MRA Inducts Federal Ministry of Agriculture into ‘FOI Hall of Shame’

Chief Audu Ogbeh
Chief Audu Ogbeh, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development

Lagos, Monday, October 30, 2017: Media Rights Agenda (MRA) today inducted the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) into its Freedom of Information (FOI) Hall of Shame as it indicted the institution for its failure to implement the FOI Act, 2011 and its “unjustifiable assault on the rights of citizens to demand information from public institutions.”

In a statement in Lagos announcing the selection of the Ministry as the week’s inductee into the FOI Hall of Shame, MRA’s Legal Officer, Ms Chioma Nwaodike, said the institution was not only in complete breach of all its obligations under the FOI Act, but had also exhibited an inexcusable intolerance for the rights of citizens and civic groups to hold public institutions accountable in accordance with the Law.

The Federal Ministry of Agriculture is charged with performing regulatory functions in the areas of agricultural research, agriculture and natural resources, forestry and veterinary research all over Nigeria. It is the supervisory ministry for nearly 50 Federal parastatals across the country, made up of 13 agencies, 17 agricultural research institutes; and 16 Federal Colleges of Agricultural Education.

According to Ms Nwaodike, “The question that comes to mind is how a regulatory institution, primarily funded by the Federal Government, which claims to focus on measures to maximize the full participation of stakeholders in its activities, including farmer’s associations, cooperatives, NGOs, CBOs, CSOs, development partners and the private sector, can willfully and persistently refuse to comply with its statutory duties and obligations under the FOI Act, a key instrument that can facilitate and enhance such stakeholder participation and inclusiveness.”

She observed that despite the Ministry’s admission that it is primarily funded by the Federal Government, it is not known to have responded positively to any FOI request made to it, including a number of requests by civil society organizations such as the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) and the Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC).

On the contrary Ms Nwaodike recounted, on July 24, 2016, the Ministry, through the office of its Minister, Chief Audu Ogbeh, launched an unwarranted and scathing public attack against the CSJ for exercising its rights under the FOI Act.

The CSJ had written to the Minister, Chief Audu Ogbeh, under the FOI Act, asking him to release details and a copy of a N25 billion egg production contract he signed with Tuns Farms Nigeria Limited, information on how Tuns Farms Nigeria Limited was selected for the contract, and if the contract was advertised in any newspaper in compliance with the provisions of Public Procurement Act, a request which was ignored.

Following the Minister’s refusal to respond to the request or provide the information sought by CSJ, the organization filed a suit at the Federal High Court in Abuja, in accordance with the provisions of the FOI Act, seeking to compel the Minister to provide it with the information requested.

The Minister’s office thereupon issued a statement on July 24, 2016, evidencing its contempt for the rights of citizens to seek information under the FOI Act, asking Nigerians to disregard the “outbursts of a group acting under the pretext of fighting in public interest by trying to sue the Honourable Minister.”

Describing the CSJ, which is a registered and highly respected civil society organization in Nigeria, as “the self-styled civil rights group, that addressed itself as Centre for Social Justice”, the Minister’s office said “the group, acting on mere imagination and insinuation, without any fact check, is seeking to ask the Minister to release details and copy of the N25bn contract he signed with Tuns Farms Nigeria Limited.”

For its audacity in exercising its right to seek information under the FOI Act, the Minister’s office described the CSJ as “a mechanism for distraction to bring discontent against the laudable initiative of the Honourable Minister who understands the problems of the poultry sector and has come up with a private sector-led solution to increasing egg production in Nigeria.”

Ms Nwaodike observed that over the last six years, the Ministry has failed to perform one of its key obligations under the FOI Act, which is to proactively publish information relating to the receipt or expenditure of public or other funds of the institution, information containing applications for any contracts made by or between the institution and another public institution, as well as the names, salaries, title and dates of employment of all employees and officers of the institution; and other information which it is required to disclose in accordance with Section 2 of the Act.

