Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has named the Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST) into its “Freedom of Information (FOI) Hall of Shame,” which is like some black book, for the institution’s failure to comply with its duties and obligations under the FOI Act, thereby violating the public’s right of access to information. Announcing the induction of NIPOST,
Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has named the Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST) into its “Freedom of Information (FOI) Hall of Shame,” which is like some black book, for the institution’s failure to comply with its duties and obligations under the FOI Act, thereby violating the public’s right of access to information.
Announcing the induction of NIPOST, MRA said in a statement in Lagos that the institution was in breach of several provisions of the FOI Act, including failing to designate an appropriate official to receive requests for information from members of the public; and failing to publish the title and contact details of such an official as required by the Act and the Implementation Guidelines issued by the Attorney-General of the Federation.
MRA, a leading media advocacy group, also accused NIPOST of disregarding its statutory obligation to submit annual reports on its implementation of the Act to the Attorney-General of the Federation; failing to proactively publish the categories of information which it is required to publish by the Act, failing to provide appropriate training for its officials on the public’s right of access to information, among others.
NIPOST was established by Act No. 18 of 1987 to provide and operate facilities for the collection, dispatch and distribution of inland and overseas mail at reasonable cost; provide and operate facilities for remittance of money through the money or postal order systems; provide and operate philatelic services in Nigeria; print and provide postage stamps for payment of postage tariff and payment of stamp duties and to represent Nigeria in its relations with other postal administrations and other bodies concerned with postal services.
Sadly, MRA said, despite these very critical information and communication services which the institution is mandated to provide to Nigerians and other members of the public, NIPOST has chosen to conduct its business in secrecy and has consistently violated the provisions of the FOI Act since its enactment in 2011.
Mr. John Gbadamosi, MRA’s Programme Officer, said in the statement: “NIPOST, which used to be a department in the Ministry of Communications, should ordinarily constitute a critical pillar in the effective implementation of the FOI Act and stands to benefit from the existence of the Act if it is able to overcome its institutional short sightedness, the historical incompetence that has dogged its activities and operations for decades and if its management has the resourcefulness to tailor its services to take advantage of a huge opportunity at the disposal of an institution hurtling into extinction as a result of its increasing irrelevance to the society it was established to serve.”
He noted that in addition to complying with the provisions of the FOI Act, as it is obliged to do under the Law, it is also in the enlightened self-interest of NIPOST to promote the Act and its implementation by other public institutions which would result in additional resources for it.
According to Mr. Gbadamosi, “the services that NIPOST was established to provide make it ideally suited to convey applications for information from members of the public all over the country to public institutions in different parts of Nigeria and similarly serve as the vehicle through which public institutions can deliver their responses to such requesters for information at affordable rates that would make it a preferred option for those who currently have to deliver such applications and responses either by courier or through hand deliveries and dispatches.”
Besides, he said, “the money and postal order systems, which are now virtually moribund, could also be easily revived and could become the most viable instruments for members of the public seeking to make payments to public institutions for requested information, which would provide NIPOST with desperately need revenue streams.”
Mr. Gbadamosi noted that although NIPOST claims to have eliminated the incidence of mail theft, pilfering, tampering and other forms of fraudulent activities as a way of boosting customers’ confidence, there remains a lack of transparency and accountability in the provision of its service to the public, which have largely remained inefficient.”
He accused NIPOST of non-compliance with its obligation under the Law to proactively publish 16 categories of information that it is required to publish by Section 2(3) and (4) of the Act, saying “additionally, there is no indication whatsoever that the institution has designated an official to whom requests for information should be sent while it has also not proactively published the title and address of such an official as the information is not even available on its website.”
Mr. Gbadamosi also pointed out the institution’s failure to comply with its obligation under Section 29 of the Act, which mandates NIPOST, like other public institutions covered by the Act, to submit to the Attorney-General of the Federation, on or before February 1 of each year, a report covering the preceding fiscal year of its implementation of the Act.
He said there was no indication that the NIPOST has provided the appropriate training for its officials on the public’s right of access to information or records held by the Bureau or trained them to effectively implement the Act, as it is required to do by section 13 of the FOI Act.
Mr. Gbadamosi called on the management of the Service to redeem the institution’s image by ensuring that it complies with its duties and obligations under the FOI Act.
MRA launched the “FOI Hall of Shame” on July 3, 2017 to draw attention to public officials and institutions that are undermining the effectiveness of the FOI Act through their actions, inactions, utterances and decisions.