OrderPaperToday- The Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has announced the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN) as its new inductee into the “Freedom of Information (FOI) Hall of Shame” for consistently violating the provisions of the FOI Act over the past seven years.
The MRA’s Programme Officer, Mr. Idowu Adewale, announced this induction in Lagos on Monday, while highlighting several failings of the public institution regarding the implementation of the FOI Act.
He noted that although the ARCN has an active website, it has not taken advantage of this to fulfil its proactive disclosure obligations by publishing the categories of information listed for proactive disclosure under Section 2(3) of the FOI Act.
According to Mr. Adewale, there is no information on ARCN’s website regarding the fund allocations for agricultural research purposes; the receipt or expenditure of public or other funds of the institution; the names, salaries, titles, and dates of employment of employees and officers of the institution; the list of files containing applications for contracts, permits, grants, licenses or agreements, among several other categories of information, records and documents listed in Section 2 (3) of the FOI Act that must be proactively published by every public institution.
Mr. Adewale said: “At a minimum, this information should ordinarily have been published on the institution’s website as part of its proactive disclosure obligations under the Public Procurement Act, 2007 as well as Section 2 of the FOI Act. It was its failure to comply with its proactive disclosure obligations that necessitated the request for information from PPDC, which the ARCN also chose to ignore.”
Mr. Adewale said the Federal Attorney-General’s 2017 Annual Report on the Implementation of the FOI Act submitted to the National Assembly on March 27, 2018 shows that ARCN has failed to submit its annual FOI implementation report for 2017, making it the seventh consecutive year that the institution has failed to comply with its reporting obligation since the Law was enacted.
He described the consistent flouting of Section 29 of the FOI Act by ARCN as an “unjustifiable and unacceptable act of impunity, which should not be allowed to go unsanctioned.”
Mr. Adewale stressed “the breaches of various provisions of the FOI Act by the ARCN and the persistent disregard by the institution of its duties and obligations under the Law go to show that it is hell-bent on undermining the effectiveness of the Act while its actions are constituting a setback for agricultural development of Nigeria.”
He called on the National Assembly to exercise its powers as the ultimate oversight body in the implementation of the Law, to institute measures to ensure that the ARCN and other public institutions that are failing to comply with their obligations under the FOI Act are compelled to fully implement the Law.