She also noted that “in the six years since the enactment of the FOI Act, the Ministry had failed woefully in complying with the provisions of Section 29 of the Act, which requires the Ministry, like all other public institutions, to on or before February 1 of each year, submit to the Attorney-General of the Federation a report of its implementation of the FOI Act covering the preceding fiscal year.”

According to her, “Despite the provisions of Section 13 of the FOI Act, there is also no indication that the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has at any time in the last six years provided the required training for its officials on the public’s right of access to information or to equip relevant officials with the skills to ensure the effective implementation of the Act.”

Besides, Ms Nwaodike said, the Ministry has not complied with Section 2(3)(f) of the FOI Act, which requires the agency, as a public institution, to designate an appropriate officer to whom applications for information under the Act should be sent and to proactively publish the title and address of the officer.

Launched on July 3, 2017, the FOI Hall of Shame focuses attention on public officials and institutions that are undermining the effectiveness of the FOI Act through their actions, inactions, utterances and decisions.

MRA Inducts Federal Civil Service Commission into ‘FOI Hall of Shame’

Dns. Joan Olatoyosi Ayo
Dns. Joan Olatoyosi Ayo, Chairman, Federal Civil Service Commission

Lagos, Monday, 23 October 2017: Media Rights Agenda (MRA) today inducted the Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC) into its “Freedom of Information (FOI) Hall of Shame”, accusing the Government’s oversight body for the civil service of an appalling record of non-compliance with the FOI Act.

In a statement in Lagos, MRA’s Legal Officer, Ms Morisola Alaba, catalogued a series of breaches of various provisions of the FOI Act by the Commission over the last six years that the Act has been in operation, and called on the Presidency to intervene in the matter as the Commission oversees the Government’s engine room and could hamper its ability to implement its programmes and activities or to deliver on its mandate, which include instituting transparency and accountability in government and eradicating corruption in Nigeria.

Established by Section 153(1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) as a Federal Executive Body, the Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC) is empowered to appoint persons to offices in the Federal Civil Service and to dismiss or exercise disciplinary control over persons holding such offices.

Ms Alaba said: “It is difficult to see how the Federal Civil Service Commission can, with any sort of credibility, exercise disciplinary control over persons holding offices in the Federal Civil Service for instance, for contravening extant public service rules and regulations, while the Commission itself is in violation of an existing Law such as the Freedom of Information Act.”

According to Ms Alaba, “Going by the clear and persistent disregard of the FOI Act by the Commission since the Law came into force, one can say without fear of contradiction that the claim by the Commission that its vision is to build a corps of highly focused, disciplined, committed and patriotic Civil Service totally dedicated to supporting the Government in the development of a strong, united and virile Nigeria, is untrue.”

Justifying the Commission’s induction into FOI Hall of Shame, MRA noted that since the passage of the FOI Act in 2011, the FCSC has failed to submit a single annual report to the Attorney-General of Federation, as required by section 29 (1) of the FOI Act, which has also made it impossible to determine how responsive the Commission has been to requests for information from members of the public.

It also cited the failure of the Commission to publish on its website or any other public platform the title and address of the appropriate officer to whom applications for information under the FOI Act should be made, as required by Section 2(3) (f) of the Act.

MRA noted that despite the express provisions of the Law, over the last six years since the FOI Act has been in operation, there is no indication that the commission has organized any training for its staff or officials to sensitize them on the public’s right of access to information or records held by government or to equip the relevant personnel with the knowledge and skills to effectively implement the Act, as required by Section 13.

It observed that the Commission has proactively disclosed applicable regulations and guidelines as well as the functions of each division and department of the institution on its website as required under Section 2 of the Act.

However, MRA said the Commission has consistently failed to proactively disclose information relating to the receipt or expenditure of public or other funds of the institution, information containing applications for any contracts made by or between the institution and another public institution, as well as the names, salaries, title and dates of employment of all employees and officers of the institution; and other information which it is obliged to disclose in accordance with Section 2 of the Act.

