Another government agency inducted into FOI Hall of Shame

OrderPaperToday – The Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON) has joined the growing list of government agencies and parastatals inducted into the “Freedom of Information (FOI) Hall of Shame.”

The “FOI Hall of Shame” was launched by the Media Rights Agenda (MRA) to draw attention to public officials and institutions that are “undermining the effectiveness of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011 through their actions, inactions, utterances and decisions.”

According to MRA, its decision is enlist SON is due to its failure to conform with the provisions of the FOI Act over the last six years and “carrying on as if the Law does not exist.”

The group accused SON of ignoring virtually all its responsibilities under the FOI Act that can make it a transparent certifying organization and cited as an example of its non-compliance with the Law, the organization’s failure to designate an appropriate officer to whom requests for information should be sent in breach of the mandatory requirement of Section 2(3)(f) of the FOI Act.

In a statement issued in Lagos today announcing the induction of the SON into the Hall of Shame, MRA’s Programme Director, Mr. Ayode Longe, said that “being the apex standardization body in Nigeria with the primary responsibility and power to organize tests; investigate the quality of facilities, materials and products; ensure reference standards for calibration and verification of measures and measuring instruments; register and regulate standard marks and specifications; among other wide-ranging powers and functions, the SON ought to be at the forefront of transparency and openness.

“The SON ought to be transparent and accountable if it hopes to fulfil its mandate as an organization that is charged with promoting consumer confidence and the global competitiveness of Nigerian products and services.”

Mr. Longe also disclosed that “the SON’s failure to submit annual reports to the Attorney-General of the Federation, while constituting a serious breach of the provisions of the FOI Act in and of itself, has other negative ramifications for the enforcement of the Law and the monitoring of its implementation as the organization’s inexcusable dereliction for six straight years has made it impossible to determine the number of applications for information that it has received annually over the last six years and the number of such applications that it processed and granted or refused, the average number of days it takes to process each application, the amount of fees it has collected from such applications, the number of full-time staff of the institution that it devotes to processing applications for information, among other important data.”

MRA’s Programme Director accused SON of having arrogant disregard for all aspects of the Act, explaining that there was no reasonable justification for the SON’s failure to comply with the mandatory requirement of the FOI Act to train its personnel on the public’s right of access to information and for the effective implementation of the Act as stipulated in Section 13 of the Act.

“As an organization saddled with enormous responsibilities of promoting appropriate standards to instill consumer confidence in imported goods and locally manufactured products, the SON ought to routinely facilitate transparency and accountability in all aspects of its operations and should naturally see FOI Act as a tool to build public confidence in it rather than operating in secrecy and opting to disregard the provisions of the FOI Act,” he concluded.

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