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Media Rights Agenda » FOI Hall of Shame http://mediarightsagenda.net/web Mon, 09 Nov 2020 12:18:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.32 MRA Inducts Federal Ministry of Information into ‘Enhanced FOI Hall of Shame’, Pledges Legal Action Against It http://mediarightsagenda.net/web/mra-inducts-federal-ministry-of-information-into-enhanced-foi-hall-of-shame-pledges-legal-action-against-it/ http://mediarightsagenda.net/web/mra-inducts-federal-ministry-of-information-into-enhanced-foi-hall-of-shame-pledges-legal-action-against-it/#comments Wed, 01 Apr 2020 09:45:10 +0000 http://mediarightsagenda.net/web/?p=14418 Alhaji Lai Mohammed
Alhaji Lai Mohammed,
Minister of Information and Culture

Lagos, Wednesday, April 1, 2020: Media Rights Agenda (MRA) today inducted the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture into its Enhanced Freedom of Information (FOI) Hall of Shame for its “scandalous failure” to implement the FOI Act, 2011 over the last nine years and vowed to take legal action against the ministry to compel it to comply with the provisions of the Law.

In a statement issued in Lagos, MRA described as a national embarrassment the inability of the Ministry charged with leading and coordinating the country’s public communications to put in place the most basic institutional structures and mechanisms for providing members of the public with information, as required by the FOI Act.

MRA’s Programme Director, Mr. Ayode Longe, said in the statement:  “Whether motivated by an arrogant disregard for the FOI Act, institution-wide ignorance or sheer incompetence, this scandalous failure or inability of the Ministry to comply with its duties and obligations under the Act over the last nine years has further served to rob it of essential credibility in speaking on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria or in leading and coordinating its public communications.”

Mr. Longe explained that the Ministry was inducted into the Enhanced FOI Hall of Shame for a long list of transgressions under the FOI Act, including failing to publish the title and contact details of an appropriate official to receive requests for information from members of the public,  as required by the FOI Act and the Implementation Guidelines issued by the Attorney-General of the Federation; and refusing to perform its proactive publications obligations under Section 2(3), (4) and (5) of the FOI Act.

According to him, other acts of non-compliance by the Ministry include failing to provide appropriate training for its officials on the public’s right of access to information held by the Ministry to ensure the effective implementation of the Act as required by Section 13 of the Act; refusing to disclose information to members of the public seeking information from it under the FOI Act; and persistently failing to submit its annual reports on its implementation of the Act to the Attorney-General of the Federation as required by Section 29 of the Act and the  Attorney-General’s FOI Implementation Guidelines.

Citing the Ministry’s statement on its website, which spells out its mandate as: “Management of the image, reputation and the promotion of the culture of the people and Government of Nigeria through a dynamic public information system that facilitates access by the citizens and the global community to credible and timely information about our nation,” Mr. Longe described its performance of these tasks as a woeful failure.

He said: “It is ironic that the Ministry, which describes itself as the Federal outfit responsible for the dissemination of essential and vital information which will enhance and facilitate democratic governance of Nigeria, is unable to publish and disseminate information about itself and its activities, which the FOI Act mandates it to publish and which should have contributed to advancing the fulfillment of its mandate.

Elaborating, Mr. Longe said of the 16 categories of information that the FOI Act in Section 2(3) and (4) requires all public institutions to proactively publish and disseminate, the Ministry has only complied with one of these categories by publishing on its website, the list, description and responsibilities of its departments.

He noted that Section 29 (1) and (2) of the FOI Act obligates the Ministry to submit to the Attorney-General of the Federation its annual implementation report of the Act on or before February 1 of each year, observing that “for the past nine years since the Act was enacted, available records show that the Ministry has submitted just one report, for 2012. Thereafter, it has neither submitted any implementation report nor has it published and made any such report available to the public.”

Mr. Longe said MRA was not aware of any single request for information that the Ministry has granted over the last nine years, and that on the contrary, several applications to it for information have simply been ignored, contrary to the provisions of section 4(b) of the Act, which makes it mandatory for a public institution to give a written notice to an applicant for information if it intends to deny access to all or part of the information requested with reasons for the denial.

He said although the Ministry has apparently designated an FOI Desk Officer to whom applications for information under the Act should be sent, it has however not published the title and address of the officer, as required by Section 2(3)(f) of the Act.

According to him, there is also no indication that the Ministry has provided appropriate training for its officials on the public’s right of access to information and for the effective implementation of the Act, as it is obliged to do under Section 13 of the FOI Act.

Mr. Longe described the Ministry’s performance of its duties and obligations under the FOI Act as appalling and pledged that MRA would institute legal proceedings against the Ministry in the appropriate court to compel it to implement the Act.

 

For further information, please contact:

Idowu Adewale
Communications Officer
Media Rights Agenda, Lagos
E-mail: idowu@mediarightsagenda.org

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National Commission for Adult Education Inducted into FOI Hall of Shame, to Face Litigation http://mediarightsagenda.net/web/national-commission-for-adult-education-inducted-into-foi-hall-of-shame-to-face-litigation-2/ http://mediarightsagenda.net/web/national-commission-for-adult-education-inducted-into-foi-hall-of-shame-to-face-litigation-2/#comments Mon, 02 Mar 2020 10:56:57 +0000 http://mediarightsagenda.net/web/?p=14261 Mallam Adamu Adamu
Mal. Adamu Adamu,
Honourable Minister of Education

LAGOS, Monday, March 2, 2020: The National Commission for Mass Literacy, Adult and Non-Formal Education (NMEC) today joined the league of errant public institutions inducted into the “Enhanced Freedom of Information (FOI) Hall of Shame” and will now face litigation aimed at compelling it to perform its statutory duties, according to Media Rights Agenda (MRA), which upbraided the Commission for failing to perform its obligations under the FOI Act.

