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NASENI violates FOIA law, denies The ICIR’s request on capital release

THE National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI) has violated the Nigerian Freedom of Information law as the agency refused to grant a request of details of its capital releases to the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR).

The Agency denied the request in a letter signed by Hussaina Shehu, NASENI Principal State Counsel on behalf of the Executive Chairman, and addressed to The ICIR.

The Centre had requested for the Capital releases to NASENI from the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF).

Responding to the request, NASENI wrote that it was unable to grant the request due to ‘its policy and practice’.

“In view of our policy and practice to observe certain laid down procedures and legal obligations, the Agency wishes to state that it is unable to grant absolute or partial disclosure of the items you are requesting on the following grounds,” the letter read.

According to NASENI, it has pending petitions with the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offenses (ICPC), and the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) concerning the years the Centre had requested for.

“In the Agency’s opinion, it is prejudicial to the relevant investigating agencies and NASENI to grant your organization access to these documents and the years you requested which is already the subject matter of the pending investigation,” NASENI wrote.

NASENI violated the section 1 (1) of the Freedom of Information Act of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that states that “Notwithstanding anything contained in any other Act, law or regulation, the right of any person to access or request information, whether or not contained in any written form, which is in the custody or possession of any public official, agency or institution howsoever described, is established”.

The Agency also violated the section 4 of the FOI Act where it is made a law that “Where information is applied for under this Act the public institution to which the application is made shall, subject to sections 6, 7, and 8 of this Act, within 7 days after the application is received – make the information available to the applicant”.

Another violation is the FOI Act section 2 (4) which reads that “A public institution shall ensure that information referred to in this section is 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”.

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During the 2020 ranking of Federal Agencies’ compliance to the FOIA, NASENI ranked 140th position with zero points from the level of disclosure.

The FOI act signed into law in 2011 provides that public institutions are to make public records and information more freely available and to provide for public access to public records and information.

NASENI joins Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF), Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) among others who have failed to comply with the law.

The ICIR had filed a case against the CCB over its refusal to provide details of asset declaration forms of all cabinet members of Muhammadu Buhari including the Secretary to the State Government, Chief of Staff to the President, Head of Civil service and other ministers.

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