Ms Alaba noted that “It is unfortunate that the agency which oversees what is practically the engine room of the Federal Government is widely perceived as a place where irregularities and lack of due process are rife, and indeed the graveyard of so many failed governments.”

According to her, “This appalling reputation of the Federal Civil Service Commission is not helped by the recent FOI Rankings of Public Institutions in Nigeria published by the Public and Private Development Centre which indicates that the Commission is among Nigeria’s top public institutions violating the provisions of the FOI Act.”

Ms Alaba said in the light of the terrible record of the Commission, it is necessary for the Presidency to intervene in the matter because as the supervisory body for the engine room of government, the Commission is essential to the government’s ability to implement its programmes and activities as well as delivering on its mandate, including ensuring transparency and accountability in government and eradicating corruption in Nigeria.

Launched on July 3, 2017, the FOI Hall of Shame shines the spotlight on public officials and institutions that are undermining the effectiveness of the FOI Act through their actions, inactions, utterances and decisions.

Court Adjourns Ruling on Objection to MRA’s FOI Suit to November 16

Mosunmola Olanrewaju, Programme Director, Legal, MRA.
Mosunmola Olanrewaju,
Programme Director, Legal, MRA

A Lagos High Court has fixed ruling for November 16, 2017 in a preliminary objection raised by the Lagos State Ministry of Health to a suit filed against it by Media Rights Agenda (MRA) over its failure to disclose records and information requested by the organization under the Freedom of Information Act, 2011

Justice Beatrice Oke-Lawal adjourned the suit until to an unspecified date when she will deliver her ruling after lawyers to the Lagos State Ministry of Health and MRA adopted their written arguments and the processes filed before the Court on the objection.

The suit arose from a freedom of information request made by MRA in November 2016 to the Ministry of Health asking for:

• Details and copies of plans put in place to provide the Araromi Zion Estate located in Akiode Area of Ojodu LCDA with health care services;
• Details and copies of plans put in place to provide the Araromi Zion Estate with health care services taking into consideration their peculiar needs and circumstances;
• Details of any research or assessment carried out on the needs of the Estate and its residents as well as copies of relevant research or assessments report or reports;
• An outline of the timeframe for the implementation of the plans, if there are plans to provide the Estate with primary health care facilities, and
• Details of the budgets and costs estimates for the implementation of the plans, if any.

Following the failure of the Ministry to respond to MRA’s request despite a reminder issued to it, the organization filed a suit against the Ministry and the Attorney-General of Lagos State asking the Court to declare the Ministry’s refusal to provide it with the requested information wrongful and to compel the disclosure of the records and information in accordance with the FOI Act.

In its notice of preliminary objection, the Ministry argued that the court had no jurisdiction to determine the suit and asked that the suit should be struck out on the grounds that:

• The substance of MRA’s case is not constitutionally contained in the Exclusive Legislative List under the Second Schedule to the 1999 Constitution to confer exclusive power on the Federal Government to make the FOI Act for the Federation;

• MRA’s grievance is against the Lagos State Government which is not an agency of the Federal Government;

• Even if the FOI Act is applicable to Lagos State, MRA’s application for judicial review was filed out of the time stipulated under Section 20 of the Act; and

• The Ministry sued by MRA is not a juristic person who can be sued.

Responding, MRA’s lawyer, Mrs. Mosunmola Olanrewaju, argued that the issue of domestication of the FOI Act by the Lagos State House of Assembly does not arise in the case and that even where Lagos State enacts its own FOI Law, such a Law cannot be inconsistent with the FOI Act in the light of Section 4(5) of the Constitution.

She contended that there is no section of the 1999 Constitution which provides that a law enacted by the National Assembly has to be adopted by the State House of Assembly to make the Law applicable to the State and urged the court to hold that it is an anomaly to canvass that a law such as the FOI Act has to be domesticated by the States of the Federation for it to be applicable in such States.

