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BPSR laments low compliance with FOI by government agencies 

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• To launch policy brief on implementation 
Only about 10 per cent of government agencies are complying with the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, the Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR) has said.

The Acting Director General of BPSR, Dasuki Ibrahim Arabi disclosed this recently in Abuja at the presentation and launch of a policy brief on the FOI.

The Bureau hinted that about 90 out of 900 government ministries, departments and agencies fully complied with the provisions of section 29 of the Act in 2018.

Arabi further said that as of July 2018, the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) filed series of FOI Act requests to various public institutions with 90 per cent of the requests yet to be provided with response.

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The Director General added: “The Non -Governmental Organization (NGO) documented rampant cases of delays ranging from 32 to 41 days contrary to the 7 days prescription of the Act. Evidently, urgent steps are needed to arrest the low level of compliance with the FOI Act implementation in Nigeria, considering its importance to sustaining democracy and development.”

The passage of the FOI Act, 2011 was a product of collaboration between citizens, organized civil society organizations and the government. It took 17 years from the origin of its first draft in 1994 to the passage by both chambers of the National Assembly on the 24th May, 2011 while former President Goodluck Jonathan assented to the bill on 28th May 2011.

With the passage, the FOI Act supersedes the Official Secrets Act, originally enacted in 1911, which forbade the unauthorized transmission, obtaining, reproduction, or retention of any classified matter. It applies not only to the public institutions but also private organizations providing public service, performing public functions or utilizing public funds.

Arabi hinted that the policy brief of the BPSR study on administrative burden in the implementation of the FOI Act 2011 in selected Ministries, Departments and Agencies [MDAs] which includes the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation, Federal Ministry of Justice, Finance and the Code of Conduct Bureau.

According to him, the BPSR fully supports the freedom of Information Act but after more than a decade in operation, it is time to review the process to make sure it is working effectively.

He explained that the process, which took place between October and December, 2018 was done in collaboration with ‘Right To know‘ Nigeria, undertook a research study on administrative burden in the implementation of the Freedom of information Act [FOIA] 2011 in four selected federal public institutions.

He stated: “The BPSR Policy brief therefore, summarizes the results of the bureau research study and brings to fore the major implementation challenges and administrative burdens encountered by public institutions in the implementation of the FOI Act in Nigeria and proffer evidence –based policy recommendations to serve as a basis for further policy dialogue to strengthen the FOI implementation in Nigeria.

“The Policy brief I am launching today is aimed at strengthening the implementation of the freedom of information Act in the Nigeria federal public service. It is an output of the bureau study on administrative burden in the implementation of the Act in four selected Ministries, Departments and Agencies [MDAs] of the Nigeria public service, the MDAs are the Federal Ministries of Finance, Justice, Office of the Head of Service of the Federation and the Code of Conduct Bureau.”

The BPSR boss explained that the policy brief has several recommendations, which included penalties and sanctions to be meted on defaulting MDAs with a view to ensuring effective implementation of the FOI Act and the need for appropriate staffing and availability of resources to ensure effective implementation of the Act.

The brief also recommended record keeping procedures be revamped to respond to request for information from the public; invest in the training of FOI officials and information officers and citizens in addition to raising long term awareness among others.

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