MRA flays poor funding for FOI Act in 2024 Budget

 ‘Signals lack of commitment to ensure effective implementation’

Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has 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 statement on Friday announcing 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 absolute commitment to the full and effective implementation of the FOI Act, by allocating the appropriate resources required for this purpose.  

In its analysis of the 2024 budget, MRA said the proposal showed that of at least 1,316 Federal public institutions, only 10 made specific allocations for FOI implementation or other FOI-related activities in their proposals.

It described 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 Ministries of Works; Budget and Economic Planning; Housing and Urban Development; Environment; and Labour and Employment.

Others are the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Nigerian Law Reform Commission, National Library of Nigeria, and the National Commission for Colleges of Education Secretariat.

According to MRA, the Works Ministry has the highest budgetary allocation for FOI implementation with a total of N39.280 million, while the Nigerian Law Reform Commission had the second highest with a proposal to spend a little over N15.634million on FOI-related activities.    

The 2024 budget proposal showed that of at least 1,316 Federal public institutions, only 10 made specific allocations for FOI implementation or other FOI-related activities in their proposals.

MRA’s Communications Officer, Idowu Adewale, was quoted as saying 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.” 

He noted that the last report issued on March 27, 2023, by Mr. Abubakar Malami, the former Attorney-General of the Federation, 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.

Mr. Adewale said it was curious that although there were no concrete measures taken by the Federal Government to address the problem. 

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.

They are also to prescribe a minimum level of resources which every public institution should allocate to the implementation of the Act, to ensure that they are fully implementing the Law and complying with its provisions.

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