In a statement in Lagos announcing the induction of NMEC into the Hall of Shame, MRA’s Project Director, Mr. Segun Fatuase, described as unfortunate the fact that the institution failed to appreciate the correlation between its principal mandate of eradicating illiteracy and the objectives of the FOI Act, which in part are to facilitate the free flow of information and eliminate ignorance.

He said: “The disposition of the Commission towards the FOI Act has been an unfortunate one, which unwittingly undermines its mandate of eradicating illiteracy to enhance national development. This stance also negates both the requirements of the Law and the expectations of citizens that their public institutions would implement laws and comply with the express provisions of the Law, in accordance with the principles of the rule of law.”

NMEC was established by Law in 1990 as a Federal Government parastatal tasked with making educational opportunities available to nomadic illiterate people, out-of-school youths (Almajiris), street children, women in purdah, migrant fishing folk as well as victims of teenage motherhood, among other disadvantaged people in the society. It was set up to monitor and standardize the implementation of mass literacy delivery in Nigeria.

Mr. Fatuase contended that as an agency that receives funding from the federal budget, local government councils as well as other sundry sources, NMEC has a duty to be transparent and accountable as well as to operate in strict compliance with its duties and obligations under the FOI Act.

He noted that although it is almost nine years since the enactment of the FOI Act into Law in 2011, NMEC has not submitted any implementation report to the Attorney General of the Federation, when it should by now have submitted nine annual reports, as required by Section 29 of the FOI Act.

According to him, “Such level of impunity, as exhibited by NMEC, which has failed in the last nine years to submit even a single annual implementation report to the Attorney-General of the Federation in blatant violation of the mandatory provisions of the FOI Act, should not be tolerated in any decent society. The conspicuous absence of NMEC in the list of public institutions that have submitted Annual Compliance Reports since the enactment of the Act only goes to show the levity that has characterized the attitude of the Commission towards to the implementation of the Act.”

Mr. Fatuase also pointed out the failure of NMEC to proactively publish the 16 categories of information that Section 2(3) and (4) of the FOI Act requires all public institutions, including the Commission, to proactively publish, even without anyone making a formal application for the information, saying it was further evidence of its total disregard for the Law.

In addition, he said, NMEC has not designated an FOI Desk Officer to whom requests for information should be sent by members of the public, as required by the FOI Act and the Implementation Guidelines for the FOI Act issued by the Attorney-General of the Federation.

Mr. Fatuase argued that this was evident from the fact that the database of FOI Desk Officers for public institutions maintained by the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, which has oversight responsibility for the implementation of the FOI Act, does not contain information about any such official of the Commission.

Noting that NMEC does not have a website of its own, besides the webpage dedicated to it on the website of the Federal Ministry of Education, its supervisory ministry, he said: “It is inexcusable that an agency like NMEC, which is expected to play a pivotal role in ending illiteracy in the Nigerian society and whose impact cuts across all sectors, does not have a website of its own. It is quite shocking that an institution whose primary function is in the field of information and knowledge sharing has no platform to which the public can turn for information about the organisation or its activities.”

Mr. Fatuase said since the relevant authorities have failed to act to ensure respect for and the full implementation of the FOI Act, MRA has taken it upon itself to use the judicial process to enforce the provisions of the Act. He said MRA would be taking legal action against NMEC to compel it to comply with its duties and obligations under the Act.

 

For further information, please contact:

Idowu Adewale
Communications Officer
Media Rights Agenda
Email: idowu@mediarightsagenda.org

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MRA Inducts Science and Technology Ministry into its ‘Enhanced FOI Hall of Shame’, Vows Legal Action http://mediarightsagenda.net/web/mra-inducts-science-and-tecmra-inducts-science-and-technology-ministry-into-its-enhanced-foi-hall-of-shame-vows-legal-actionhnology-ministry-into-its-enhanced-foi-hall-of-s/ http://mediarightsagenda.net/web/mra-inducts-science-and-tecmra-inducts-science-and-technology-ministry-into-its-enhanced-foi-hall-of-shame-vows-legal-actionhnology-ministry-into-its-enhanced-foi-hall-of-s/#comments Mon, 03 Feb 2020 11:11:32 +0000 http://mediarightsagenda.net/web/?p=14039 Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, Honourable Minister of Ministry of Science and Technology
Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, Honourable Minister of Ministry of Science and Technology

Lagos, Monday, February 3, 2020: Media Rights Agenda (MRA) today inducted the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology into its “Enhanced Freedom of Information (FOI) Hall of Shame” citing several instances of the Ministry’s failure to comply with the provisions of the FOI Act since its enactment in 2011.

Announcing the induction in a statement in Lagos, MRA’s Legal Officer, Ms Morisola Alaba, noted that the Ministry had previously been inducted into the FOI Hall of Shame on June 11, 2018 but had made no effort to redeem itself since then as it has continued to show utter disregard for its duties and obligations under the FOI Act.

Ms Alaba said given the Ministry’s disappointing track record of compliance with the FOI Act, MRA has decided to take legal action against the institution to compel it to fully implement the Act and comply with all its obligations.

Observing that the Ministry has the responsibility to facilitate the development and deployment of science, technology and innovation to enhance the pace of socio-economic development in the country, she contended that it had failed woefully in its mandate, in part by not proactively publishing and disseminating information, as required by the FOI Act, which would in turn have helped the institution in its task of spreading information and knowledge

Ms Alaba emphasized that information and knowledge are the foundation for progress in any society, adding: “We are astounded that a Ministry of Science and Technology with a mandate to facilitate the deployment of science, technology and innovation to enhance socio-economic development would systematically deny citizens access to information that could help them make informed decisions that would positively impact their lives, including information relating to the services of the Ministry.”

