The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) has been declared best agency of government that gives timely and unrestricted access to public information in compliance to the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act in Nigeria.
At the 2019 edition of the National Freedom of Information and Transparency Ranking, jointly organized by six (6) Civil Society Organisations in Abuja on Thursday, September 26, 2019, the Infrastructure Concession & Regulatory Commission (ICRC) was awarded 2nd position while Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC) clinched 3rd position out of One Hundred and Ninety One (191) agencies of government.
The organizers of the event disclosed that parameters used to arrive at total cumulative points for MDA’s were proactive disclosure; level of responsiveness to request for information; level of disclosure; FOI training, presence of FOI desk officers as well as annual reporting.
According to them, the ranking is not limited to entrenching accountability and transparency in public sector institutions by ensuring MDA’s liberate data and citizens have timely and unrestricted access to public information but also to improve disclosure practices that will have positive impact on how public resources are managed and utilized.
The National Coordinator, Right to Know, Ms. Ene Nwakpa while speaking on behalf of the coalition of organizers, decried the level at which public institutions turn down FOI requests despite efforts that have been made to implement FOI Law in the country.
In her words “Even though significant efforts may have been made in the areas of implementation, such as the development of FOI e-portals, increase in FOI desk officers, guidelines developed by the Attorney General and efforts by his office to serve as an ombudsman to mediate FOI matters, these efforts have largely been over shadowed by the systematic and almost deliberate attempts at consistent refusal to grant request with a high sense of impunity by most public institutions, failure to submit annual reports and the absence of parliamentary oversight amongst many”.
Ms. Nwakpa maintained that if Nigeria ignores the full implementation of the FOI Act, which clearly allows for a more open and transparent governance process and for officials to be held accountable, the nauseating lip service by consistent government to address issues of corruption will remain a mirage.
She therefore raised the need to overhaul the institutionalized culture of entrenched bureaucratic red tape in Nigeria’s public service which she identified as one of the factors that have continued to threaten the existence of the FOI Act.
Highlights of the event were the overview of FOI ranking; panel discussion on Data, Institutions and Good Governance; Analysis of Previous FOI Rankings; Unveiling of the ranking; as well as presentation of awards.
Meanwhile, the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO) took 133rd position out of the 191 government agencies listed. The Acting Executive Secretary of NICO, Mr. Louis Eriomala was represented by Mr. Alex Omijie (Director, Orientation & Cultural Affairs) and Mr. Michael Ekoko (Director, Research & Documentation).
Media Asst.-Ag. ES