Ini Billie, Uyo
The Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC) has accused Ministries, Departments, and Agencies in Akwa Ibom State of ignoring or being in outright opposition to honouring freedom of information requests.
PPDC in partnership with Akwa Ibom Access to Information Team said this on Thursday, 29 September 2022 in Uyo during the second sub-national Freedom of Information Act Compliance and Transparency Rankings in the state to commemorate the International Day for Universal Access to Information.
The Programmes Officer, Extractive, Policy Alert, Mr Mfon Gabriel, who spoke on behalf of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Public and Private Development Centre, accused the state government of paying lips service to transparency and accountability as evidenced in their refusal to honour citizens requests for information.
Gabriel stated that the ranking of 24 MDAs in the state gave a statistics, which showed most public offices are yet to understand the importance of access to information even with section 48 (5) of the Fiscal Responsibility Law (2020) of Akwa Ibom State which empowers citizens to make such requests and mandates the government to oblige them.
“We conducted a ranking and from our findings, many MDAs in the state continue to ignore or outrightly refuse to honour FOI requests. Most public offices are yet to come to terms with the importance of access to information.
“It appears that the state is just professing transparency and accountability as governance ideals while refusing to honour requests for information from the citizens, civil society, or the media.
“We use the opportunity of this year’s International Right to Know Day to urge state actors in the region to be more responsive to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests and to more proactively provide public information on government websites.
“It is also important to note that some states of the Niger Delta have within their Fiscal Responsibility Law provisions that mandate them to comply with requests for information. For instance, section 48 (5) of the Fiscal Responsibility Law (2020) of Akwa Ibom State mandates the government to oblige requests for information.
“The section states “No official secrets law, rule or practice shall operate or be invoked or relied upon by any person to deny, limit or in any way negatively affect the exercise of the right to information conferred by this Law or the Freedom of Information Act upon any person, group, persons, institution, body or agency. Section 52 (3) of the law states the penalty for failure to honour such a request. We call on civil society and media organisations to make effective use of this provision in addition to the FOI Act 2011 to demand transparency and accountability.
“We use the opportunity of this year’s International Right to Know Day to urge state actors in the Akwa Ibom to be more responsive to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests and to more proactively provide public information on government websites,” he stated.
Gabriel mentioned that ironically, results from the survey ranked the Ministry of Information and Strategy at the 15th position and the Government House at the 20th position on the proactive disclosure of information, the responsiveness to requests, and the level of disclosure.
According to the 2022 Subnational Ranking conducted by the PPDC, the Ministry of Transport and Solid Minerals emerged 1st position in the state, out of 24 MDAs ranked based on the proactive disclosure of information, the responsiveness to requests, and the level of disclosure.
The Ministry of Lands and Water Resources and the Ministry of Justice emerged 2nd, while Akwa Ibom State Bureau of Public Procurement emerged 4th after taking 1st position in the 2021 ranking.
The Ministry of Education emerged in the 5th position, while 9 MDAs shared the 6th position; 2 shared the 15th position, and 1 had the 17th position, while 7 MDAs shared the 20th position.
Government House, Uyo, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Economic Development, Akwa Ibom State Committee on Foreign Direct Investment, Ministry of Environment and Solid Minerals, as well as the Ministry of Science and Technology all, came last in the 2022 FOI ranking.