Lagos, Monday, February 26, 2018: The Border Communities Development Agency (BCDA) was today inducted into the Freedom of Information (FOI) Hall of Shame by Media Rights Agenda (MRA) for its continual failure to comply with the provisions of the FOI Act, 2011.
Announcing the induction of the BCDA into the Hall of Shame in a statement in Lagos, MRA’s Legal Officer, Ms. Morisola Alaba, said the Agency is being “shamed” for consistently failing or refusing to carry out its duties and obligations under the FOI Act over the last seven years.
The BCDA, establishment in 2003 by an Act of the National Assembly, which was later amended in 2006, is a development agency of the Federal Government under the direct supervision of the Presidency, that is tasked with ensuring the sustainable social, economic and infrastructural development of border communities in Nigeria.
Ms. Alaba noted that the Agency describes its mission as to develop and be the vehicle for the provision of people-oriented, sustainable and equitable development projects in border communities, thereby ensuring their full integration, commitment, patriotism, and loyalty to Nigeria.
But she contended that: “There is no way that the BCDA can fulfill its mission of providing people-oriented projects when it makes no serious effort to be transparent and accountable to those that it is supposed to serve or to ensure their participation in its activities, policy-formulation, and decision-making processes. Under such a situation, it is doubtful if the Agency has any chance of achieving its objectives of ensuring the full integration, commitment, patriotism and loyalty to Nigeria of border communities when it deliberately and consistently fails to implement a law aimed at keeping such communities and others informed about its activities and operations.”
According to her, “It speaks volumes that an agency entrusted with the task of providing basic infrastructural facilities to the hapless people living in border communities, which claims to have been in operation since 2003, is virtually unknown to its primary constituency while the people cannot identify with its programmes and activities. The fact that many people are not even aware of the existence of such an agency and therefore cannot identify with its programmes and activities is a clear indication that the agency has not served the interests of those for whose benefit it was primarily set up”.
Ms Alaba pointed out that much of the information on the BCDA’s website was sheer propaganda, as the Agency is engaged in “shameless and glowing self-praise” about itself and its activities while failing in many respects to provide the 16 categories of information which it is required by Section 2 of the FOI Act to proactively publish and disseminate widely to members of the public through various means, including print, electronic and online media.
In addition, she noted that the BCDA has not designated any of its officials to whom requests for information should be sent nearly seven after the Act came into force and mandated every public institution to designate such an officer and proactively publish the title and address of the officer.
Ms. Alaba described the failure of the BCDA to designate such an official and to proactively publish the title and address of the officer as a flagrant and inexcusable breach of the provisions of the FOI Act and the Guidelines for the Implementation of the Act issued by the Attorney-General of the Federation.
She criticized the Agency for failing to comply with Section 13 of the FOI Act which requires all public institutions to train their officials on the public’s right of access to information and to equip relevant officials with the skills to ensure the effective implementation of the Act.
Besides, Ms Alaba said, over the last seven years, the BCDA has not deemed it fit to comply with its obligation under Section 29 of the FOI Act, which requires public institutions to submit to the Attorney-General of the Federation, on or before February 1 of each year, a report covering the preceding fiscal year of its implementation of the Act. She stressed that the Agency had not submitted any such report for any year since 2011.
Launched on July 3, 2017, the FOI Hall of Shame focuses attention on public officials and institutions that are undermining the effectiveness of the FOI Act through their actions, inactions, utterances, and decisions
For further information, please contact:
Programme Manager, Freedom of Information
Media Rights Agenda, Lagos