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Ministry, National Film Board fail to answer FOI requests, using Covid-19 as excuse

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THE National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) and the Federal Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation have failed to provide information on projects sponsored by federal lawmakers, demanded through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request sent by The ICIR.

A response to the request signed by the Chief Legal Officer of the Board Adlhakeem Abdulraheem said the documents requested by The ICIR were being handled by government officials who had been off-duty since last year based on the government’s work-from-home directive.

“I regret to humbly inform you that due to the directive of Federal Government date 22/12/2020 with reference NO.HCSF/3065/VOL.47 that only officers on Grade Level 14 and above should be reporting to work, the officers in charge of the documents requested by your organisation are off duty.

“However, as soon as the stay at home directive is lifted and workers resume full duty the information requested for will be made available to you,” it read.

The list of projects requested by The ICIR was to include contract description, advert date and media, approved threshold, procurement method, bid opening date, contractor, date of contract award, contract period, contract value, budgetary provision, the amount paid, level of completion and remark.

Similarly, the Federal Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation also has declined to provide information on projects sponsored by members of the National Assembly demanded through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by The ICIR.

“Due to partial operations in the Federal Civil Service with regards to the COVID-19 pandemic in the country made it difficult for the Ministry to grant your request at the moment.

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“Kindly note that as soon as this directive on COVID-19 is eased out, the Ministry will be able to respond to your request accordingly,” it read.

The ICIR had requested a list of projects sponsored by federal lawmakers between 2015 and 2020 from both organisations.

Lawmakers have repeatedly domicile constituency projects in several agencies of government, some without the mandate to execute such public projects.

The list of projects requested by The ICIR was to include contract description, advert date and media, approved threshold, procurement method, bid opening date, contractor, date of contract award, contract period, contract value, budgetary provision, the amount paid, level of completion and remarks.

Their response did not include the date when the requested information would be made available as the work-from-home directive issued last year to Grade Level 12 workers and below due to the pandemic is yet to be reversed.

The Federal Government had issued its workers on Grade Level 12 and below with a work-from-home directive in 2020 due to the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Boss Mustapha said in June that the Federal Government would soon recall civil servants working from home to their offices.

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Two months after the expiration of the last directive, however, workers have continued to stay at home.

The directive has been extended several times since 2020, with the latest extension expiring in June 2021.

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was signed into law by former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2011 to guarantee the right of public access to information held by government institutions and relevant private entities in Nigeria.

According to the FOI Act, government institutions are to make information available on request within a time limit of seven working days, which begin immediately after the public institution receives the request.

However, there has been a low level of compliance by state governments and public institutions.

If you or someone you know has a lead, tip or personal experience about this report, our WhatsApp line is open and confidential for a conversation

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