Lagos, Friday, December 29, 2023: Media Rights Agenda (MRA) today expressed deep concern over the poor level of funding in the Federal Government’s 2024 budget for the implementation of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act and FOI-related activities by public institutions, saying the situation signals the Government’s lack of commitment to make the Law effective.
In a press statement announcing the release of its 18-page report titled “A Vote Against Transparency: A Report on Allocations for Freedom of Information Implementation in 2024 Federal Budget” MRA called on the Federal Government to demonstrate an absolute commitment to the full and effective implementation of the FOI Act by allocating the appropriate resources required for this purpose.
According to MRA, its analysis of the 2024 Federal Government budget proposal showed that out of at least 1,316 Federal public institutions, only 10 made specific allocations for FOI implementation or other FOI-related activities in their proposals, describing the situation as an indication that the FOI Act is likely to experience another year of extremely poor performance in its implementation by government institutions and authorities.
It noted that the situation in the 2024 budget is only slightly better than what was recorded in the 2023 budget in which only nine Federal ministries, departments and agencies made specific allocations for FOI-related activities and implementation in their budget proposals.
The 10 public institutions with allocations for FOI-related expenditure in their 2024 budgets are: the National Directorate of Employment, Federal Ministry of Works, Federal Ministry of Budget and Economic Planning, Federal Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, Federal Ministry of Environment, Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Nigerian Law Reform Commission, National Library of Nigeria, and the National Commission for Colleges of Education Secretariat.
The Federal Ministry of Works has the highest budgetary allocation for FOI implementation with a total of N39,280,000.00, while the Nigerian Law Reform Commission had the second highest allocation with a proposal to spend N15,634,545 on FOI-related activities.
MRA’s Communications Officer, Mr. Idowu Adewale, observed in the organization’s statement that a crucial consideration in ensuring the effectiveness of an FOI Law is making provisions in the budget for its implementation as this helps to ensure that the resources required to successfully implement the Law are made available.
He said: “Without adequate investment in the implementation of the Law in order to ensure that the government is transparent and accountable, all other allocations and expenditures for infrastructure, facilities or other development projects would be at risk and could easily be misappropriated.”
Mr. Adewale argued that “The long-term benefits which the effective implementation of the FOI Act can bring to the country and its democratic process, include enhancing government transparency, efficiency and responsiveness; engendering greater public participation in governance, improving public trust and confidence in government, ensuring that members of the public have accurate and reliable information about how they are governed, and contributing to the emergence of a knowledge society”, adding that these are adequate justification for the investments required to make the Act effective.
He said it was curious that although the last report by Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), then Attorney-General of the Federation, which was issued on March 27, 2023, identified “inadequate or non-financial provisions to fund FOI Act activities” and a “general lack of funding for FOI activities in some public institutions” as some of the challenges impeding the effective implementation of the FOI Act, there were no concrete measures taken by the Federal Government to address the problem.
Mr. Adewale identified the absence of any specific allocation for FOI-related activities in the budget of the Federal Ministry of Justice and the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, as a significant concern, given the dual status of the Ministry as a public institution to which the FOI Act applies and as the body with oversight responsibility for the implementation of the Law.
Saying its funding and budgets ought to clearly reflect its dual roles and should be adequate to enable it to meet its duties and obligations with respect to each of the roles, he called on the Federal Government to provide proper guidance for public institutions on some of the considerations and steps that they need to take into account in allocating resources for FOI implementation and in ensuring that the resources are adequate.
Mr. Adewale urged the Federal Government to direct its ministries, departments and agencies to ensure that in preparing their budget proposals for subsequent fiscal years, they make provisions in the budgets to enable them carry out the full range of duties and obligations that they have under the FOI Act and also prescribe a minimum level of resources which every public institution should allocate to the implementation of the Act in order to ensure that they are fully implementing the Law and complying with its provisions.
For further information, please contact:
Idowu Adewale (Mr.)
Media Rights Agenda
E-mail: [email protected]