According to her, “The action of the Ministry of Science and Technology is all the more worrying as this systematic denial of information to citizens is in direct violation of a valid law which imposes clear and specific responsibilities on the Ministry and which it is under a legal obligation to implement and comply with.”

Ms Alaba noted that the only FOI relevant information published by the Ministry on its website are descriptions of its departments and units and their responsibilities, including details of the programmes and functions of each of them.

However, she said, the Ministry has failed to publish most of the 16 categories of information that the FOI Act requires it to proactively publish, even without anyone making a formal application for the information.

In addition, Ms Alaba observed that the Database of FOI Desk Officers available at the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, who has oversight responsibility for the implementation of the FOI Act, shows that the Ministry of Science and Technology has not designated an official to whom requests for information should be made and has not published the name of any such official as required by Section 2(3) (f) of the Act and as directed by the Attorney-General of the Federation in his Implementation Guidelines.

According to her, over the past nine years since the enactment of the FOI Act, the Ministry has not submitted a single annual report on its implementation of the FOI Act to the Attorney-General of the Federation, which is a mandatory requirement under section 29 of the Act as well as the Guidelines for the Implementation of the FOI Act, issued by the Attorney-General of the Federation pursuant to the powers conferred on him by the Act.

Ms Alaba stressed that: “When you consider that the Ministry should by February 1, 2020 have submitted nine annual reports to the Attorney-General of the Federation, the fact that it has not submitted any report in nine years is evidence of an arrogant disregard for the Law in the belief that there will be no consequence.  Such impunity is inexcusable and should not be countenanced.”

 Similarly, she said, “there is also no indication whatsoever that the Ministry has provided the appropriate training for its officials on the public’s right of access to information or records held by it or that it had trained them to effectively implement the Act, as it is required to do by section 13 of the FOI Act.”

Ms Alaba insisted that in the light of these breaches of the provisions of the FOI Act and the apparent reluctance of the Ministry to fulfill its obligations under the Act, MRA would be filing a lawsuit against it to check its unrepentant violation of the Law and compel it to fulfill its duties and obligations under the FOI Act.

 

For further information, please contact:

Idowu Adewale
Communications Officer
Media Rights Agenda
Email: idowu@mediarightsagenda.org

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MRA Inducts NHIS into its Enhanced ‘FOI Hall of Shame,’ for Breach of FOI Act http://mediarightsagenda.net/web/mra-inducts-nhis-into-its-enhanced-foi-hall-of-shame-for-breach-of-foi-act/ http://mediarightsagenda.net/web/mra-inducts-nhis-into-its-enhanced-foi-hall-of-shame-for-breach-of-foi-act/#comments Mon, 06 Jan 2020 13:24:54 +0000 http://mediarightsagenda.net/web/?p=13872 Prof. Muhammed Sambo, Executive Secretary/ Chief Executive Officer, National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS)
Prof. Muhammed Sambo, Executive Secretary/ Chief Executive Officer, National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS)

Lagos, Monday, 6 January 2020:  Media Rights Agenda (MRA) today inducted the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) into its “Enhanced Freedom of Information Hall of Shame” for the agency’s dismal performance in the implementation of the FOI Act and pledged to take legal action against the institution to compel it to comply with its obligations under the Act.

In a statement in Lagos, MRA’s Programme Officer, Mr. John Gbadamosi, said as an agency established by the Federal Government to regulate health insurance and provide easy access to healthcare for all Nigerians through various prepayment systems, the NHIS had apparently chosen to take a back seat in the implementation of the FOI Act and had accordingly failed to comply with most of its duties and obligations under the Act, resulting in unwarranted secrecy over many aspects of its operations.

The NHIS was established by the National Health Insurance Scheme Act 35 of 1999, with the objectives of ensuring easy access to healthcare services for every Nigerian and protecting Nigerian families from financial hardship in the form of huge medical bills; ensuring universal health coverage in Nigeria as well as regulating and managing all stakeholders of the scheme.

According to Mr. Gbadamosi, “Being an agency responsible for the provision of critical public services to citizens, the NHIS should be open and transparent by default so that those it is intended to serve will know what services it provides, how they can access those services, the costs at which the services are provided and other such information that will enhance its operations and the delivery of its mandate to the Nigerian public.”

He said:  “It is totally unacceptable that the NHIS, particularly given its public service delivery mandate, would deliberately disregard a Law validly enacted by the National Assembly to ensure that it is transparent in its business, operations and activities and accountable to the Nigerian public which it is supposed to serve,” adding that “the situation is now extremely concerning in the light of the fact that the agency’s conduct had been transformed into one of lawlessness as it has continued to undermine the provisions of the law for nearly a decade.”

Mr. Gbadamosi noted that the NHIS has ignored its proactive publications obligations under Section 2 of the FOI Act, which requires all public institutions covered by the Act to publish and periodically update certain categories of information, for the nine years that the Law has been in existence. He added that besides the fact that the agency’s website does not contain the categories of information that it is required to proactively publish, it makes no reference to the FOI Act in any context.

In addition, he said, the NHIS has failed to comply with the provisions of Section 13 of the Act, which requires it to ensure the provision of appropriate training for its staff and officials to sensitize them on the public’s right of access to information and records held by it and to enable them to effectively implement the Act.

Mr. Gbadamoinoted that there was no indication that the NHIS had provided any such training for its personnel and officials over the last nine years.

He also accused the NHIS of being in breach of Section 2(3)(f) of the Act which requires it to proactively publish the title and address of the appropriate officer to whom applications for information under the Act should be made by members of the public, adding that this stipulation is also contained in the Implementation Guidelines for the FOI Act issued by the Attorney-General of the Federation to assist all public institutions in their implementation of the Act.

