THE National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) is demanding the sum of N200, 000 to respond to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request written to the commission for a list of contracts awarded between 2015 and 2020.
The FOI was written and submitted by the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR).
In its reference letter – CAF 165/1/270 to The ICIR, dated 10 August, the Commission applauded activities of the Centre towards promoting transparency and accountability through objective reporting but asked for at least N200, 000 to provide the documents requested.
The money was to be paid into the Commission through the Treasury Single Account (TSA) of the Federal Government.
“We are, however, constraint, to suggest to you to provide the most minimal amount of money to produce these documents,” the letter signed by the Commission’s Deputy Director (Legal), Babatunde Adebiyi read.
“We recommend that you pay the sum of N200, 000 only to the TSA and ensure it gets to us to produce these documents.”
The FOI request was to seek a list of projects sponsored by federal lawmakers (House of Representatives and Senate) in the agency within years 2015 and 2020 in both soft and hard copies.
The required information includes the contract description, the date of advertisement and media organisation the notice was placed, the approved threshold, procurement method, the bid opening date, name of the contractor, and the date the contract was awarded.
Others are the contract period, contract value, budgetary provision, amount paid for the contract, the level of completion as well the NCMM official remarks on the projects.
The FOI Act provides that response to the request of an applicant should be submitted within seven days, with a reminder of an additional seven days, otherwise, such agency of government is considered to have breached the law.
Flouting the Act is a criminal offence that attracts at least a one-year jail term, especially when public records requested are wilfully destroyed or altered by any public servant or head of government agency, institutions before being released to the applicant.
Moreover, Section 2 Sub section 4 of the Act states that such public information as requested by The ICIR should be “widely disseminated and made readily available to members of the public through various means, including print, electronic and online sources, and at the offices of such public institutions.”
Findings further revealed the Commission breached Section 4 subsection (b) as no part of the FOI Act demands monetary payment should be made before FOI requests are granted, even though reasons for such denial should be presented.
Also, justification for such denial should reflect in the FOI Act.
“Where the public institution considers that the application should be denied, the institution shall give written notice to the applicant that access to all or part of the information will not be granted, stating reasons for the denial, and the section of this Act under which the denial is made,” the act reads.
The FOI Act was signed into law on 28 May 2011 to make available, more freely, public information, protect such information in order to promote accountability in government.
The Director- General of the National Commission for Museum and Monument is Prof. Abba Tijani.