A body comprising of over 150 civil society groups and known as the Freedom of Information Coalition Nigeria (FOICN) has said that despite the Freedom of Information law in the country, public institutions are still yet to respond to requests.
In a communiqué issued after a 3 day strategy meeting in Abuja over the weekend by its board of Governors, the body expressed concern about the low level of awareness among public institutions and officials about the Act and their duty under the Act to provide information to the public as well as the low level of compliance by public institution to their proactive disclosure obligations under Section 2 of the Act.
“Despite the relatively few number of requests for information being made by members of the public, most public institutions have been unresponsive, opting instead to withhold such information without legitimate or justifiable reasons, “it said.
The Meeting called on public institutions to demonstrate a more serious attitude towards their duties and obligations under the Act by making a clear commitment to provide citizens with information about their institution’s activities, operations and governance in general.
It expressed regret that the National Assembly, which is the ultimate oversight institution in the implementation of the Act, is perhaps also the greatest violator of its provisions.
It also noted that the National Assembly has failed to submit a single annual report to the Attorney-General of the Federation over the last years and had repeatedly failed to provide information to requesters even in cases where it has been ordered to do so by court of law.
It said that the media should take advantage of the existence of the law to improve the quality of their reporting by providing more accurate and reliable information to members of the public.
The Board said it has developed a five-year strategic plan to improve the implementation of the Act, outlining a number of measures that the board and coalition members would undertake over the coming years to reverse the poor implementation of the Law and to bring about a culture of transparency and accountability in Nigeria.
– Dyepkazah Shibayan, Abuja