THE Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR) has emerged winner of the 2022 National Freedom of Information (FoI) compliance ranking.
The rating was carried out at an event held in Abuja today organised by a coalition of civil society organisations (CSOs), including The International Centre for Investigative Reporting (The ICIR), Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC), and BudgiT.
Other members of the coalition include Basic Rights Watch (BRW), Right to Know (R2K) and Media Rights Agenda (MRA).
Ranked second and third were the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) and the Debt Management Organisation, respectively, while the National Orientation Agency (NOA) and the Nigeria Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC) came fourth and fifth.
The ranking is organised annually, with this year’s event themed, ‘Artificial Intelligence, e-Governance and Access to Information.’
The Managing Editor, The ICIR, Ajibola Amzat, represented at the event by Ibukun Ajayi, disclosed that the coalition ranked 250 ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).
Amzat called on MDAs to use digital means of sending and receiving FoI messages, including e-mails, to allow for easier and faster dissemination of information, in line with the theme of the year’s event.
“Make use of the digital platforms you have. Many mailing systems of MDAs are not even working. The digital platforms are there; we can make use of that without leaving our seats,” he said.
The minister of state for Budget and National Planning, Clem Agba, represented by Oluide Adeshola, noted that the FOI Act provides an open governance system in Nigeria, to which government officials and citizens could contribute, and benefit from.
Agba called for the digitalisation of information as the ability of citizens to access information was crucial to enhance transparency in governance.
During a panel discussion at the event, the director, e-Governance Department of the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, Olufemi Olufeko, represented by Joseph Akinbode, informed that e-government initiatives had been set up across various government MDAs in the country.
Olufeko noted that various MDAs were at an advanced development phase, adding that the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy was working towards bringing all government agencies to the peak of online governance.
“At the Ministry, we are doing what we call capacity building and enlightenment across the states. We have a place in the PSI where we take people through all these courses for proper enlightenment,” he said.
The manager, Corporate Strategy, Galaxy Backbone, Henry Okelue, also said government agencies were ready to deploy artificial intelligence in information dissemination, but it required collaboration with the private sector to develop e-government solutions to utilise the infrastructure already provided.
The Executive Director, Centre for Transparency Advocacy, Faith Nwadishi, disagreed, noting that various basic pieces of information like addresses were still absent on government websites.
Nwadishi urged citizens to demand more accountability from government agencies.
“If you look at the effort put into having the FOI law in place, we are not reciprocating that by demanding. You can only get accountability when you demand it. Nobody comes to give you an account of anything if you don’t demand it. So on the citizens and civil societies’ part, we need to do much more,” she said.
In 2021, the NIPC emerged winner of the FOI ranking, while the BPSR and NOA came second and third place.
The BPSR also emerged in first place in 2020, and the number of public institutions featured in the ranking has increased from 66 in 2013 to 250 in 2022.