MRA Commends NIPC for ‘Initial Steps’ to Comply with FOI Proactive Disclosure Obligations

Mr Ridwan Sulaimon, Programme Manager for FO, Media Rights Agenda
Mr Ridwan Sulaimon, Programme Manager for FO, Media Rights Agenda

Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has  commended the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC) for its initial efforts at complying with its proactive disclosure obligations under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act and called on other public institutions in the country to take a cue from the Commission and follow its example.

The management of the NIPC announced on August 16, 2019 that the Commission had made proactive disclosures on its website pursuant to Freedom of Information Act and listed the categories of information it has proactively published.

In a statement signed by Mr. Ridwan Sulaimon, MRA’s Freedom of Information Programme Manager, the organisation said: “Upon an assessment of the NIPC’s website, we can confirm that in addition to the fact that it has proactively published the various categories of information announced in its statement, it has also created a portal on its website dedicated to the implementation of the FOI Act. We are greatly encouraged by the actions of the Commission in taking these commendable steps to comply with the provisions of the FOI Act in an environment characterized by widespread disregard for the Law among Government institutions and agencies.”

According to Mr. Sulaimon, “We consider compliance with proactive disclosure obligations by public institutions to be extremely important because in addition to being one of the two major ways by which the public can access information under the FOI Act, proactive disclosure helps to ensure, among other things, that there is equal access to the information for all citizens and members of the public, including those who for whatever reason may not be able to make requests for information.”

Section 2 of FOI Act, among other things, places an obligation on all public institutions in Nigeria to ensure that they record and keep information about all their activities, operations and businesses; that they organize and maintain all the information in their custody in a manner that facilitates public access to such information; and that they proactively publish certain categories of information in their custody, and that they review and update such information periodically and whenever changes occur.

In an August 16, 2019 statement, the management of the NIPC listed the categories of information it has proactively published on the Commission’s website pursuant to the FOI Act to include the NIPC Pioneer Status, Appropriation performances, and list of companies registered under the NIPC Act, court cases that the NIPC is involved in, Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) and Agreements signed by NIPC, details of all procurements done as well as summary of all FOI requests it has received and responded to over the period under review.

The Commission said it had also proactively published the NIPC’s Nominal Roll, the approved 2019 appropriation budget, the approved 2019 Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) budget as well as its procurement plan for 2019. The reports cover January to June 2019 and also provides the contact details of its FOI Desk Officer, who is responsible for receiving and responding to requests for information made by members of the public to the Commission under the FOI Act.

Mr. Sulaimon said: “We are impressed by the fact that the Commission has made these efforts to comply with the provisions of the Law voluntarily and has taken deliberate steps to ensure that members of the public are aware of the availability of these records and information on its website by making a public announcement. These are good practices and we call on all other public institutions to emulate them.”

He however reminded the Commission that it still had a lot more to do for it to ensure complete compliance with the full range of obligations placed on all public institutions covered by the FOI Act, saying “the FOI Act contains 16 categories of information that all public institutions are required to proactively publish and the NIPC’s proactive disclosure is not yet complete.”

Mr. Sulaimon added that the NIPC should also periodically review and update the information it has proactively published or whenever the need arises, ensure that relevant records, documents and information preceding January 2019 are also proactively disclosed, and provide appropriate training for its officials and employees on the FOI Act, in accordance with Section 13 of the Act, to enable the Commission more effectively implement the Act.

He noted that although the Commission has submitted its annual reports to the Attorney-General of the Federation for the years 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2018, in accordance with Section 29 of the FOI Act, it failed to submit the reports for 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2016. He therefore called on the NIPC to take urgent steps to submit the outstanding reports to the Attorney-General of the Federation and make all of them available to the public, as required by the Law.