Mr. Gbadamosi stressed that records available from the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation show that since the FOI Act was enacted in 2011, the NHIS has not submitted any annual report on its implementation of the FOI Act to the Attorney-General of the Federation as required by Section 29 of the Act, when its ninth report is due in less than four weeks.

Observing that the NHIS was first inducted into the FOI Hall of Shame on November 6, 2017, he said it was regrettable that more than two years later, the agency had shown no sign that it is willing to mend its ways as it has continued to conduct its activities in secrecy in total disregard for the Law.

Mr. Gbadamosi said MRA had no choice but to take legal action against the NHIS to compel it to perform its statutory obligations and tow the path of law and order.

For further information, please contact:

Idowu Adewale
Media Rights Agenda
Email: idowu@mediarightsagenda.org

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MRA Inducts NDLEA into ‘Enhanced FOI Hall of Shame’, for Non-Compliance with FOI Act http://mediarightsagenda.net/web/mra-inducts-ndlea-into-enhanced-foi-hall-of-shame-for-non-compliance-with-foi-act/ http://mediarightsagenda.net/web/mra-inducts-ndlea-into-enhanced-foi-hall-of-shame-for-non-compliance-with-foi-act/#comments Tue, 03 Dec 2019 09:32:15 +0000 http://mediarightsagenda.net/web/?p=13759 Col. Muhammad Mustapha Abdallah (Rtd.) Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA)
Col. Muhammad Mustapha Abdallah (Rtd.) Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA)

Lagos: Tuesday, December 3, 2019: Media Rights Agenda (MRA) today inducted the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) into its “Enhanced Freedom of Information (FOI) Hall of Shame”, saying its attitude towards the FOI Act smacked of arrogance and lawlessness as it has consistently refused to comply with the Act. MRA said it would take legal action against the agency to compel it to comply with its obligations under the Act.

In a statement in Lagos, MRA’s Programme Director, Mr. Ayode Longe, said: “It is really quite surprising that the NDLEA, an agency established by Law and given specific responsibilities and powers by the same Act of Parliament,would deliberately decide to disregard another Law validly made by the National Assembly, without recognizing that in so doing, it is in fact depriving itself of the moral right and authority to enforce its own enabling law.”

The NDLEAis tasked with coordinating all drug laws and enforcement functions conferred on any person or authority, including Ministers in the Government of the Federation; enhancing the effectiveness of law enforcement to suppress illicit traffic in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances; strengthening and enhancing effective legal means for international cooperation in criminal matters for suppressing the international activities of illicit traffic in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances; and strengthening co-operation with the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, the police force, customs agencies, immigration agencies, welfare officials, health officials and other law enforcement agencies in the eradication of illicit traffic in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.

Noting that these are enormous responsibilities placed on the agency by the same type of instrument that is the foundation of the FOI Act, Mr. Longe contended that by treating the Act with disdain and refusing to implement it, the NDLEA was in effect contesting the authority of the Federal Government, including the National Assembly and the President, to make such a Law in total ignorance of the fact that is own existence and legitimacy is dependent on upholding and vindicating the authority of the Government.

He outlined the failings of the agency regarding the implementation of the FOI Act, observing that in total disregard of the mandatory provisions of section 29 of the Act, the agency had neglected to submit to the Attorney-General of the Federation, seven annual reports on its implementation of the Act and make the reports available to the public by different means, as required by the Act.

According to Mr. Longe, between 2011 and 2019, the NDLEA has submitted only one report to the Attorney-General of the Federation for the year 2012, out of the eight reports that it ought to have submitted as at February 1, 2019.

Besides, he said, although Section 13 of the Act requires every public institution to which it applies to ensure the provision of appropriate training for its officials on the public’s right of access to information and records held by it for the effective implementation of the Act, the NDLEA has, for all the eight years that the Act has been in existence failed to comply with this provision.

Mr. Longe noted that that there is no information on the NDLEA’s website or anywhere else about whom has designated as its FOI Desk Officer, as required by the FOI Act while the list of FOI Desk Officers and their contact details for various federal public institutions, compiled by the Attorney General of the Federation, also does not include any official from the NDLEA.

He said the NDLEA had failed to designate such an FOI Desk Officer despite repeated requests and reminders from the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation to all public institutions for them to appoint such officials and send their names and contact details to the office.

Mr. Longe explained that there are 16 types of information that section 2(3)(a-f) and (4) of the FOI Act requires every public institution to publish proactively and disseminate widely even without anyone applying for such information. But he said the NDLEA has only published one of these categories of information on its website, leaving 15 others unpublished.

According to him, the only class of records that the NDLEA has proactively published is the descriptions of the agency and its responsibilities, including details of the programmes and functions of each of its directorates as well as the addresses of its commands in the 36 states of the federation.

Mr. Longe stressed that the NDLEA had failed to publish a list of all classes of records under its control;a list of manuals used by its employees; documents containing its substantive rules;a list of materials containing information relating to any grant or contract made by or between the NDLEA and any other public institution or private organization; documents containing information relating to its receipt or expenditure of funds, which are among the categories of information that the FOI requires all public institutions, including the NDLEA, to proactively publish and disseminate widely.

He recalled that on October 2, 2018, the same NDLEA was inducted into MRA’s FOI Hall of Shame for these acts of non-compliance with the FOI Act, noting that the agency had nonetheless made no effort to correct these lapses or take necessary steps to enable it comply with its obligations under the Law.

