No fewer than 175 federal government ministries, departments and agencies, do not actively respond to requests made through the Freedom of Information Act.

A 2023 FOI transparency ranking by the Public and Private Development Centre in collaboration with BudgiT, Basic Rights Watch, Right to Know and Media Rights Agenda revealed this on Tuesday in Abuja.

The FOIA, signed in 2011 by former President Goodluck Jonathan, gives Nigerians the right to access information on government activities in the custody of any public institution or where public funding was utilised.

Section One, subsection (1) of the FOIA states that “Notwithstanding anything contained in any other Act, law or regulation, the right of any person to access or request information, whether or not contained in any written form, which is in the custody or possession of any public official, agency or institution howsoever described, is established.”

In several subsections, the act highlights the process by which information should be requested, noting that public institutions must ensure that the information requested is provided. There are, however, exemptions for security agencies and provisions for delays in responses.

In the new report, an analysis of 238 public institutions ranked by their responsiveness, disclosure and proactive disclosure level revealed that 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 other agencies did not attempt a response to FOI requests.

The research also disclosed that 136 MDAs scored below 15 points while the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission, Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission and National Orientation Agency emerged as the most compliant public institutions with 70.3 points, 64.6 points, and 63 points respectively.

According to the FOI ranking, the responsiveness of ministries reduced to 47 per cent from 70.4 per cent recorded in 2022 adding that only two institutions had full proactive disclosure of public information in 2023.

Resource constraints, inadequate tech-savvy staff, outdated information, and disregard for requests without valid reasons were also identified as challenges in the report, which recommended electronic means of communication as a solution.

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