On the ground that the suit was not filed within time, Mrs. Olanrewaju cited the provisions of Section 20 of the FOI Act, which provides that “Any applicant who has been denied access to information, or a apart thereof, may apply to the Court for a review of the matter within 30 days after the public institution denies or is deemed to have denied the application, or within such further time as the Court may either before or after the expiration of the 30 days fix or allow.”

She noted that MRA made its FOI request to the Ministry on November 4, 2016 and that after the Ministry willfully refused to make the information available to it, MRA commenced the judicial review process on December 9, 2016 and submitted that the suit was filed within the time stipulated by the FOI Act.

On the claim that the Lagos State Ministry of Health is not a person in Law, Mrs. Olanrewaju argued that by virtue of the State (Creation and Transitional Provisions) Decree No. 14 of 1967, Lagos State was created on May 27, 1967 and that the Ministry was one of the agencies that took off with the State.

She contended that the creation of Lagos State automatically conferred legal status on the Ministry and that to hold that the Ministry is not a person in Law would result in injustice against MRA, adding that to deny the Ministry capacity to exist as a legal personality would be a grave misconception.

Following the adoption of their written arguments by the lawyers to both parties, the Court adjourned the ruling on the preliminary objection to November 16, 2017.

MRA Inducts Identity Management Commission into FOI Hall of Shame

Engr. Aliyu A. Aziz
Engr. Aliyu A. Aziz, Director General/CEO, National Identity Management Commission (NIMC)

LAGOS, Monday, October 16, 2017: Media Rights Agenda (MRA) today inducted the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) into its Freedom of Information (FOI) Hall of Shame, saying it was recognizing the agency for its determined efforts to undermine the effectiveness of the FOI Act, 2011.

MRA accused the Commission of failing to comply with its duties and obligations under the FOI Act, including the most simple and straightforward aspects of the Law that do not present any implementation challenges or that would cost it nothing to comply with.

In a statement in Lagos, Mr. Ayode Longe, MRA’s Programme Director, said: “In the absence of any explanation to the contrary, it would appear that the NIMC has adopted a deliberate policy of non-compliance with the FOI Act, which really amounts to shooting itself in the foot as such an attitude robs it of the public trust and confidence that it requires to execute its mandate efficiently and effectively.”

MRA noted that the NIMC is a vital government agency, established by the NIMC Act No. 23 of 2007, to operate Nigeria’s national identity management systems, including the national identity card database, integrate the existing identity database in government institutions, register individuals and legal residents, assign a unique national identification number and introduce general multi-purpose cards.

But it stated that the Commission had failed over the years to act in accordance with the requirements of the FOI Act, including its obligation to conduct appropriate training for its officials on the public’s right of access to government-held information and equip relevant staff with the skills to effectively implement the Act as provided by Section 13 of the Act.

Mr. Longe said: “Among many other arguments which can be made, one reason why the Commission’s attitude is troubling is the fact that as an agency that collects and maintains citizens’ personal data, it owes the citizens a duty to be open and to let them know how it collects the data, what it does with the data, how it keeps them and, crucially, allow citizens access to information held about them and be able to correct their own personal data where there are errors.”

MRA also observed that over the last six years, the NIMC has not designated an officer to whom FOI requests should be sent in utter disregard of Section 2(3) (f) of the Act, while it has also never, during the same period since the coming into force of the Act, submitted a single FOI implementation report to the Attorney General of the Federation as required by Section 29 (1) (a – h) of the FOI Act and in accordance with the provisions of the Guidelines on the Implementation of the FOI Act issued by the Attorney General of the Federation.

Mr. Longe also noted that “the NIMC has not published on its website most of the categories of information it is expected to publish that will assist the public in making requests for information to the Commission. For instance, there is no information on its website about the classes of records it holds or information relating to grants or contract it had made; the list of all its staff and their salaries; information relating to the receipt or expenditure of public funds; manuals used by its employees in administering or carrying out any of its programmes or activities; documents containing substantive rules of the institution; or any list of files containing applications for contracts, permits, grants, licenses or agreements, etc. among many categories of information that the Act requires it to publish.”