For further information, please contact:

Idowu Adewale
Communications Officer
Media Rights Agenda, Lagos
E-mail: idowu@mediarightsagenda.org

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MRA Inducts Federal Civil Service Commission into its Enhanced ‘FOI Hall of Shame’ http://mediarightsagenda.net/web/mra-inducts-federal-civil-service-commission-into-its-enhanced-foi-hall-of-shame/ http://mediarightsagenda.net/web/mra-inducts-federal-civil-service-commission-into-its-enhanced-foi-hall-of-shame/#comments Mon, 04 Nov 2019 09:06:19 +0000 http://mediarightsagenda.net/web/?p=13598 Dr. Folasade Yemi-Esan Ag. Head of the Civil Service of the Federation
Dr. Folasade Yemi-Esan
Ag. Head of the Civil Service of the Federation

Lagos, Monday, November 4, 2019: Media Rights Agenda (MRA) today inducted the Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC) into its enhanced Freedom of Information (FOI) Hall of Shame and promised to take legal action against the Commission for its blatant disregard of its obligations under the FOI Act in violation of the rights of the public to information.

In a statement issued in Lagos by its FOI Programme Manager, Mr. Ridwan Sulaimon, MRA said despite its responsibility of overseeing a huge federal civil service, the Commission has ignored virtually all its duties as a public institution as defined by the FOI Act, thereby consistently sending a wrong signal to other public institutions under its supervision with the result that, unsurprisingly,  many of those public institutions and their officials have themselves repeatedly violated the provisions of the Act.

Noting that the Commission was established by section 153(1) of the 1999 Constitution(as amended) as a federal executive body empowered to appoint persons to offices in the federal civil service and to dismiss or exercise disciplinary control over persons holding such office, Mr. Sulaimon said: “This is a huge responsibility that requires the Commission, which essentially serves as the engine room of the government, to be transparent in order to protect its integrity and enjoy credibility with those it superintends over as well as to comply with all applicable laws and regulations so that it can enforce these and others laws and regulations with respect to the public institutions and officials under its supervision.

According to him, “The Commission can have no credibility in exercising disciplinary control over members of the public service for breaches of relevant laws and regulations and its efforts in this regard cannot be effective when it is itself in breach of its duties and obligations under a Law validly made by the National Assembly. The hypocrisy in such an exercise will be a major encumbrance to the performance of the Commission’s functions and the realization of its objectives.”

Mr. Sulaimon accused the Commission of failing to proactively publish the range of information and documents that it is required to disclose by the Law; refusing to designate an FOI Desk Officer; not providing the appropriate training for its officials on the public’s right of access to information and for the effective implementation of the Act; and consistently neglecting to submit to the Attorney-General of the Federation its annual FOI implementation reports, all of which are mandatory requirements of the Law.

He stressed that it was evident  from the website of the Commission that it is in breach of the requirements of section 2(3)f  of the FOI Act which imposes an obligation on all public institutions to proactively publish the title and address of the appropriate officer to whom applications for information under the Act should be made by members of the public.

Mr Sulaimon said: “Such level of impunity should not be tolerated in any decent society and it amazes us that a government that expects ordinary citizens and its officials to obey the law allows an institution of the government with such massive coordinating and supervisory roles to get away with such blatant disregard for a valid and subsisting law, thereby presenting an image of a lawless society and a government that condones lawlessness.”

He added that: “An approach to governance in which government officials and institutions disobey the law, sets a bad example for ordinary citizens and robs the government of legitimacy as well as the moral authority to enforce any law against citizens. It is even more disheartening when the law in question is one aimed at fostering transparency and accountability in government and where the government involved is one that claims to be championing a war against corruption.”

Mr. Sulaimon said MRA was extremely concerned that despite an earlier induction of the Commission into the FOI Hall of Shame about two years ago in which the organization highlighted its various transgressions, the Commission had made no effort to improve on its performance in the implementation of the FOI Act and had continued to operate in total disregard for the Law.

According to him, given these circumstances, MRA had no other option but to take legal steps to compel the Commission to comply with its obligations under the Act in accordance with the provisions of the Law.

For further information, please contact:

Idowu Adewale
Communications Officer
Media Rights Agenda
Email: idowu@mediarightsagenda.org

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MRA Inducts Customs into ‘Enhanced FOI Hall of Shame’, Accuses it of Confirming Reports of Pervasive Corruption in the Agency http://mediarightsagenda.net/web/mra-inducts-customs-into-enhanced-foi-hall-of-shame-accuses-it-of-confirming-reports-of-pervasive-corruption-in-the-agency/ http://mediarightsagenda.net/web/mra-inducts-customs-into-enhanced-foi-hall-of-shame-accuses-it-of-confirming-reports-of-pervasive-corruption-in-the-agency/#comments Mon, 02 Sep 2019 10:05:00 +0000 http://mediarightsagenda.net/web/?p=13279 Hameed Ali, Comptroller General Nigeria Customer Service
Hameed Ali, Comptroller General Nigeria Customs Service

Lagos, Monday, September 2, 2019: Media Rights Agenda (MRA) today inducted the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) into its enhanced Freedom of Information (FOI) Hall of Shame for its non-compliance with its FOI Act obligations, saying by its refusal to be transparent, it is unwittingly lending credence to widespread public perception of pervasive corruption in the agency.

 It is the second public institution to be inducted into the revamped FOI Hall of Shame after the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), which the organization named in August as probably the most opaque and unaccountable public institution in the country.

 MRA said today that it had taken steps to file legal proceedings against the NNPC for its persistent non-compliance with the FOI Act and would be doing the same with the Nigeria Customs, as part of the organization’s efforts to put an end to their contemptuous disobedience of the Law.

