Lagos, Monday, April 30, 2018: Media Rights Agenda (MRA) today named the National Business and Technical Examination Board (NABTEB) as this week’s recipient of the “Freedom of Information (FOI) Hall of Shame” award, accusing it of consistently violating its obligations under the FOI Act.
In a statement in Lagos, MRA’s Legal Officer, Ms. Morisola Alaba, said NABTEB has failed to comply with most of its obligations under the FOI Act while also denying citizens the right to obtain information from it.
The National Business and Technical Examination Board (NABTEB) was established in 1993 as an examination body that oversees the conduct of examinations leading to the award of National Business Certificate (NBC); National Technical Certificate (NTC); Advanced National Business Certificate (ANBC) and Advanced National Technical Certificate (ANTC).
It also conducts entrance examinations into Technical Colleges and Allied Institutions; monitors, collects and keeps records of assessment in Technical Colleges and Allied Institutions towards the award of certificates in National Business and Technical Examinations as well as conduct research, publish statistics and other information in order to develop appropriate examinations, tests and syllabi in Technical and Business Studies.
In addition, NABTEB conducts other specified examinations on behalf of or in collaboration with other examination bodies or agencies such as the London Chamber of Commerce or the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, among others.
Highlighting the failings of NABTEB, Ms Alaba noted that although little known, the institution plays a vital role in the educational development of Nigeria, and should be seen as law abiding, transparent and accountable rather being opaque in its operations.
According to her, the institution’s lack of transparency is bound to result in a lack of trust in it, its operations and certificates among candidates sitting for examinations, their parents, other stakeholders and possibly, the entire country.
Ms Alaba cited the 2017 Annual Report on the Implementation of the FOI Act, submitted to the National Assembly on March 27, 2018 by the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) which shows that NABTEB failed to submit its annual FOI implementation report, making it the seventh year in a row that the institution has failed to comply with this obligation since the Act was enacted.
She noted that NABTEB’s failure to submit its annual FOI implementation reports makes it totally impossible to determine the number of applications for access to information that it has received for each year since 2011 and the number of such applications that it processed and granted for any particular year or overall.
However, Ms Alaba said information published by the Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC), an Abuja-based non-governmental organisation, indicates that NABTEB has not been responsive to requests for information.
For instance, she noted, NABTEB did not respond to a request for information dated January 21, 2016, made by PPDC under the FOI Act in which the organisation asked for the records of payments released for capital projects in 2015 and although PPDC sent a reminder about the request to NABTEB on April 12, 2016, there has been no response till date.
She recalled that NABTEB also failed to respond to an FOI request made to it on August 10, 2016, also by PPDC, which asked for the list of contracts awarded by the institution in the year 2015 and the procurement plan for the year 2016.
Ms Alaba said NABTEB also refused to respond to another application for information made on February 2, 2017 by PPDC, requesting records of capital projects released to NABTEB in the year 2016; the list of contracts awarded by the National Business and Technical Examination Board in the year 2016 and the procurement plan within its approval threshold for the year 2017.
She affirmed that since the requested information did not fall under any of the exemptions in the Act, it can be deduced that the only logical reason why the institution refused to provide the information or respond to the request is its total disregard for the FOI Act and other laws of Nigeria, adding that “the information should ordinarily have been proactively published both under the provisions of the Public Procurement Act, 2007 and Section 2 of the FOI Act”.
In the same vein, Ms Alaba said, in the PPDC 2017 FOI compliance ranking of 166 public institutions published on September 28, 2017, NABTEB ranked amongst the worst performing set of institutions.
The ranking was based on an assessment of the level of public access to procurement related information. Specifically, as part of the exercise, information on procurement plans, procurement processes and capital expenditure were sought. The level of proactive disclosure, responsiveness to requests for information and the level of information disclosed by public institutions were determined by PPDC.
Ms Alaba said the Federal Attorney-General’s 2017 Annual Report on the Implementation of the FOI Act also shows that NABTEB failed to comply with Section 2(3)(f) of the FOI Act, which mandates every public institution to designate an appropriate officer to whom applications for information from members of the public should be sent and to publish the title and address of such an officer.
She criticised NABTEB for its lackadaisical attitude towards the implementation of the FOI Act, expressing concern over the obvious disregard by the institution of Section 13 of the Act which requires every public institution to ensure the provision of appropriate training for its officials on the public’s right of access to information and for the effective implementation of the Act.
MRA called on the management of NABTEB to take necessary measures to redeem the image of the institution and elevate it to a stage where it can become a globally recognized assessment and certification body preparing candidates for the world of work and academic/professional excellence as stated in its vision by ensuring that it complies with all its obligations under the FOI Act and the Guidelines on the Implementation of the Act issued by the Attorney-General of the Federation.
It also urged relevant committees of the National Assembly to wake up to their responsibility of ensuring the effective implementation of the Act by ensuring that NABTEB and other institutions covered by the Act, fully implement all their obligations under the Law.
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