By Ekemini Simon
As public institutions continue to strive for transparency in full disclosure of information, in compliance with the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, 2011, the same cannot be said about most Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) operating in Akwa Ibom State.
The Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Mr Udom Emmanuel has overtime claimed that his administration is anchored on transparency and integrity.
Yet, according to the 2021 Subnational Freedom of Information Ranking, in Akwa Ibom State launched yesterday, Tuesday in Uyo by the Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC), in partnership with the Akwa Ibom Access To Information Team (ATIT), out of 29 MDAs ranked, only one complied with information disclosure.
The three parameters for the ranking were; proactive disclosure (60 points), level of responsiveness to request for information (20 points) and level of disclosure (20 points).
Bureau of Public Procurement came first in the ranking with a cumulative of 28 points out of 100 points. Their points accrued from full disclosure, and response between 15 days and above to request for information. The FOIA provides that information should be responded to within seven days.
Other MDAs with zero points from all the three parameters are Ministry of Information and Strategy, Government House, Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Judiciary Headquarters, Office of the Auditor-General, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Economic Development and Ibom Deep Seaport, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Welfare, Ministry of Science and Technology, Ministry of Trade and Investment, Ministry of Transport, Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Ministry of Lands and Water Resources, Ministry of Works and Fire Service, Ministry of Housing and Ministry of Environment and Solid Minerals.
Others are Ministry of Power and Petroleum Resources, Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Ministry of Special Duties and Aviation Development, Ministry of Labour and Manpower Planning, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Youth and Sports and Foreign Direct Investment.
Although they did not comply with the disclosure of information requested, Akwa Ibom State Primary Healthcare Development Agency and Budget office had 4 points each while Akwa Ibom State Secondary Education Board had 2 points owing to the level of proactive information available on their website.
The poor FOI ranking of the Akwa Ibom State Government may not be surprising to the public as the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Akwa Ibom State Council in her communique issued on September 30, 2020 called on the State Government to stop disregarding FOI requests. Since then, there has been no reported change.
Earlier in his address, the Head of Legals, PPDC, Sam offia, said the ranking has been on at the national level and it is now implemented at the subnational level to improve and entrench disclosure practices.
He stressed the need for access to information, stating that it would positively impact on the management of public resources towards improved service delivery and also engender citizens participation in governance, as citizens would have the necessary information to actively engage government and contribute to the development of their society.