 In a statement issued today by Mr. Ayode Longe, Programme Director at MRA, the organization accused the Customs Service of ignoring all its obligations under the FOI Act by failing to proactively publish the range of information that it is required to disclose by the Law; refusing to designate an FOI Desk Officer; not providing the appropriate training for officials of the institution on the public’s right of access to information and for the effective implementation of the Act; and consistently neglecting to submit to the Attorney-General of the Federation its annual FOI implementation reports for the past eight years, all of which are mandatory requirements of the Law.

 Mr. Longe said: “Such level of impunity should not be tolerated in any decent society and it amazes us that a Government that expects ordinary citizens to obey the Law allows an agency of the Government to get away with such blatant disregard for a Law validly made by the same Government in accordance with the Constitution, thereby presenting an imagine of a lawless society and a Government that condones such lawlessness.”

According to him, “An approach to governance in which Government officials and agencies disobey the Law, sets a bad example for ordinary citizens, robs the Government of legitimacy as well as the moral authority to enforce any Law against citizens. It is more disheartening when the Law in question is one aimed at fostering transparency and accountability in governance and the Government involved is one that claims to be championing a war against corruption, particularly in the public sector.”

Mr. Longe noted that for eight consecutive years, the Nigeria Customs refused to publish the categories of information that the FOI Act requires it and all other public institutions to proactively publish under Section 2(3) and (4) of the Act, adding that “in the circumstances, it is doubtful if the Customs Service keeps records of all its operations and businesses or bothers to maintain its records in a manner that will facilitate public access to such records and information, as required by the FOI Act.”

He also pointed out that the Service has apparently not designated an FOI Desk Officer, as the name and contact details of such an FOI Desk Officer are not available on the website of the Nigeria Customs and have not been published anywhere else, in breach of Section 2(3)(f) of the FOI Act. He noted that the name and contact details of the institution’s FOI Desk Officer are also missing from the Database of Contact Details of FOI Desk Officers of Public Institutions in Nigeria published by the Attorney-General of the Federation.

Mr. Longe said although Section 2(1) and (2) of FOI Act places an obligation on all public institutions 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, that the NCS is obviously not doing this, which would appear to be part of its deliberate efforts to cover up unwholesome dealings going on in the institution.

He accused the institution of not providing the appropriate training for its officials on the public’s right to access to information or records held by it and for the effective implementation of the FOI Act, in accordance with Section 13 of the Act, as there is no evidence or indication that it has ever done so over the last years since the coming into force of the Act.

Mr. Longe lamented that “the level of contempt that the Nigeria Customs has for the FOI Act is further made evident by the fact that in all the eight years that the Act has been in operation, the institution has not submitted a single annual FOI implementation report to the Attorney General of the Federation, in breach of Section 29 of the Act.”

He said in the light of the institution’s failure to submit to the Attorney-General of the Federation its data on the number of FOI requests that it has received and granted or denied annually since the Act was passed into law, it is not possible to assess the level of responsiveness by the Customs Service to FOI requests from members of the public.

Noting that the previous induction of Nigeria Customs into the FOI Hall of Shame about two years ago had not resulted in any improvement in the implementation of the FOI Act by the institution, which has continued to carry on its business as usual in total disregard for the Act, Mr. Longe announced that MRA would be taking the legal route to compel the Service to comply with its obligations under the Act.

For further information, please contact:

 Idowu Adewale
Communications Officer
Media Rights Agenda, Lagos
E-mail: idowu@mediarightsagenda.org

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MRA Inducts NNPC Into its Enhanced ‘FOI Hall of Shame,’ Vows to Sue it for its Unrepentant Violation of FOI Act http://mediarightsagenda.net/web/mra-inducts-nnpc-into-its-enhanced-foi-hall-of-shame-vows-to-sue-it-for-its-unrepentant-violation-of-foi-act/ http://mediarightsagenda.net/web/mra-inducts-nnpc-into-its-enhanced-foi-hall-of-shame-vows-to-sue-it-for-its-unrepentant-violation-of-foi-act/#comments Thu, 01 Aug 2019 10:00:22 +0000 http://mediarightsagenda.net/web/?p=13116 NNPCLagos, Thursday, 1 August 2019: Media Rights Agenda (MRA) today named the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) the first inductee into its enhanced Freedom of Information (FOI) Hall of Shame, vowing to take legal action to compel the corporation to abide by the FOI Act.  MRA described the NNPC as unrepentant in its violation of the Act and said it would not allow the corporation to continue acting with such impunity.

In a statement in Lagos, MRA said although the NNPC had previously been inducted into the FOI Hall of Shame on July 10, 2017 as the second of 70 inductees during the 18 months that the initiative ran for, the corporation had made no significant effort since then to reform itself apparently because of the lack of consequences for its bad behaviour as nothing had changed two years after that naming and shaming,

In the statement, MRA’s Programme Manager for FOI, Mr Ridwan Sulaimon said: “It is worrying that both the Board and the Executive Management of NNPC are so incapable of feeling any shame. Despite several allegations of corruption as well as the naming and shaming of the corporation, the management of the company and the Federal Government have failed to take effective measures to ensure that the NNPC is transparent and accountable to Nigerians by complying with the FOI Act”.

According to him, “We find it noteworthy that despite the Federal Government’s very public and supposedly aggressive war on corruption and despite the serial indictment of the corporation and its management for untoward practices after virtually every investigation or audit, not a single person in the NNPC is facing criminal charges for corruption.  One gets the embarrassing feeling that these people are untouchable and hence, they have no incentive to do better.”

 Mr. Sulaimon noted that the huge resources at the NNPC’s disposal and the various allegations of corruption hanging over it should have inspired a more responsive management to put in place the proper measures and structures for the effective implementation of the FOI Act, a situation which makes the corporation’s repeated failure to comply with the law difficult to excuse.

