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CSOs indict National Assembly, PPRA, NCS, FIRS, others of non-compliance with FOI Act

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A coalition of civil society organisations (CSOs) has indicted the National Assembly, Petroleum Product Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPRA), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), and Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) over non-compliance with the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.

At the launch of the 2020 National FOI Ranking of Public Institutions yesterday in Abuja, the CSOs ranked the House of Representatives 155 and the Senate 157 of 211 Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) monitored in 2020.

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Among the key, lowest ranking outfits were the PPRA, the NCS, and FIRS, which scored 200, 181, and 117 respectively.

The groups, however, named the Bureau for Public Service Reforms (BPSR) as the most compliant and transparent public institution for the year 2020.

Members of the coalition which partnered in the ranking of public institutions on their disclosure level, transparency, and compliance with the FOI Act, 2011 are, BudgIT, Basic Rights Watch (BRW), International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Right to Know (R2K), and Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC).

The ranking methodology assessed public institutions on their compliance with proactive disclosure obligations under the Act, level of responsiveness to requests for information in terms of timeliness; disclosure in terms of the completeness of the information provided; whether they conducted FOI training for their staff members as mandatorily required; whether they designated their FOI Desk officers and their level of compliance with their FOI annual reporting obligation for the year under review.

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Of the 211 public institutions covering the executive, legislature, and the judiciary that were assessed, the BPSR was adjudged winner with 58.7 points. The Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC) clinched the second position with 54 points, while the Nigeria Export Promotion Council (NEPC) scored 43.5 points to clinch the third position.

Speaking at the ceremony that coincided with the International Day for Universal Access to Information proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly last year, Coordinator of R2K Nigeria, Mrs. Ene Nwankpa, noted that the level of compliance by public institutions under the FOI Act was extremely disturbing.

She described proactive disclosure as “a veritable tool for proper information management, creating an enlightened citizenry and building public trust in governance, particularly in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

She explained that the aim of the ranking was to entrench accountability and transparency in public and security sector institutions by ensuring that MDAs liberate data and that citizens have timely and unrestricted access to public information.

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