The Media Rights Agenda (MRA) on Monday inducted the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) into its Freedom of Information (FOI) Hall of Shame, accusing it of lawless disregard for the public’s right of access to information as well as its statutory duties and obligations under the Freedom of Information Act, 2011 over the last 10 years.
In a statement in Lagos, MRA’s Programme Director, Mr. Ayode Longe, said: “The situation with the National Commission for Museums and Monuments is truly a national scandal and represents everything that is wrong with Nigeria.
“Such conduct by a public institution makes a mockery of the Federal Government’s claim to transparent and accountable governance and serves only to bring the government into disrepute.”
Longe said the commission which should be actively trying to attract tourists, historians, archaeologists, scientists, and students, amongst others, by proactively providing them with information, “is operating the most abysmal information and communication practices.”
He noted that not only has the commission’s institutional website been down and inaccessible for at least several weeks now, it refuses to provide information to those who have made requests for information under the FOI Act “and relies on all sorts of subterfuge, including unreasonable delays, to avoid accountability.”
Longe noted, among other instances, that in 2017, when a non-governmental organization, Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC), made a request to the commission under the FOI Act on its public finance expenditure records, it took the commission over 60 days to respond to the application, although the Act requires it to do so within seven days.
Mr. Longe said: “Over the last 10 years since the FOI Act came into force, the commission has deliberately breached or disregarded every responsibility legally on imposed on it by the Act as it has consistently refused to submit any annual report to the Attorney-General of the Federation for 10 years, failed to designate an FOI Desk Officer, spurned the mandatory requirement for it to proactively publish 16 categories of information; neglected to provide appropriate training for its officials on the public’s right of access to information, among other infractions.”
The National Commission for Museums and Monuments was established by the Federal Government in 1979 to manage the collection, documentation, conservation and presentation of the national cultural properties to the public for education, enlightenment and entertainment.
Detailing the commission’s non-compliance with the FOI Act over the last 10 years, Mr. Longe said it had not submitted any annual report in the 10 years since the inception of the Act in clear breach of Section 29(1), which requires every public institution to submit a report to the Attorney-General of the Federation on or before February 1 of each year, covering the preceding year.
He added that the commission has also not made any report for any year available to the public through any means, as required by Section 29(2) of the Act in the last 10 years.
In addition, he said, the Commission has not designated any FOI Desk Officer to receive requests for information from members of the public despite the explicit provision of the Act that every public institutions must appoint such an official and in spite of repeated appeals by the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation for every public institutions to send in names and contact details of such designated officer.
Despite the mandatory provisions of Section 13 of the FOI Act, Longe said the commission has not provided appropriate training for its officials on the public’s right to access to information or for the effective implementation of the Act over the last 10 years as required by the Law.