A civil society group, the Independent Service Delivery Monitoring Group (ISDMG) has expressed dismay over what it described as the seeming non-challant attitude of Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Government to adequately adhere to the principles of the FOI Act.
The group in a statement signed by its Director, Mobilization and Communication, Faith Nwadishi decried the failure of government institutions to respond to request made to them using the FOI Act.
She said it is imperative to point out that MDAs exist to provide services to Nigerians; the law, recognising this fact, gives every Nigerian the right to access information and by virtue of the Act, MDAs are to respond to these requests accordingly.
Faith said the yearly assessment of the group culminates in the award process of the most outstanding public institution(s) in Nigeria for the reviewed year, after a rigorous internal technical sifting mechanism and public perception index.
According to her, the 2015 analysis of public institutions’ response to Freedom of Information Act indicates a slight departure from previous years; hitherto, many institutions failed this simple but important test.
She said out of 114 shortlisted institutions that received ISDMG FOI requests for that year, only 56 responded, representing about 50% rate of response.
She said, “Institutions like Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR) and Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) were outstanding as they responded within four (4) days of receipt of our request.
In actual fact, only 11 out of 114 institutions (10%) met the 7 days requirement of the Act in responding to our request.
“In 2016, out of about 41 FOI requests sent out, only 14 institutions responded at various intervals ranging from 48 hours to 3 months and then, lack of response out rightly.
“The point of this analysis is to place a call on public institutions in Nigeria to adhere to the principles of the FOI Act especially the 7 days response time stipulated by the law. Section 4 of the Act provides thus:
“Where information is applied for, under this Act, the public institution to which the application is made shall, subject to sections 6, 7, and 8 of this Act, within 7 days after the application is received –
(a) Make the information available to the applicant
(b) Where the public institution considers that the application should be denied, the institution shall give written notice to the applicant that access to all or part of the information will not be granted, stating reasons for the denial, and the section of this Act under which the denial is made.
Substantial compliance to the provisions of this law will not only help in information dissemination but will engender better service delivery in our public sector.