By Bassey Udo
The Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR) and Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) emerged tops in the latest Freedom of Information (FOI) transparency ranking published in Abuja.
Of over 250 government agencies covered by the ranking NEITI was adjudged second best after BPSR during the year.
The two agencies were declared joint top winners as the most compliant government agencies and companies in terms of promoting Freedom of Information (FOI) in their operations, with the debt management agency, Debt Management Office (DMO), coming third.
Others in the top 10 ranking included the National Orientation Agency (NOA), the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC), Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), National Commission For Colleges Of Education (NCCE), Bureau Of Public Enterprise (BPE) and Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).
The winners were named on Wednesday by the Public and Private Development Centre, (PPDC) during the launch of the 2022 Freedom of Information (FOI) Compliance Ranking held in Abuja.
The Chief Executive Officer, CEO (PPDC), Jubril Shittu, said the two top agencies emerged as a result of their proactive disclosure of requested information about their activities and programmes on their online portals.
The Minister for State, Budget and National Planning, Clem Agba, represented by the Deputy Director, Agriculture and Rural Development, Oluyide Adesola, said the federal government was making necessary efforts to ensure the data of Nigerians were protected.
“The government has taken cognizance of emerging data protection laws and regulations in the international community geared towards protecting privacy, identity, lives and property as well as fostering the integrity of commerce and industry in the data and digital economy and has realised the imperative importance of developing data protection rules and regulations to protect the personal data of Nigerian citizens and residents,” Agba said.
“It is in view of this that the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation (NDPR) 2019 was passed and it is the pioneer, comprehensive Regulation on data protection in Nigeria,” he added.
Reacting to the latest ranking, the Executive Secretary of NEITI, Orji Ogbonnaya Orji expressed excitement, hope and optimism over the development.
“I confirm with delight that our Agency, NEITI came second, behind only the Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR). On behalf of the NSWG (National Stakeholders Working Group), management and staff, I have accepted the result with high expectations that we will work harder to be second to none in future rankings,” Orji said.
The transparency agency boss affirmed that the ranking was “a testimony of NEITI’s commitment to transparency and accountability not just in the extractive sector, but also in all its internal processes by the way and manner it carries out its day-to-day operations”.
The independent ranking to NEITI, he said, was in recognition of the efforts in the last one year to strengthen processes, invest more, not only on competency and skills development, but also on ethical compliance/value re-orientation and training programs for management and staff.
However, Orji said the achievement of the latest ranking was not only by NEITI, but also collaboration of the stakeholders engaging in the NEITI process.
He urged stakeholders to continue to push the boundaries of transparency and accountability for greater achievement in the governance of Nigeria’s extractive sector.
On behalf of the NEITI management and staff, and Orji said he dedicated the honour to the multi-stakeholders represented by the Board, the founders of NEITI who laid the solid foundation for the Agency to remain an island of excellence, competence and integrity.
As the Executive Secretary of NEITI managing the Secretariat in the last year with the support of the Board, Orji said all he has done was to identify potential gaps for possible relapse in the agency’s core values and fix them, further strengthening its processes to resist the challenges of today and consolidate on what already exists.
The ranking exercise was verified by the coalition of civil society organisations, comprising the Public Private Partnership Development Centre (PPPDC), International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), Budgit, Basic Rights Watch, Media Rights Agenda, and the Rights to Know (R2K), among others.
Some of the criteria for the 2022 FOI ranking included access to procurement-related information from public institutions, proactive disclosures and response to public requests.
Public institutions covered by the exercise were ranked based on benchmarks for disclosure within the framework of the Nigerian Freedom of Information Act, 2011.
The ranking was graded as full, partial or no disclosure according to the stipulated guidelines.
The ranking of affected institutions was based on the timeliness and efficiency of responses to requests.
The FOI ranking exercise was designed to bring public attention to the gaps in proactive disclosure of information by ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) and encourage public institutions to improve their level of FOI implementation compliance to improve corporate governance.
The 2022 ranking report showed that the number of public institutions featured grew from 66 recorded in 2014 to 250 in 2022.