MRA Inducts National Commission for Museums into ‘FOI Hall of Shame
… Accuses it of Lawless Disregard for Public Right to Information.
Media Rights Agenda (MRA) today inducted the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) into its Freedom of Information (FOI) Hall of Shame, accusing it of a lawless disregard for the public’s right of access to information as well as its statutory duties and obligations under the Freedom of Information Act, 2011 over the last 10 years.
In a statement in Lagos, MRA’s Programme Director, Mr. Ayode Longe, said: “The situation with the National Commission for Museums and Monuments is truly a national scandal and represents everything that is wrong with Nigeria. Such conduct by a public institution makes a mockery of the Federal Government’s claim to transparent and accountable governance and serves only to bring the government into disrepute.”
According to Mr. Longe, “A commission that should be actively trying to attract tourists, historians, archaeologists, scientists, and students, among others, by proactively providing them with information, is operating the most abysmal information and communication practices. Not only has its institutional website been down and inaccessible for at least several weeks now, it refuses to provide information to those who have made requests for information under the FOI Act and relies on all sorts of subterfuge, including unreasonable delays, to avoid accountability.”
Illustrating the point, he said “just a few weeks ago, on August 10, 2021, the Commission wrote to the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) in Abuja demanding N200,000 for it to respond to the ICIR’s FOI request for a list of projects implemented in the Commission, sponsored by federal lawmakers between 2015 and 2020 as well as details of such projects relating to the award of the contracts, the contract sum and level of completion of the contracts. It obviously took this action in order to avoid providing the Centre with the information requested, as the amount demanded clearly violates the spirit of the FOI Act as well as the fees chargeable for information as stipulated by the Attorney General of the Federation.”
He also noted that in 2017, when another non-governmental organization, Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC), made a request to the Commission under the FOI Act on its public finance expenditure records, it took the Commission over 60days to respond to the application, although the Act requires it to do so within seven days.
Mr. Longe said: “over the last 10 years since the FOI Act came into force, the Commission has deliberately breached or disregarded every responsibility legally on imposed on it by the Act as it has consistently refused to submit any annual report to the Attorney-General of the Federation for 10 years, failed to designate an FOI Desk Officer, spurned the mandatory requirement for it to proactively publish 16 categories of information; neglected to provide appropriate training for its officials on the public’s right of access to information, amongst other infractions.”
The Commission was established by the Federal Government in 1979 to manage the collection, documentation, conservation, and presentation of the national cultural properties to the public for education, enlightenment, and entertainment.
Detailing the Commission’s non-compliance with the FOI Act over the last 10 years, Mr. Longe said it had not submitted any annual report in the 10 years since the inception of the Act in clear breach of Section 29(1), which requires every public institution to submit a report to the Attorney-General of the Federation on or before February 1 of each year, covering the preceding year.
He added that the Commission has also not made any report for any year available to the public through any means, as required by Section 29(2) of the Act, in the last 10 years.
In addition, he said, the Commission has not designated any FOI Desk Officer to receive requests for information from members of the public despite the explicit provision of the Act that all public institutions must appoint such an official and despite repeated appeals by the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation for every public institutions to send in names and contact details of such designated officer.
Mr. Longe noted that despite the mandatory provisions of Section 13 of the FOI Act, the Commission has not provided appropriate training for its officials on the public’s right to access to information or for the effective implementation of the Act over the last 10 years as required by the Law.
On the Commission’s compliance with its proactive publications’ obligation, he said since its website, http://ncmm.gov.ng/, has been down and inaccessible for a prolonged period, it was difficult to determine its current status of implementation of the provision of the Act requiring all public institutions to proactively publish 16 categories of information and to disseminate them widely to the public even without anyone applying for such information.
However, Mr. Longe said, given the Commission’s track record on the issue, it was unlikely that it had recorded any improvement as information from the website http://foivault.ng/ where the results of the 2020 FOI Ranking of public institutions result is displayed, shows that the Commission was ranked 192 out of 213 public institutions that were assessed for their compliance with the FOI Act.
He explained that the Commission only got two points which were for the descriptions of the institution and its responsibilities, being the only information that it had proactively published at the time of that assessment in 2020.