the 73 public institutions that submitted their annual implementation reports, 50 public institutions processed requests/applications in the fiscal year 2020 while 23 others made nil submissions indication that members of the public did not send any FOI request from them.
It also contained the number of FOI requests that public institutions received, the number that were granted, the amount it cost to process the requests, the number of FOI requests that were denied and those that went to court among others.
The office of the Attorney General of the Federation has been consistent in collating, analysing and publishing the annual FOI Act implementation reports since the Act came into existence.