 He said:  “In the light of the failure of the management of the NNPC itself, the Federal Government and its regulatory and anti-corruption agencies as well as the National Assembly, which has oversight responsibility, to perform their duties, we have no choice but to step in and take legal action to compel the NNPC to comply with its obligations under the FOI Act in the hope that we can make it a more transparent and accountable institution for the benefit of Nigerians”.

Mr. Sulaimon explained that the NNPC was selected for induction into the Hall of Shame after being assessed, alongside other public institutions, on their levels of compliance with their various duties and obligations under the FOI Act, and that while the performance of many public institutions is generally poor in terms of implementation of the Act, “MRA found ironically that the NNPC, which is perhaps the most well-resourced public institution, demonstrated by far the worst performance.”

He said the NNPC was assessed on its level of compliance with its obligations to provide information to members of the public on request, submit annual implementation reports to the Attorney General of the Federation, proactively publish defined sets of information, train its staff and officials on the public’s right of access to information as well as to designate and publish the contact details of an FOI Desk Officer.

According to him, following the assessment, MRA found that: “The NNPC did not make even an inch of progress in the implementation of the FOI Act over the last two years. In the eight years since the enactment of the Act, the NNPC has not submitted any annual report to the Attorney General of the Federation as required by Section 29(1) of the Act and no one has held it accountable for this arrogant and continuing breach of its statutory duty.”

Mr. Sulaimon added that the NNPC “has persistently failed to comply with virtually all of its proactive disclosure obligations under Section 2(3) and (4) of the FOI Act as it has only published one of the 16 categories of items it is required to proactively publish; and has repeatedly refused to disclose information to requesters, but has instead expended millions in public funds in payment of legal fees to lawyers in defence of its corporate strategy of secrecy.”

In addition, he said, although Section 13 of the FOI Act requires every government or public institution to ensure the provision of appropriate training for its officials on the public’s right of access to information and records held by the institution for the effective implementation of the Act, the NNPC has again failed to comply with this provision.

Mr. Sulaimon observed that the Database of FOI Desk Officers available at the Federal Ministry of Justice, which is the oversight institution for the implementation of the FOI Act, indicates that the NNPC has not designated any official to whom requests for information should be made and has not published the name of any such official as required by Section 2(3)(f) of the Act and as directed by the Attorney-General of the Federation in his Implementation Guidelines issued pursuant to his powers under the Act.

He said: “Two years is a long enough time for any responsible organisation to improve on its practices after it has been called out for failing to do. The insistence of the NNPC on secrecy in defiance of the Law, while it sits atop the huge resources of this country coming from the petroleum sector is unacceptable.  It is a mystery to us that the Federal Government has chosen to remain silent and take no action in the face of this slap on the collective faces of Nigerians. As citizens, we obviously cannot follow this bad example of the Federal Government.”

Mr. Sulaimon promised that MRA would explore all available legal means to ensure that the NNPC is compelled to comply with its duties and obligations under the FOI Act.

 For further information, please contact:

Idowu Adewale
Media Rights Agenda, Lagos
E-mail: idowu@mediarightsagenda.org

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MRA Launches Enhanced ‘FOI Hall of Shame’, Says Every Inducted Institution will be Sued http://mediarightsagenda.net/web/mra-launches-enhanced-foi-hall-of-shame-says-every-inducted-institution-will-be-sued/ http://mediarightsagenda.net/web/mra-launches-enhanced-foi-hall-of-shame-says-every-inducted-institution-will-be-sued/#comments Mon, 29 Jul 2019 13:36:20 +0000 http://mediarightsagenda.net/web/?p=13106 Mr. Ridwan Sulaimon MRA's Programme Manager for Freedom of Information
Mr. Ridwan Sulaimon MRA’s Programme Manager for Freedom of Information

Lagos, Monday, July 29, 2019: Media Rights Agenda (MRA) today announced the launching of an enhanced “Freedom of Information Hall of Shame”, saying it would now take legal action against every public institution inducted into the Hall of Shame for undermining the effectiveness of the Freedom of Information Act.

 The FOI Hall of Shame, into which a public institution or official was inducted every week, was first launched by MRA in July 2017 but suspended in December 2018, after 68 public institutions and two High Court judges were inducted into the Hall of Shame.

 In a statement issued in Lagos today, MRA’s Programme Manager for Freedom of Information, Mr. Ridwan Sulaimon, said: “When we first launched the FOI Hall of Shame in 2017, the intention was to call out public officials and institutions undermining the effectiveness of the FOI Act in the court of public opinion and thereby shame them into complying with the Act.  We have since realized that the capacity for shame among most of our public institutions is unfortunately very limited as most of our public officials do not really care what citizens think of them.  It was for this reason that we suspended the initiative at the end of 2018 to re-evaluate our strategy.”

 According to him, “The outcome of our assessment was that the first iteration of the Hall of Shame brought about only very modest improvements in the level of implementation of the FOI Act and compliance with its provisions by public institutions across the board.  Therefore, in addition to naming and shaming defaulting public institutions, we now propose to use the instrumentality of the Law and the judicial process to enforce compliance.”

 Explaining some of the changes to the initiative, Mr. Sulaimon said: “This time around, MRA will regularly undertake a rigorous assessment of every Federal public institution’s implementation activities with regards to the FOI Act to establish how they are implementing the Act. Based on our findings from such assessments, every month, MRA will induct a public institution that is failing in its duties and obligations under the Act into the Hall of Shame.  We will then follow this up with a law suit to compel that institution to comply with the provisions of the Act that it is in breach of.”

 He argued that “given the value of the  FOI Act to society, it is too important an instrument to be ignored by public institutions, quite apart from the fact that ignoring it would create a situation of impunity among public institutions in the implementation of the Act, which is a clear violation of the principles of the rule of law.

