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SAN to FG: Appoint independent commissioner to enforce MDAs’ compliance with FOIA

SAN to FG: Appoint independent commissioner to enforce MDAs’ compliance with FOIA
June 01
05:57 2023

Peter Terkaa Akper, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), has called on the federal government to create the position of an “independent commissioner” to oversee the compliance of ministries, departments and agencies with the 2011 Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA).

The law professor made the recommendation in commemoration of the 12th anniversary of the FOIA being signed into law.

The seventh national assembly passed the FOI bill on May 24, 2011, and former President Goodluck Jonathan assented the bill four days later.

The act seeks to make public records and information of government agencies freely available to the public to engender transparency and accountability.


Speaking on the act, Akper praised the government for its establishment and efforts to “sustain” the FOIA in the past decade.

The SAN added that the law had institutionalised the culture of disclosure of information across agencies.

He also highlighted the challenges still hindering the full implementation of the FOIA.


“Proactive disclosure obligations are yet to be fully discharged by MDAs; Resistance by public officers to disclose information despite enabling provisions of the FOIA; The organisation of public records in an easy retrieval format remains a challenge; Public awareness open government precepts and the duty to disclose information is yet to be adequately mainstreamed; Public Officers have not adequately appreciated the limits of the Official Secrets Act vis-a-vis the FOIA,” he said.

Akper proffered an array of solutions to mitigate the challenges.

“The need for the Act to be amended: to incorporate administrative mechanisms (commissioner) to aid the disclosure of information and reduce frequent resort to adjudicatory mechanisms; to increase the seven days limit to disclose information to 14 days,” the professor said.

“The Guidelines issued by the AGF should be reviewed every five years to incorporate judicial interpretation of the act’s provisions. For instance, the 2012 Guidelines should be revised to include the definition of ‘personal information’.


“Consider divesting the HAGF of the powers vested in his office by section 29 of the Act and Instead appoint an independent commissioner to enforce implementation as is the case with other jurisdictions.

“Special intervention funds be made to MDAs to revolutionalise record keeping and information in easily retrievable formats.

“Upscale training in the MDAs on the ethos and ideals of the FOIA.

“Increased oversight of the AGF and NASS on compliance with the provisions of the Act pending the appointment of an independent commissioner.”



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