The “Implementation Assessment Tool Findings from Select Agencies: NIGERIA” report, publicly presented in Abuja on April 15, 2016 at the Implementation Assessment Tool (IAT) Multi-Stakeholder Discussion of Findings and Priority Actions, showed the dismal preparation by Nigerian public institutions to implement the FOI Act.
The research carried out by Media Rights Agenda (MRA) in collaboration with The Carter Center in the United States indicated that processes and procedures that ought to be put in place to ensure the effectiveness of FOI Act implementation and the desired outcomes were mostly lacking in the institutions assessed.
The research was carried out by assessing seven government institutions namely the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Water Resources and the National Bureau of Statistics, the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education and the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission.
The Carter Center Implementation Assessment Tool (IAT) was used beginning with the training of local access to information experts on using the IAT. These experts recorded the data into the Indaba data collection systems after concluding desk research, interviews, and on-site visits.
The research assessed the ingredients necessary to ensure the effectiveness of implementation of the FOI Act and the desired outcomes. It involved desk and field research in which a questionnaire containing 60 questions that sought to determine government functions & responsibilities in the implementation of the FOI Act in agencies’ fundamental ATI functions (overarching elements); receiving and responding to requests; proactive disclosure; and records management.
It also assessed components & elements of FOI implementation in the areas of leadership, rules, procedures, resources, monitoring and through expert opinion wildcards.
Ministries/agencies assessed were selected based on their holding information critical for fundamental human and Socio-economic rights. The research was interested in ministries and agencies that play a role in poverty reduction and in fulfillment of the Millennium Development Goals, are key in the overseeing or promoting the overall Access to Information regime, and a mix of ministries and agencies, in particular public agencies of varying size and resources.
The data inputted into the Indaba platform were reviewed by The Carter Center for completeness and consistency followed by a Blind Peer Review to validate findings by providing opinions/comments.
Thereafter the final data are analyzed and compiled for presentation. A focal group discussion reviewed country findings and provided input for the narrative included in the final report.
The final report was then presented and launched at the multi-stakeholder meeting which discussed areas of success and those that merit additional attention, it also identified priority areas for focus and produced recommendations for next steps. The meeting had over 40 participants drawn from government agencies, local and international civil society groups, academia and the media participated.
The general finding from the research showed that the agencies are institutionally not prepared to effectively implement the FOI Act. A lot of shortcomings were discovered leading to this conclusion including the following:
- None of the institutions is yet to comply with the FOI Act obligation to proactively publish certain kinds of information. The websites of these institutions do not contain the relevant information and the information available on these sites are largely obsolete
- Although some of the agencies have FOI Units or Committees, there is no division of labor among the members of the committees or members of the units. They are at best selected to represent the different departments of the agencies and not to address specific issues or special areas in the implementation of the Act.
- Training remains a weakness in the implementation of the FOI law. Other than the Ministry of Justice’s FOI unit which said it had received training locally and internationally, the rest of the agencies assessed have received only basic training on the FOI Act and its implementation.
- Only the Ministry of Justice has clearly marked and designated offices and officers for FOI Act implementation. For other agencies, FOI work is an adjunct of other departments: either media/press unit, legal department or Planning, Research and Statistics (PRS) department.
- Public institutions do not have monies allocated for the implementation of the Act in their annual budgets. What this means is that where the Act is implemented, it is only through the agencies diversion of monies budgeted for other activities or services.
Following the development of the Carter Center IAT in an expert meeting in August 2009 in Washington DC where the first framework and initial indicators were developed and an Atlanta expert meeting in November 2009 where multiple revisions of framework and draft of indicators were made with each indicator and measurement validated and pilot countries and ministries selected, the IAT undertook three pilot assessment phases with each phase adding new pilot countries to the initial ones while indicators and methodologies continued to be refined.
The application of the IAT in Nigeria falls under the fourth pilot phase of the project.