Reports from two different research surveys carried out by the Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC) and Right to Know (R2K) Nigeria show that Nigerian public institutions have failed to comply with their obligations set out in the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.
These reports have shown that public institutions have particularly failed to comply with the obligation to proactively publish certain kinds of information. Findings from the two surveys show that no Nigerian public institution has proactively published any information required of them by the FOI Act.
On September 28, 2015 in commemoration of the International Right to Know Day, PPDC launched its report of its findings of the FOI Compliance Ranking across 116 Public Institutions and 14 Security sector institutions in Nigeria.
PPDC based the rankings on levels of access to procurement related information across these institutions. In addition to the general ranking of 116 public institutions, it also ranked the security sector exclusively to compare levels of access within the sector.
It ranked the selected public institutions based on benchmarks for disclosure within the Nigerian Freedom of Information Act, 2011 specifically, proactive disclosure and responsiveness to requests for information and levels of disclosure to requests for information.
On proactive disclosure, PPDC ranked the institutions based on information on the procurement plans and capital expenditure of the selected public institutions found on their websites.
The report says all the public institutions failed because they did not comply with respect to proactive disclosure because no information on their procurement plans and capital expenditure, was proactively published.
On responsiveness to requests for information the report says, only 10 institutions responded to the requests within seven days; seven others responded between eight to 14 days; 28 institutions took between 15 and 90 days to respond while 70 institutions, including the office of the former president, Goodluck Jonathan; the Federal Ministry of Information; and National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, etc. did not respond at all to requests for information.
In the rankings of the Security Sector, only the Ministry of Defence and the Nigerian Navy disclosed partial procurement information requested from them. In responsiveness to requests, only five institutions responded to the FOI Requests with the National Defence College responding within seven days; the Ministry of Defense and the Office of the National Security Adviser responding within eight and 14 days.
The R2K Nigeria report also released to mark the Right to Know day similarly shows that none of the 39 government institutions assessed complied with the obligation to proactively disclose information.
The report cited the judiciary as topping the list of government institutions that have consistently refused to implement the provisions of the FOI Act.
Mrs. Ene Nwankpa, National Coordinator of R2K Nigeria said the average standard of disclosure by the surveyed institutions is limited to basic information about their structure and general functions, which fall far below the requirements of the Act.
Mrs. Nwankpa added that “Furthermore, the statutorily recommended methods for disclosure were underutilised, websites are cumbersome to navigate, and have outdated information. No website has a designated FOI portal or information schedule that would facilitate ease of accessing and understanding information”
The report also indicted public institutions of lacking cohesive, organised and electronic document management system and inadequate intra-institutional information sharing practices which pose the biggest obstacle to providing information, both proactively and in response to information requests.
It found most institutions do not have functioning FOI units or desk officers, and staff and officers of these institutions do not have the requisite training to ensure successful implementation.
R2K Nigeria called on the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation to develop sector-wide guidelines and template for proactive disclosure in compliance with the FOI Act, akin to its 2013 Guidelines on FOI implementation generally.