Lagos, Monday, March 5, 2018: Media Rights Agenda (MRA) today named the National Lottery Regulatory Commission as this week’s inductee into its “Freedom of Information (FOI) Hall of Shame” for consistently violating the provisions of the FOI Act and operating in secrecy contrary to its own core values, which include transparency and accountability.
In a statement in Lagos, MRA’s Programme Officer, Mr. Idowu Adewale, who announced the selection of the Commission as the latest inductee into the FOI Hall of Shame, noted that since the passage of the FOI Act into Law in 2011, the Commission has not only failed to carry out its duties and responsibilities under the Act, but has actually been conducting its business in secrecy, thereby undermining the objectives of the Act.
The Commission is an agency of the Federal Government established in 2005 to regulate the operations of lottery business in Nigeria, promote transparency and accountability in the lottery system and protect the interests of players, stockholders and the general public.
Mr. Adewale noted that contrary to Section 2 of the FOI Act which requires all public institutions, including the Commission, to proactively disclose certain types of information to the public and to update these categories of information whenever changes occur as well as to make such information readily available to the public through the various means listed in the Act, namely print, electronic, online methods and at the offices of the institution, the Commission has failed to publish the information that it is required to proactively disclose under this section.
According to him, although the Commission says in its mission statement that it is committed to sustainable and transparent lotteries driven by professionalism and leading technologies for social and economic development, and meeting the needs of stakeholders, the Commission’s consistent failure to proactively disclose information relating to its receipt or expenditure of public or other funds and a range of other types of information, as required by section 2(3)(d)(v) of the Act, is contrary to its mission, in addition to violating the clear provisions of the Law.
MRA also accused the Commission of unrepentantly breaching Section 29 of the FOI Act, which places an obligation on all public institutions to submit annual reports to the Attorney-General of the Federation on their implementation of the Act, noting that since the Act was passed into Law nearly seven years ago, the Commission had not submitted any report to the Attorney-General of the Federation or issued any such report for any year.
Mr. Adewale said: “Such blatant disregard for a statutory obligation has no place in a system of government characterized by the rule of law. This type of conduct is offensive and is capable of bringing the Government to ridicule as it creates the impression that rules, laws and regulations are of no consequence because public institutions and the officials who superintend over them are at liberty to ignore such rules, laws and regulations. The Federal Government should respond with harsh sanctions to send a clear message to all public institutions that there will be no impunity for public institutions or officials that violate the Law.”
He noted that “there is no indication whatsoever that the Commission has provided the requisite training for its officials on the public’s right of access to information or records held by the Commission or that it has appropriately trained its officials to effectively implement the Act, as it is required to do by section 13 of the Act”.
Mr. Adewale accused the Commission of failing to comply with Section 2(3) (f) of the Act which requires all public institutions such as the Commission to designate an appropriate officer to whom applications for information under the Act should be sent and to proactively publish the title and address of such an officer.
On the issue of the Commission’s responsiveness to requests for information from members of the public, he observed that the failure of the Commission to submit its annual reports to the Attorney-General of the Federation has made it virtually impossible to determine the number of applications for access to information that it has received for each year since the Act was passed into Law and the number of such applications that it processed and granted for any particular year or overall.
Mr. Adewale said there was no justifiable excuse for the Commission’s failure or apparent deliberate refusal to fulfill its duties and obligations under the FOI Act and called on the relevant authorities of the Federal Government to take stern measures to address the situation.
Launched in July 2017, the FOI Hall of Shame shines the spotlight 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