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175 MDAs Ignore FOI Requests in 2023, Report Reveals

A recent 2023 Freedom of Information (FOI) transparency ranking conducted by the Public and Private Development Centre in collaboration with BudgiT, Basic Rights Watch, Right to Know, and Media Rights Agenda has revealed that 175 Federal Government Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) in Nigeria are not actively responding to requests made through the Freedom of Information Act.

The Freedom of Information Act, signed into law in 2011, grants Nigerians the right to access information about government activities held by public institutions or where public funding has been utilized. It outlines the process for requesting information and mandates public institutions to ensure that requested information is provided, with some exceptions for security agencies and provisions for response delays.

The report analyzed 238 public institutions based on their responsiveness, disclosure, and proactive disclosure levels. It found that numerous institutions, including the National Population Commission, Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Nigerian Correctional Services, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and 136 others, did not respond to FOI requests.

Additionally, 136 MDAs scored below 15 points in the ranking. The Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission, Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission, and National Orientation Agency were identified as the most compliant public institutions, with scores of 70.3, 64.6, and 63 points, respectively.

The report noted a decrease in the responsiveness of ministries, dropping from 70.4% in 2022 to 47% in 2023. Only two institutions achieved full proactive disclosure of public information in 2023.

The report identified resource constraints, lack of tech-savvy staff, outdated information, and disregard for requests without valid reasons as challenges. It recommended the use of electronic communication as a solution.

During the event themed “The Importance of the Online Space for Access to Information,” Gloria Ahmed, National Coordinator of Open Government Partnership, emphasized the importance of FOI in granting citizens access to information and urged government agencies to use technology to facilitate this access.

Olugbenga Adanikin, Head of Investigations at the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, urged all MDAs to proactively disclose and disseminate information on their portals or websites to promote transparency, citizen participation, and improved public service delivery.

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