Media Rights Agenda (MRA) today inducted the Federal Fire Service into its “Freedom of Information (FOI) Hall of Shame” during which it catalogued the institution’s several acts of non-compliance with its duties and obligations under the FOI Act over the last seven years.
MRA’s Legal Officer, Ms Morisola Alaba, announced the induction in a statement in Lagos, explaining that “In the last seven years since the enactment of the FOI Act, the Federal Fire Service has not submitted a single annual report on its implementation of the Law, thus violating section 29 of the Act and the Guidelines for the Implementation of the FOI Act, issued by the Attorney-General of the Federation pursuant to his powers under the Act, among several other provisions.”
She noted that as a paramilitary organisation under the supervision of the Minister of the Federal Ministry of Interior, with the Controller-General as its Head, the Federal Fire Service is bound by the provisions of the FOI Act and should therefore comply with its obligations under the Act.
Ms Alaba said: “the institution, whose mandate includes ensuring the safety of lives and property by extinguishing, controlling and preventing fire outbreaks through regulation, training, enforcement, public enlightenment programmes and impact reduction during emergencies through adequate preparedness has failed to acknowledge the FOI Act and therefore does not provide pertinent information to the public on its operations.”
According to her, although the Federal Fire Service has an active website, it has failed to use the platform to provide the information required by the Act to be proactively disclosed.
Ms Alaba said there was also “no indication whatsoever that the institution has provided the appropriate training for its officials on the public’s right of access to information or records it holds or trained them to effectively implement the Act, as is required by section 13 of the FOI Act.”
She noted that due to the lack of transparency of the institution and its non-compliance with its statutory duties and obligations, it is difficult to determine the scale of non-responsiveness by the Federal Fire Service to requests for information from members of the public.
According to her, the institution’s failure to submit its annual FOI Implementation Reports from 2011 to 2017 means that there is no information available for members of the public or indeed the relevant authorities, namely the Attorney-General of the Federation and the National Assembly, to determine the number of applications for information that it received each year since 2011 and the number of such applications that it processed and granted for any particular year or in total.
Ms Alaba said there was no indication on the institution’s website or anywhere else, including the recently released Database of FOI Desk Officers by the Federal Ministry of Justice, that it has designated an appropriate officer to whom applications for information should be sent.
She therefore accused the institution of 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 it.
MRA urged the Federal Fire Service to familiarise itself with its duties and obligations under the FOI Act and make the necessary effort to implement them including using its “Info Center” on its website and all other means at its disposal to provide the information required by the Act.