No maritime agency in the country was listed for the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act Compliance ranking conducted for 116 public institutions.
Of the 116 sample, Ministeries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), only 45 scored above the average in all the three benchmarks upon which the rankings were done.
While the Federal Ministry of Transport ranked 36th, none of the parastatals under it featuredin the exercise. They include; Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), National Inland Waterways Authority and the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN).
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) Headquarters, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Bank of Industry (BOI), Federal Ministry of Finance, Federal Ministry of Water Resources, Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, National Automotive Council were found at the bottom having fared in the three benchmarks which are: proactive disclosure; responsiveness to requests for information and level of disclosure to requests for information.
The test was conducted by an Abuja- based Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC), a non-government organization created to increase citizen’s participation in governance process in a way that improves the integrity of public and private sector process. It was in its bid to use the FOI Act to drive the demand and supply of publicly held information that is released the 2015 FOI Compliance ranking for 116 public institutions.
FOI was signed into law on May 2011 by former President Goodluck Jonathan, but over 90% of government agencies in the country are aversed to its effectiveness through deliberate undermining of the letters of the Act.
Efforts to reach the representatives of the PPDC to ascertain why maritime agencies were excluded from the survey were abortive as both lines on PPDC’s website were unreachable. It is an irony that the umpire ‘PPDC’ failed MMS Plus test as they couldn’t be reached for further findings.
However the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Hassan Bello confirmed the reports on the Nigeria Customs Service when he lamented that the Customs had become inaccessible in recent times. While addressing ACG Edike at the Shippers’ Council headquarters last week, Hassan said the Nigeria Customs Service Headquarters decline responding to complaints from the Shippers’ Council.
“There is the problem of non-response of the Customs Headquarters to some official complaints from our Complaints unit which conveys the complaints of stakeholders to expedite the actions of stakeholders. The Unit receives complaints that require the attention of the Customs but some of these letters never get responses” Hassan Bello said last week.
“This is a recent thing because in the past, we have had prompt response” Hassan noted.
Under the benchmark of proactive disclosure, all the 116 public institutions listed scored red, an indication that the information being sought is not available on their website. However, Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) was ranked 1st as it got the green mark on responsiveness to requests for information and level of disclosure to requests for information. The Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON) and the Federal Ministry of Transport ranked 35th and 36th respectively.
Full proactive disclosure is obtained where information on the procurement plans and capital expenditure of a public institution is found on its website. Where a part of this information is found, partial disclosure applied. Where there is no disclosure of procurement-related information on the website of the public institution, there is no proactive disclosure and where there is no full proactive disclosure, a request for information is made. Responsiveness to this request will earn the public institution green (for response within seven days); blue (for response within 14 days); yellow (response within 15 days to infinity); and red (no response).
The level of disclosure to requests for information also carries green for full disclosure; yellow for partial disclosure and red for no disclosure.
So, a perfect score would have all greens and would indicate full proactive disclosure, responsiveness to requests for information within seven days and full level of disclosure to requests for information. In a case where there is full proactive disclosure, a request for information would not be required.
With emphasis on the assessment of levels of access to procurement-related information from 116 public institutions, information was specifically sought on procurement plans, procurement processes and capital expenditure.
Other institutions like the Federal Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency of Nigeria, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) featured in the last 20 on the list.
By Kenneth Jukpor