MRA also questioned the Commission’s responsiveness to requests for information from the public, saying that there is also no indication that it has granted any request for information made to it.

On the contrary, it said, in September 2014, when two non-governmental organisations,  Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN) and Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC), requested from the NIMC pursuant to the FOI Act, details of the agreement between it and MasterCard leading to the use of the MasterCard logo in the National Identity Card, it took more than one month for the NIMC to respond despite reminders and when it eventually did by its letter dated October 24, 2014, it refused to disclose the information requested with a bogus national security claim.

MRA called on the NIMC to redeem its image by complying with the provisions of the FOI Act and to demonstrate that it actually holds “transparency” as one of its core values.

Launched on July 3, 2017, the FOI Hall of Shame shines the spotlight on public officials and institutions that are undermining the effectiveness of the FOI Act through their actions, inactions, utterances and decisions.  MRA’s 16-minute video documentary titled: “The Dirty Dozen” which focuses on the first 12 inductees into the FOI Hall of Shame is available for viewing on Youtube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dU7MEisRQqM.

ACHPR Invites Media Representatives to Cover 30th Anniversary Celebrations

Pansy Tlakula, Chairperson, African Commission on Human and People's Rights
Pansy Tlakula, Chairperson, African Commission on Human and People’s Rights

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) is inviting representatives of the media to cover the 30th Anniversary Celebrations of the Commission scheduled to take place in Banjul, The Gambia, on November 1 to 4, 2017.

The Commission is hosting the “30thAnniversary Celebrations: Celebrating 30 Years of the Establishment of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights’ during its 61st Ordinary Session, scheduled for November 1 to 15, 2017.

The event will bring together different human rights stakeholders, including representatives of States Parties to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, African Union (AU) organs, Regional Economic Communities (RECs),  United Nations (UN) agencies, the European Commission (EC), the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), non-governmental organizations (NGOs), National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), academics, students, religious leaders, traditional chiefs and the Media.

The overarching objective of the commemoration, according the ACHPR is to assess the significance and impact of the Commission’s work since its inception by raising awareness on its mandate, highlighting its achievements and challenges, assessing its prospects, and proposing how to move the human rights agenda forward

Other specific objectives are to:

a)assess the Commission’s work since its inception and evaluate the impact of its achievements;

b)build awareness and improve knowledge about the Commission’s mandate and work over the past 30 years;

c)contribute understanding on the achievements, challenges and perspectives of the Commission, vis-à-vis its role of implementing the rights contained in the Africa Charter;

d)provide a forum for constructive engagement between the Commission and various stakeholders working in the field of human rights;

e)Establish ways of building a more cohesive future for the Commission and reflect opportunities for the promotion and protection of human rights under the African Charter; and

f)showcase the Commission’s work through its various publications. 

More information about the event can be obtained by email: Mr. Etwell KARIKOGA at the following address: karikogae@africa-union.org copying au-banjul@africa-union.org

Government of Georgia, Mukelani Dimba Take Over Global OGP Co-Chairmanship

Mr. Mukaleni Dimba, Co-chairman Steering Committee, OGP
Mr. Mukaleni Dimba, Co-chairman Steering Committee, OGP

The Government of Georgia and Mr. Mukelani Dimba of the International School for Transparency, took over co-chairmanship of the Steering Committee of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) on October 1, 2017, expressing their “vision to get things done with the people, for the people.”

The Government of Georgia and Mr. Dimba took over the global OGP chairmanship from the Government of France and Mr. Manish Bapna of the World Resources Institute (WRI) and will lead the multi-lateral initiative as lead co-chairs until October 1, 2018.

 The incoming co-chairs are the Government of Canada and Mr. Nathaniel Heller from Results for Development (R4D), who will serve as support co-chairs until their lead co-chairmanship term begins on October 1, 2018.

As they took over the Co-chairmanship of the OGP on October 1, the Prime Minister of Georgia, Mr. Giorgi Kvirikashvili, and Mr. Dimba, issued a joint vision statement titled “Vision to get things done with the people, for the people”.

