The Media Rights Agenda (MRA) Yesterday named the National Insurance Commission (NAICOM) as the latest inductee into its “Freedom of Information (FOI) Hall of Shame”.
It also warned that the pervasive culture of lack of compliance with the FOI Act is eroding public trust in the Government and its agencies.
In a statement in Lagos, MRA’s Programme Officer, Mr. John Gbadamosi, said NAICOM’s selection by MRA’s Programme Team, was based on the Commission’s failure to live by its core values which include transparency, integrity and efficiency, having also failed to implement and comply with most of its obligations under the FOI Act while denying citizens the right to obtain information from it.
Itemizing NAICOM’s breaches of the FOI Act and its transparency obligations, Mr. Gbadamosi noted that: “Although the Commission has published some of its operational guidelines along with other financial reports, it has not fulfilled the rest of its proactive disclosure obligations under Section 2 of the FOI Act as it has not published either on its website or anywhere else, other categories of information that are part of the 16 classes of information that the Act requires all public institutions to proactively publish and disseminate widely to members of the public through various means, including print, electronic and online sources”.
In particular, he pointed out that the Commission has not designated an officer to whom requests for information should be sent, and has also not proactively published the title and address of the officer either on its website or anywhere else, as required by Section 2(3)(f) of the Act and the FOI Implementation Guidelines issued by the Attorney-General of the Federation.
Mr. Gbadamosi also accused the Commission of failing to comply with its obligation under Section 29 of the Act by failing to submit any of the seven reports it ought to have submitted as of February 1, 2018 to the Attorney- General of the Federation on its implementation of the FOI Act since the enactment of the Law in 2011.
He cited information from the Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC), an Abuja-based non-governmental organisation, indicating that NAICOM has not consistently responded to requests for information.
Mr. Gbadamosi said: “We are extremely concerned that there appears to be an endless stream of public institutions just waiting to be inducted into the Freedom of Information Hall Shame, a recognition that no self-respecting institution should desire.”
He noted that “It is particularly worrisome that a public institution like NAICOM, established to foster public trust and confidence in the insurance system, prefers to operate in secrecy and disregard a fundamental law of the land aimed at enabling the public to access information about government and its agencies.”
“It is apparent the public cynicism towards the government is on the increase as public trust and confidence in the government is being eroded at an alarming rate. There is no doubt that the lack of transparency and accountability is largely responsible for this situation as many agencies of government are decidedly but unnecessarily being secretive about their affairs.”
NAICOM is an agency of the Federal Government established by the National Insurance Commission Act of 1997 and tasked with responsibility for ensuring the effective administration, supervision, regulation and control of insurance business in Nigeria.
MRA called on the management of NAICOM to take urgent measures to improve the image of the Commission by putting systems in place to ensure that it complies with all its obligations under the FOI Act and the guidelines issued by the Attorney-General of the Federation.
It also urged the Attorney-General of the Federation to step up his efforts at ensuring the effective implementation of the FOI Act by ensuring that NAICOM and other public institutions to which the Act applies comply with and implement its provisions.
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.