From Magnus Eze, Abuja
Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has indicted the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development for its failure to implement the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, 2011.
The group also accused the ministry of “unjustifiable assault on the rights of citizens to demand information from public institutions,” and consequently inducted the institution into its “Hall of Shame.”
In a statement in Lagos, Monday, MRA’s Legal Officer, Ms. Chioma Nwaodike, said the institution was not only in complete breach of all its obligations under the FOI Act, but had also exhibited an inexcusable intolerance for the rights of citizens and civic groups to hold public institutions accountable in accordance with the law.
The Federal Ministry of Agriculture is charged with performing regulatory functions in agricultural research, agriculture and natural resources, forestry and veterinary research all over Nigeria. It is the supervisory ministry for nearly 50 Federal parastatals, made up of 13 agencies, 17 agricultural research institutes; and 16 Federal Colleges of Agricultural Education.
The statement by Programme Manager, Freedom of Information, Ridwan Sulaimon quoted Ms Nwaodike that: “The question that comes to mind is how a regulatory institution, primarily funded by the federal government, which claims to focus on measures to maximize the full participation of stakeholders in its activities, including farmer’s associations, cooperatives, NGOs, CBOs, CSOs, development partners and the private sector, can willfully and persistently refuse to comply with its statutory duties and obligations under the FOI Act, a key instrument that can facilitate and enhance such stakeholder participation and inclusiveness.”
She observed that despite the Ministry’s admission that it is primarily funded by the federal government, it is not known to have responded positively to any FOI request made to it, including a number of requests by civil society organizations such as the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) and the Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC).
Launched on July 3, 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.