Media Rights Agenda (MRA) yesterday criticised the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology for its blatant disregard to the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2011.
Legal Officer of MRA, Ms Morisola Alaba dropped this hint yesterday in a statement in Lagos that was made available to The AUTHORITY.
She said that in the last seven years since the enactment of the FOI Act, the ministry had not submitted a single annual report on its implementation of the Law, thereby violating section 29 of the Act and the Guidelines for the Implementation of the FOI Act.
She added that the ministry whose vision was to make Nigeria one of the leading nations in the science and technology developed nations of the world deliberately disregards the FOI Act which was aimed at enabling citizens to be aware of the operations, businesses and activities of government, including all public institutions, in order to make informed decisions in all aspects of their lives.
However, she said although the ministry had published on its website a description of the organisation and its responsibilities, including details of the programmes and functions of each of its departments, but failed to publish a list of description of documents containing final opinions.
“There is also no indication whatsoever that the ministry has provided the appropriate training for its officials on the public’s right of access to information or records held by the ministry or trained them to effectively implement the Act, as it is required to do by section 13 of the FOI Act,” Alaba added.
According to her, the ministry whose mandate includes acquisition and application of science, technology and innovation contribution to increase agricultural and livestock production, creation of technology infrastructure and knowledge base to facilitate its wide application for development, and application of natural medicine resources and technologies for health sector development has failed to acknowledge the FOI Act in order to make information relevant to its mandate readily available to public.
Alaba also added that the ministry has failed to proactively disclose list of files containing applications for contracts, permit, grant, licenses or agreement, reports, documents, studies, or publications prepared by independent contractors for institution; and materials containing information relating to any grant or contract made by or between the institution and another public institution or private organisations as required by section 2 (3) (e) of the FOI Act.
“Although we cannot determine at this point the scale of non-responsiveness by the Ministry to requests for information from members of the public owing to its failure to submit annual reports from 2011 to 2017, which would have provided the vital information needed. We know for a fact that it has failed to respond to FOI requests from civil society organizations such as the Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC) and Paradigm Initiative. Instead of providing the information in accordance with the Law, it has opted to waste public funds defending the refusal to disclose the requested information in court,” she added.
Alaba said there was no indication on the ministry’s website or anywhere else that it has designated an appropriate officer to whom applications for information should be sent, and accused the ministry of also violating Section 2(3) (f) of the Act, adding that even the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, the oversight body for the implementation of the FOI Act, which maintains a database of such FOI Desk Officers of public institutions, has no record of compliance by the ministry.