NIPC Clinches First Position in the 2021 National FOI Compliance Ranking

Emeka Offor

The Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC) has been ranked as the most compliant and transparent public institution in Nigeria for the year 2021 by a group of civil society organizations (CSO) at the third edition of the National Freedom of Information (FOI) Compliance and Transparency Ranking of Public institutions exercise. The Commission was announced the overall winner of this year’s exercise at the unveiling ceremony held at the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Conference Centre in Abuja on September 28, 2021, in commemoration of the International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI).

The ranking is geared towards ensuring accountability and transparency in public institutions by ensuring that Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of Government proactively disclose information and that citizens have prompt and unrestricted access to public information.

The organizations namely Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC), BudgIT, Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Basic Rights Watch (BRW), International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), and Right to Know (R2K) collaborated to rank public institutions based on their level of disclosure, transparency, and compliance with the Freedom of Information Act, 2011.

The ranking methodology developed by the organizations assessed public institutions for their compliance with their proactive disclosure obligations under the Act, their level of responsiveness to requests for information in terms of timeliness; the level of disclosure in terms of the completeness of the information provided to requesters; whether they conducted FOI training for their staff as mandatorily required by the Act; whether they had designated their FOI Desk Officers as required by the Act; and their level of compliance with their FOI annual reporting obligation for the year under review.

Of the 213 public institutions covering public, judicial, National Assembly and security sector institutions that were assessed and ranked, the NIPC was adjudged the winner with a total of 68.5 points. The second-place position went to the Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR) with 60.5 points, while the National Orientation Agency (NOA) scored a total of 51 points to clinch the third position.

The event was organized to coincide with the International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI) and featured a panel discussion on “The Right to Know-Building Back Better with Access to Information.” ICIR’s News Editor, Ajibiola Amazat, moderated the discussion, while the panelists comprised of the Senior Legal Officer for Africa Regional Work of the Open Society Justice Initiative, Maxwell Kadiri; Legal Officer of the Federal Ministry of Justice, Ms Mariah Obafemi; who represented the Head of FOI Unit of the Ministry, Gowon Ichibor; and Deputy Director, NIPC, Mr. Sabo Isiaku.

The Chief Operating Officer of PPDC, Ms Gift Maxwell, while delivering her opening remarks, said that the “programme was designed not to tarnish the image of any institution but to improve their level of disclosure and encourage citizen’s participation in governance.”

She added that citizens can only participate in governance when they have unrestricted access to public information, as this would help them seek accountability from public office holders.

Speaking during the unveiling of the rankings, Maxwell Kadiri said a law was as good as having the political will to implement it, noting that FOI Act still lacks a specific guide to push for its implementation and compliance by public institutions.

Kadiri said the office of the Attorney General of the Federation has been issuing guidelines on how MDAS can improve the implementation of the FOI Act, adding that in almost 10 years of the enactment of the law, institutions are not complying with guidelines on information disclosure issued by the office of the Attorney General of the Federation.

Mr. Sabo Isiaku, who received the prize on behalf of NIPC said if a facility’s executive director is committed to ensuring the disclosure of information, the organization’s staff would not have no choice but to disclose them.

He noted that in 2019 and 2020 NIPC took the second position in the ranking, adding that they were happy to clinch the first position in 2021.

“Public service rule is not a law but the FOI is a law. Civil servants are to adhere to it,” he said.