Lagos, Monday, September 25, 2017: Media Rights Agenda (MRA) today named the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) this week’s inductee into its Freedom of Information (FOI) Hall of Shame, contending that the agency’s sundry acts of non-compliance with the FOI Act suggest that the health and wellbeing of all Nigerians might be at risk.
In its statement in Lagos announcing NAFDAC’s induction into the FOI Hall of Shame, MRA’s Programme Director, Mr. Ayode Longe, expressed concern over the implications of the agency’s failure to fully implement the provisions of the FOI Act and fulfill its duties and obligations under the Law.
Mr. Longe said: “The situation with respect to NAFDAC’s non-compliance with the FOI Act is extremely worrisome because the agency regulates a critically important sector touching on the health and wellbeing of all Nigerians and non-Nigerians living in the country. Its failure to perform its duties and obligations under the FOI Act naturally raises questions about the extent to which it is faithfully performing its functions under its enabling Law, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control Act, Cap N1, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004. If NAFDAC cannot be trusted to apply and implement the Law, then it poses a grave risk to the health and wellbeing of all Nigerians.”
He noted that the mandate of NAFDAC is to regulate and control the manufacturing, importation, exportation, distribution, advertisement, sales and use of food, drugs, cosmetics, chemicals, detergents, medical devices and packaged water, among others but accused the agency of consistently failing over the last six years to proactively disclose factual reports, inspection reports and studies, whether prepared by or for the institution by independent contractors, as required by Section 2(3) (d) (iv) of FOI Act.
Mr. Longe argued that “the demonstrable lack of transparency and accountability on the part of an agency that is established to perform such important functions as well as the apparent willingness on its part to disregard the Law as evidenced by its flagrant violation of numerous provisions of the FOI Act are issues that every Nigerian should be worried about, particularly those with authority over NAFDAC.”
MRA acknowledged that NAFDAC had proactively disclosed on its website a description of the institution and its responsibilities as well as details of its programmes and the functions of each division, branch and department of the institution as required under Section 2 (3) (a) of the Act, but said it failed to proactively published other information which it is statutorily obliged to disclose under the Act.
For instance, the organization said, NAFDAC failed to proactively publish information relating to the receipt or expenditure of public or other funds of the institution; as well as the names, salaries, title and dates of employment of all employees and officers of the institution.
Besides, it added, although NAFDAC had proactively disclosed applicable regulations and guidelines as well as a list of registered products on its website, it has consistently failed to proactively disclose files containing applications for any contracts, permits, grants, licenses or agreement, or materials containing information relating to any grant or contract made by or between the institution and another public institution or private organization, in accordance with Section 2 (3) (e) of the Act.
MRA also accused NAFDAC of failing to designate an appropriate officer of the institution to whom applications for information under the Act should be sent or proactively publishing the title and address of such an appropriate officer, in accordance with Section 2 (3) (f) of the Act.
It said there is no indication that NAFDAC has trained its staff or officials on the public’s right of access to information or records held by government or public institutions as required by Section 13 of the Act, although the agency had put out information about other training workshops that is has organized to build the capacity of its officers to detect and report Adverse Drug Reactions (ADR).
MRA noted that the submission of annual reports to the Attorney–General of Federation was also one of the obligations of NAFDAC under the FOI Act, adding that in the last six years of the existence of the FOI Act, NAFDAC had not submitted a single annual report to the Attorney-General of Federation, as required by section 29 (1) of the FOI Act.
This failure of NAFDAC to submit its annual reports had made it virtually impossible to determine the number of applications for access to information that the agency receives each year and the number of such applications that it processed and granted for any particular year.
MRA launched the “FOI Hall of Shame” on July 3, 2017 to draw attention to public officials and institutions that are undermining the effectiveness of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011 through their actions, inactions, utterances and decisions.