 Mr. Sulaimon stressed that access to information is not only critically important for the effective functioning of our democracy, including in ensuring public participation in governance and decision-making, but is equally vital in checking the rampant corruption ravaging the country and bringing about sustainable development.

For additional information, please contact:

Idowu Adewale
Communications Officer
Media Rights Agenda, Lagos
idowu@mediarightsagenda.org

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MRA Names Ministry of Defence 70th Inductee into its ‘FOI Hall of Shame’ http://mediarightsagenda.net/web/mra-names-ministry-of-defence-70th-inductee-into-its-foi-hall-of-shame/ http://mediarightsagenda.net/web/mra-names-ministry-of-defence-70th-inductee-into-its-foi-hall-of-shame/#comments Mon, 03 Dec 2018 05:00:51 +0000 http://mediarightsagenda.net/web/?p=11932 Gen. Mansur Muhammed Dan Ali (Rtd.)
Gen. Mansur Muhammed Dan Ali (Rtd.), Minister of Defence

LAGOS, Monday, December 3, 2018: Media Rights Agenda (MRA) today named the Ministry of Defence as the 70th inductee into its “Freedom of Information (FOI) Hall of Shame”, accusing the Ministry of refusing to submit itself to civilian oversight by failing to abide by its duties and obligations under a democratically enacted Law.

In a statement in Lagos, Mr. Ayode Longe, MRA’s Programme Director, told the Ministry that the mere fact that its functions touch on security and defence matters does not exempt it from the requirements of transparency and accountability, adding that as a public institution, it is bound to comply with and fully implement the FOI Act, 2011.

Established on October 1, 1958, the Ministry of Defence is tasked with overseeing the defence profile of Nigeria from the perspective of the Armed Forces. The Ministry supervises the Defence Headquarters and the Services namely, the Army, the Navy and the Air Force as well as the Tri-Services Institutions/Parastatals.

MRA accused the Ministry of not submitting itself to democratically enacted laws by its failure to comply with the duties and obligations imposed on it by the FOI Act as a public institution.

Mr. Longe noted that contrary to the spirit and letters of Section 2(3) and (4) of the FOI Act, the Ministry has failed to proactively publish the categories of information and records that the Act requires it, as a public institution, to publish and disseminate even without members of the public first requesting the information.

According to him, having failed to proactively publish these categories of information and records as required by the Act, the Ministry is also clearly in breach of its obligation under Section 2(5) of the Act to periodically review and regularly update the information whenever changes occur.

Mr. Longe observed that the Ministry has only submitted just one annual FOI implementation report to the Attorney-General of the Federation in the last seven years out of a total of seven reports that it ought to have submitted by February 1, 2018, adding that the Ministry has also neither published nor disseminated any such report to the public through any of the media that the FOI Act requires all public institutions and other government agencies covered by the Act to disseminate their annual FOI implementation reports.

He stressed that by reason of this failure, the Ministry has been in persistent violation of Section 29 (1) and (2) of the Act as well as the Guidelines on the Implementation of the FOI Act issued by the Attorney General of the Federation pursuant to his powers under the Act.

He said with the Ministry’s persistent failure to submit its annual FOI implementation report, there is no publicly available record of the level of its responsiveness to requests from members of the public for information, particularly the number of applications for information that it received and the number of such applications that it processed as well as how many requests for information it has granted or denied over the years if at all.

Mr. Longe accused the Ministry of also failing to designate any official to receive and process applications for information under the Act, saying no information about such an official is available on the Ministry’s website or in the Database of contact details of FOI Desk Officers compiled and published by the Federal Ministry of Justice.

He said: “It would seem that these acts of defiance by the Ministry, including its failure to designate any of its officials as FOI Desk Officer, its refusal to train its staff and officials on the public’s right of access to information and for the effective implementation of the Act, among others, are intended to enable the Ministry to distance itself from the public and shield its activities from public scrutiny by making the public believe that because its functions touch on security and defence, the public cannot seek information from it.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.”

Mr. Longe noted that one of the consequences of the Ministry’s decision to be overly secretive in virtually all aspects of its activities, operations and businesses is that it is unable to win public trust, confidence and support, adding that it is of vital importance that the military and the Nigerian Defence sector are able to carry citizens and residents along, particularly at a time like this when the military is engaged in a prolonged battle against Boko Haram insurgents in the North-East.

He argued that “In the face of recurrent allegations of misapplication, embezzlement or even outright looting of public funds meant for security and defence matters, coupled with frequent reports of poor funding of the military, including non-payment of salaries and allowances to troops as well as claims that soldiers engaged in the battle against Boko Haram insurgents are not properly equipped for the task, it is only by being transparent and accountable that the military can gain the confidence and cooperation of members of the public in that enterprise.  This will necessarily entail better compliance with the provisions of the FOI Act as well as better systems and practices for information disclosure to the public.”

Mr. Longe called the Ministry to demonstrate its respect for the concept of civilian oversight of the military by complying with all its duties and obligations under the FOI Act.

To this end, he said, the Ministry should designate and train an official to oversee the implementation of the FOI Act; it should proactively publish and widely disseminate all the categories of information that the FOI Act requires it to publish; it should clear its backlog of unsubmitted annual reports to the Attorney-General of the Federation and ensure that in future, it submits such annual FOI implementation reports every year as soon as they become due.

MRA launched the “FOI Hall of Shame” in July 2017 to draw attention to public officials and institutions that are undermining the effectiveness of the FOI Act through their actions, inactions, utterances and decisions.

For further information, please contact:

Ridwan Sulaimon
Programme Manager, Freedom of Information
Media Rights Agenda, Lagos
E-mail: sulaimon@mediarightsagenda.org

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