None Compliance To Freedom of Information Impedes Transparency In Extractive Sector

Over the years, Nigeria public sector has relied on the Official Secret Act to exclude citizens from asking questions and demanding accountability from government and its agencies. The emergence of FOI Act 2011 has changed the narrative and citizens can now rely on the new law to demand information from the government and its agencies, thus, leading to greater open and transparent governance.

However, Nigeria experience shows FOI compliance level is very low. In the recent Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC) FO1 compliance report, out of the 116 MDAs, 71 were not complying to the FOI Act, with the extractive sector in the least compliance ranking. This brings out where the problems of extractive sector corruption stem from.

In the past, Publish What You Pay-Nigeria (PWYP) has written three FOI requests to the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) but the corporation did not make any of the information requested available to PWYP-Nigeria. This further confirms the none compliance nature of the extractive sector to the FOI. Also, the PWYP-Nigeria FOI request to the Ministry of Finance and the Auditor-General of the Federation were not also responded to.

In a similar vein, PWYP-Nigeria FOI request to the Central Bank of Nigeria, Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, Ministry of Finance and the Auditor-General of the Federation seeking the release of the forensic audit report the government commissioned to unravel the missing USD 20 billion alleged by Mr. Sanusi  Lamido, the former Central Bank Governor was not responded to. In a response to PWYP-Nigeria, the NNPC through its lawyer, Godwin Obla (SAN) in a letter dated 2nd April 2015 sent to PWYP-Nigeria argued that the FOI does not cover NNPC; thus, the corporation is not bound by law to respond to any FOI request.

The PWYP International through the PWYP-United Kingdom Open Data Program and Analysis reported on Shell Disclosure in 2015. Following the United Kingdom mandatory transparency regime, in April 2016 Royal Dutch Shell, the United Kingdom incorporated Oil and Gas Company under the UK’s 2014 Reports on Payments to Governments Regulation submitted its report.

In 2015, Shell made the sum of USD4.95 billion payment to Nigeria. Publish What You pay-Nigeria received the report from the PWYP-United Kingdom. Having received the report, PWYP-Nigeria wrote the agencies covered to have received the said amount, mainly to find out if they received the actual amount disclosed in the report.

The agencies are the Federal Inland Revenue Services, Niger Delta Development Commission, Central Bank of Nigeria, NNPC and the Department of Petroleum Resources. After a long period of none response from these agencies, PWYP-Nigeria through the FOI request asked the agencies to avail it with actual monies they got. Although the CBN, NDDC and NNPC, DPRS responded to the FOI request, they did not agree to make the information sought available.

Freedom of Information, Open Data, Open Contracting and Open Government Partnership are designed to give the citizens a voice to ask questions about governance. What PWYP-Nigeria needs to do, and must do, is to make sure that the key players in the extractive sector and heads of MDAs understand that the only way to attain open, transparent and accountable extractive sector is proactive disclosure and total compliance to FOI request.

Paul Ogwu

Programmes Officer, PWYP-Nigeria