In their joint vision statement, they noted that “in these modern times, when innovation and technology have become leading pathways to success in the global economy, the definition of open governance has expanded.”

They therefore expressed their intention to dedicate their tenure to strengthening the basics of open government, to ensure peoples’ opportunity to influence governmental decisions that affect their daily lives.

Listing some of the successes of the OGP, they observed that since its inception, participating countries have translated many challenges into success stories with the result that more open data is now available for the public, access to information and traditionally closed archives are now more accessible, and beneficial ownership falls under the transparency regime.

The Co-chairs said: “we aim to remind OGP governments that they are pursuing a simple but powerful goal; to better serve and empower their citizens. Hence, closing the feedback loop in designing and implementing OGP reforms will be high in our Co-chairs’ agenda.’

They identified four strategic goals that they would pursue as Strengthening co-creation and citizen engagement; advancing transparency and the fight against corruption; generating innovation in public service delivery; and building a better partnership.

According to them, “The well-being of every citizen is the core value that led to launching the OGP more than five years ago. Civic engagement, in most cases, is key to successful identification and implementation of reforms that address the needs of the public. We will encourage the deepening of citizen-centered governance with the ultimate goal of securing life and dignity, through effective realization of socio-economic rights.’

The Co-chairs said they planned to propose concrete ways to advance reforms at the global, national and sub-national levels in transparency and anti-Corruption.

They said they will use their co-chair term to introduce innovative approaches and methodologies to OGP countries to take the public service delivery to a new level and ensure its efficiency; share a unique practice of joining government and private sector efforts in delivering various services; introduce innovative solutions to closing the feedback loop and hearing each citizen’s voice to improve public service delivery; and encourage OGP participating countries to link the OGP to the SDG Agenda by encouraging the development of national action plan commitments that relate to realization of better outcomes in governance, access to justice and socio-economic rights.

The Co-chairs pledged to “prioritize inviting new civil society organization and multilateral partners to our community to ensure that OGP becomes an indivisible part of the global CSO agenda. Our priorities include to establish a deeper partnership with the European Union, as well as agencies of the African Union. We aim to join our efforts to assist governments and civil society, especially from the countries that might not have sufficient resources to take and then implement ambitious commitments.”

State Revenue Service Shuts Down Radio Station over Alleged Tax Default

Ishaq Modibbo- Kawu, Director-General, National Broadcasting Commission (NBC)
Ishaq Modibbo- Kawu, Director-General, National Broadcasting Commission (NBC)

On September 28, 2017, the Edo State Internal Revenue Service (EIRS) shut down the operations of the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) in Benin popularly called Bronze FM for alleged tax indebtedness to the tune of N6.7 million.

As a result, services of the Station were grounded and workers left stranded and also resulting in the loss of its clientele and revenue apart from the sponsored programmes and adverts that have been paid for.

Shedding light on the issue, Mr. Charity Amayaenvbo, Executive Director of Income Tax at the EIRS explained that the station was rightly shut down by a court order to enforce the payment of the outstanding tax obligations. According to him the state agency does not have the intention of the reopening the Station until the unpaid remittances of income taxes spanning two years by the radio station are defrayed.

Clarifying the issues, Mr. Amayaenvbo said the N6,7M represented the income tax  calculated at N2,583,344.60 for 2011, including an interest of N443,000 at 21 per cent, and N4,185,912.17 for 2012, which also included interest and a penalty of over N800,000.

However, a staff of the Station described the sum claimed by the revenue service agency as doubtful and outrageous, in his words “The figures are doubtful and outrageous because even if the station has 200 personnel, which is not even up to that, that means one person will be paying over N50,000 as tax.

The source stated that the payment of taxes had been regular ever since workers’ salaries were paid through the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Integrated System by the Federal Ministry of Finance in May, 2012.

The worker argued that the Benin station had few employees since it commenced operation on December 25, 2010.

Meetings are however being organized to ensure that normalcy is restored and so that the station can return to air.

