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MRA blasts NABDA over FOI Act, urges implementation

By Charles Akpeji, Jalingo
02 November 2021   |   1:34 am
For allegedly disregarding its duties under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act and thereby undermining the public’s right of access to information, Media Rights Agenda ...

For allegedly disregarding its duties under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act and thereby undermining the public’s right of access to information, Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has discredited the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA).

In a statement, yesterday, made available to The Guardian in Jalingo, Taraba State, MRA’s Communications Officer, Idowu Adewale, urged oversight bodies to ensure that public institutions implement the FOI Act.

He said: “Given the agency’s apparent aversion to transparency and openness, it is no surprise that it has repeatedly faced embarrassing scandals, with its top officials being accused of acts of corruption.

“By choosing to disregard virtually all the obligations imposed on it by the FOI Act and refusing to comply with the requirements of the law, the agency was effectively denying citizens their legally guaranteed right to obtain information from it, which warranted its induction into the FOI Hall of Shame.”

Adewale noted that the agency had been bedevilled by corruption allegations over the years, with the most recent of such incidents being in November 2020 when the then acting Director-General, Alex Akpa, was arrested and detained by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) over alleged misappropriation of N400 million.

“NABDA could possibly have spared itself these embarrassing situations, which have caused significant damage to its reputation and public image, if it had chosen to imbibe a transparent institutional culture and simply abide by its obligations under relevant laws such as the Public Procurement Act 2007 and the FOI Act, including proactively publishing information about itself,” the statement added.

Citing the 2021 FOI Ranking of public institutions, which placed the agency at 149th position out of the 213 public institutions that were assessed for their compliance with the FOI Act, he noted that NABDA only earned the six points for proactively publishing descriptions of itself and its responsibilities at the time it was assessed.

Besides, in the 2020 Annual Report on the Implementation of the FOI Act, submitted to the National Assembly on March 22, 2021 by the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), NABDA again failed to submit its yearly FOI implementation report for last year, making it the 10th consecutive year that the institution failed to comply with its reporting obligation under the Act since it came into force 10 years ago, he disclosed.

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