The Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has named the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN) into the “Freedom of Information (FOI) Hall of Shame”.
In a statement signed by the MRA’s Programme Manager, Freedom of Information, Ridwan Sulaimon it stated that the induction was for violating the provisions of the FOI Act over the past seven years, thereby denying Nigerians the right to information in the agricultural development sector.
The MRA recalled that the ARCN was established by the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria Act of 1999 with its functions including preparing annual budgets for agricultural research, training and extension programmes of the institutes under its aegis and receiving grants for allocation to agricultural institutes for the implementation of their annual programmes as well as to universities and other bodies for special research or training projects.
Announcing the induction, in a statement in Lagos, MRA’s Programme Officer, Mr. Idowu Adewale, highlighted several failings of the public institution regarding the implementation of the FOI Act which led to its censure by MRA.
He noted that although the ARCN has an active website, it has not taken advantage of this to fulfill its proactive disclosure obligations by publishing on the website the categories of information listed for proactive disclosure under Section 2(3) of the FOI Act.
According to Mr. Adewale, there is no information on ARCN’s website regarding the fund allocations for agricultural research purposes; the receipt or expenditure of public or other funds of the institution; the names, salaries, titles, and dates of employment of employees and officers of the institution; the list of files containing applications for contracts, permits, grants, licenses or agreements, among several other categories of information, records and documents listed in Section 2 (3) of the FOI Act that must be proactively published by every public institution.
He criticized the ARCN for its lack of responsiveness to requests for information from members of the public, citing in particular, its refusal to respond to an application for information dated August 2, 2016, submitted to it by Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC), a non-governmental organization based in Abuja, for a list of the contracts awarded by the ARCN in 2015 and its procurement plan for 2016.
He further castigated the Council for refusing to respond to the application and failing to provide PPDC with the information it requested, Mr. Adewale said: “At a minimum, this information should ordinarily have been published on the institution’s website as part of its proactive disclosure obligations under the Public Procurement Act, 2007 as well as Section 2 of the FOI Act. It was its failure to comply with its proactive disclosure obligations that necessitated the request for information from PPDC, which the ARCN also chose to ignore”.