MRA inducts SON in Hall of Shame for flouting FOI Act

• Expert faults exemptions in law
Media Rights Agency (MRA) has indicted the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) for flouting the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act in the last six years, and consequently inducted it in the Hall of Shame.

The agency, which monitors compliance with the Act, accused officials of SON of “carrying out its activities as if the law does not exist.”

In a statement issued yesterday, MRA’s Programme Director, Ayode Longe alleged that SON had blatantly ignored virtually all its legal duties and obligations under the law.

“Being the apex standardization body in Nigeria with the primary responsibility and power to organize tests; investigate the quality of facilities, materials and products; ensure reference standards for calibration and verification of measures and measuring instruments; and register and regulate standard marks and specifications, among other wide-ranging powers and functions, the SON ought to be at the forefront of transparency and openness,” he said.

MRA cited the organization’s failure to designate an appropriate officer to whom requests for information should be sent in breach of the mandatory requirement of Section 2(3)(f) of the FOI Act. It also observed that the SON has not submitted to the attorney-general of the federation, as required by Section 29 (1) of the Act, any annual report on its implementation of the FOI Act over the last six years and has also not on its own published any such report for any year on its website or anywhere else, as stipulated by the law.

Longe said there was no indication that the SON had provided the required training for its officials on the public’s right of access to information at any time in the last six years despite the provisions of Section 13 of the law.

Meanwhile, a communication expert, Dr. Fassy Adetokunboh Yusuf, has observed that numerous exemptions contained in the FOI Act is capable of weakening the law.

Yusuf who was a guest speaker at the 2017 Press Week of the Correspondents’ Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Osun State chapter yesterday, said the shortcoming was tantamount to limiting the freedom of journalists to access information.

The seasoned journalist who spoke on ‘’Media Effectiveness: Panacea to Nation’s Democratic Challenges, expressed concern over the failure of journalists to access information despite the FOI Act.

“If the purpose of the law is to guarantee access to information in the custody of public institutions, why then does it contain numerous exemptions?” He listed sections 11, 12, 15, 16, 17 and 19 as six exemptions under the FOI where he said information applied for would be refused by the public institution. “Regrettably, there is no definition of public interest under the Act,” he noted.

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Ayode LongeNUJSON


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