As Freedom of Information advocates around the world today celebrate the 10th International Right to Know Day, Right to Know (R2K), Nigeria expresses concern at the slow pace of compliance with, and implementation of the FOI Act in Nigeria and calls for greater commitment to the provisions of this legislation by government and public institutions.
R2K joins the global community in commemorating this day by lending its voice to the call for more open, democratic societies where there is full citizen empowerment and participation in government.
R2K notes with great concern that 18 months after the enactment of the FOI Act there is no official gazetted copy of the Law. Worse still, public institutions are yet to reach acceptable levels of compliance with the FOI Act as regards to responding within 7 days to FOI requests for access to information. Observing that majority of FOI request end up in courts and most public institutions are compelled by the courts to release information. So far no public institution in the country has complied with the proactive disclosure provisions mandated by the Act and only 23 public institutions submitted the mandatory annual compliance report to the Attorney-General of the Federation.
R2K also expresses worry at the refusal by some public institutions to comply with the FOI Act even after court judgements have been issued. Ms Ene Enonche, R2K’s National Coordinator has said: “While the testing of the FOI Act in our courts is good for precedence and interpretation of the law, it seems to make more sense for public institutions to develop the will to comply with the clear provisions of the Act. Open and transparent governance is not enhanced when citizens feel that they need to resort to the long and arduous path of litigation before they are able to obtain information from public institutions. Apart from the length of time it would take for litigations and appeals, there is also the considerable expense of the entire legal process, beyond the reach of many ordinary Nigerians.”
As part of its activity to celebrate the International Right to Know day, R2K has released a report examining the journey so far in implementing the Freedom of Information Act with specific reference to sample cases of demand for access to information, response of public institutions to requests for access to information, compliance with the Proactive disclosure of information by public institutions; and the statutory reporting obligations by public institutions in 18 months post the enactment of the law.
R2K’s finding indicates that implementation of the Act and compliance by public institutions is immensely slow and there is considerably widespread ignorance about the FOI Act. R2K therefore urge public institutions to take more seriously their duties and obligations under the FOI Act as non compliance with the law affects democratic processes, promotes corruption hinders transparent governance and infringes on the citizens right to know.
Click here to access the assessment report and FOI reports submitted by public institution