Nigerians Say Information is Important but Ignorant of FOI Act

Mr. Ayode Longe, Director of Programmes, Media Rights Agenda
Mr. Ayode Longe, Director of Programmes, Media Rights Agenda

The ordinary Nigeria believes that information is very important for many reasons but most of them are vastly unaware of the existence  the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act and how to use it. In addition, not all of them are ready or willing to use the FOI Act even after knowing the potentials it holds.

These were the findings of a video interview of six Nigerian citizens that personnel of Media Rights Agenda (MRA) interviewed in commemoration of the International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI).

As part of activities to mark the IDUAI, MRA personnel went to the streets of Lagos to gauge the level of understanding of ordinary citizens about information generally, if they know about the FOI Act, and to know what categories of information they are most likely to ask of government.

The respondents said information is important in every field of life and for a number of reasons including for making decisions, getting directions and planning

In addition to agreeing that information is important, none of them had ever requested for information from government. All of those interviewed said they had never requested information from government and also did not know how to get information from the government if they need information.

Asked what type of information they would request from government institution if they were to do so, they said they would request for information pertaining to the economic recession, social amenities including education, electricity, roads, water, health etc.

The interview sessions also gave MRA staff who were involved in the project to enlighten as many of the respondents as said that they do not know what the FOI Act is.

Respondents were varied and included students, business men and women, professionals, traders and artisans. MRA staff also used the opportunity to distribute copies of the FOI Act and other information education and communication (IEC) materials to the respondednts.

Volkswagen Foundation Offers Travel Grants for Young Researchers

Dr. Wilhelm Krull, Secretary General, Volkswagen Foundation
Dr. Wilhelm Krull, Secretary General, Volkswagen Foundation

The Volkswagen Foundation offers travel grants for PhD students or early postdoctoral degree carrying out research work on challenging projects with regard to chances and risks of transparency in different international fields of politics, economy and civil society.

Applicants can win one of 25 grants to take part in the Herrenhausen Conference on “Transparency and Society” in Berlin, Germany. Herrenhausen Conference is aimed at promoting a deeper understanding of transparency and identifying approaches to handle the different and diverging demands and expectations on transparency within society.

Selected applicants will get the chance to present research in a 3 minute lightning-talk and during several poster sessions. The grants include travel expenses to and from Berlin, visa fees (if applicable), as well as accommodation in Berlin.

Interested applicants should send a short description of their research focus that explains how their approach contributes to exploring the role and function of transparency in the development and transformation of modern societies (maximum of 1,000 characters).

Applicants should send an abstract of research project (maximum of ,3000 characters) with research question, research method, rough time table, results and outlook as well as naming their research institutions, research partners and thesis advisors. They should also send a short curriculum vitae (maximum of 1,000 characters) and a short list of their most recent publications (maximum of 5)

Application closes on October 31, 2017.

For more information, visit https://form.jotformeu.com/62013165195349 

NCAA Responds to FOI Request after FOI Hall of Shame Induction

Captain Muhtar Shaibu Usman, Director General, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA)
Captain Muhtar Shaibu Usman, Director General, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA)

The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), appears to be turning a new leaf as it granted an FOI request made by a firm of consumer rights legal practitioners based in Lagos days after it was inducted into the FOI Hall of Shame.

The law firm through its Principal, Mr. Olumide Babalola requested NCAA to provide it with a list of names of all licenced travel agents in Nigeria; he said the information was being requested to safeguard Nigerians from falling victims of any fraudulent person or body parading itself as a licenced travel agent as well as to sanitize the aviation industry.

Responding nine days after the receipt of the request for information, NCAA sent the firm a list of a hundred and fifty (150) travel agents registered with it.

The law firm had however in its letter requesting for information notified NCAA of its intention to sue the institution by asking the court for declaratory relief for refusal, order of mandamus compelling it to provide the information as well as the cost of the suit should it fail to provide the information requested from it.

The request for information was based on the provisions of sections 1, 2, 3 and 20 of the Freedom of Information Act.