Improve Compliance with Freedom of Information Act with Focus on Records Management (NG0023)
Action Plan: Nigeria Action Plan 2019-2022
Action Plan Cycle: 2019
Lead Institution: Federal Ministry of Justice
Support Institution(s): Ministry of Science and Technology and National Information for Technology Development Agency, NOA, Ministry of Communication, Code of Conduct Bureau, NTA, FRCN, NAN, VON, Ministry of Education, National Judicial Council, National Assembly, National Assembly Service Commission, Nigerian Bureau of Statistics. Right to Know, Media Rights Agenda, International Press Centre, Freedom of Information Coalition of Nigeria, Nigerian Bar Association, NUJ, Ethics & Corporate Compliance Institute of Nigeria, the Academic, Safe & Sound Youth Awareness Initiative, SERAP, Open Judiciary Initiative, Private Media Organizations, Enough is Enough, PTCIJ, PPDC, Right to Information Cooperators (RtIC), Youths in Africa Anti-Corruption Network, Open Justice Initiative, DATAPHYTE, BudgIT, The Meluibe Empowerment Foundation, Centre for Health Equity and Justice (CEHEJ).
Policy AreasAccess to Information, Anti Corruption and Integrity, Capacity Building, E-Government, Records Management, Right to Information
This commitment seeks to improve compliance with the FOIA records management requirements to secure citizens right to access to information.
There is a dearth of information available to citizens occasioned by poor records creation, collection, storage, maintenance and management systems and practices in public institutions; inadequate budget/funding to address these challenges, absence of training and retraining of staff on these and other issues, unwillingness on the part of some public institutions to release information to citizens, inadequate awareness on the part of the citizens on FOIA as well as improper archiving or records in public institutions. This has led to failures in their ability to advocate for improved service delivery based on evidence
Specific OGP issue:
-Citizens’ participation in governance
-Opacity in government affairs and activities
Rationale for the commitment:
There is currently low compliance with this provision of the FOIA by public institutions, thus, disempowering citizens and affecting public trust in government.
To ensure that information held by public institutions are created, stored and maintained in a manner that guarantees availability and accessibility to the public to empower the citizens to make informed decisions. This will also provide citizens with a basis for effective contributions to policy formulation or review of extant policies.
Efficient record management system by public institutions.
See action plan for milestone activities
IRM Midterm Status Summary
9. Improve FOIA compliance on management of public records and strengthen public institutions’ record management officers
“To ensure that information held by public institutions are created, stored and maintained in a manner that guarantees availability and accessibility to the public to empower the citizens to make informed decisions. This will also provide citizens with a basis for effective contributions to policy formulation or review of extant policies.”
- Training of staff of public institutions on records management
- Review and update of the current records management policies of public institutions
- Adoption of E-policy on Electronic Data Management System (EDMS) approved by the Federal Executive Council.
- Advocacy to, and sensitization of public institutions on making budgetary provisions for FOI related issues
- Adoption and application of punitive administrative measures against public institutions and officials adjudged to be undermining the effectiveness of the FOI Act or breaching its provisions
Editorial Note: For the complete text of this commitment, please see Nigeria’s action plan at https://www.opengovpartnership.org/documents/nigeria-action-plan-2019-2021/
This commitment seeks to improve government agencies’ record management process to improve citizens’ access to information. Section 9 of the 2011 Freedom of Information (FOI) Act contains a provision on record keeping and maintenance obligations, requiring public institutions to keep records organized to facilitate timely responses to information requests via electronic and paper formats. This commitment continues efforts under Commitment 10 from Nigeria’s 2017–2019 national action plan.  Under the previous action plan, Nigeria’s FOI Unit trained government agencies on FOI provisions. However, Federal Executive Council approval of a memorandum on disciplinary and administrative procedures on the violation of the FOI is still pending. 
This commitment includes five milestones. Activities aim to improve records management by training public institutions’ staff on record management adoption; applying punitive administrative measures to public institutions and officials undermining or breaching the FOI Act; and conducting advocacy in public institutions on making budgetary provisions for FOI-related issues. The commitment includes two new activities to update public institutions’ current records management policies and adopt a policy on the Electronic Data Management System (EDMS) that the Federal Executive Council approved.
This commitment is relevant to the OGP value of access to information because it aims to improve the management of records and achieve prompt provision of information by public institutions.  The commitment is relevant to the OGP value of public accountability, as it intends to apply punitive measures to institutions or individuals not complying with the FOI Act.
If fully implemented, this commitment could have a moderate potential impact on increasing citizens’ access to information through improved record management. Government, CSOs, and other stakeholders have identified record management as a significant obstacle to compliance with the FOI Act.  Delays in retrieving and providing information are caused by issues with infrastructure, manual handling procedures, lack of digital platforms, budget scarcity, and lack of trained personnel.  Despite constituting a significant bottleneck, records management initiatives are seldom supported. Under this commitment, record management could be improved by the shift from paper to digital records and capacity building for staff. However, research has found that the central government’s role in budget allocation is a key to developing a sound record management process,  and according to the commitment’s text, budget allocation is assigned to agencies. Additionally, the planned sanctions for noncompliance offer an enforcement mechanism as long as they are implemented consistently.
The Bureau of Public Service Reforms and Right 2 Know Nigeria have recommended that government agencies develop monitoring and evaluation systems with an IT component.  Donors could support the record management process given that record management is essential to public institutions’ capacity to respond to FOI requests. The IRM also recommends focusing on proactive disclosure and respective budget allocations.
IRM End of Term Status Summary
Commitment 9. Improve FOIA compliance on management of public records and
strengthen public institutions’ record management officers
● Verifiable: Yes
● Does it have an open government lens? Yes
● Potential Impact: Moderate
● Completion: Limited
● Did it open government? No early results to report yet
This commitment sought to ensure that information held by public institutions is created, stored, and maintained in a manner that guarantees availability and accessibility to the public. The Ministry of Justice and civil society partners continued to train Freedom of Information (FOI) desk officers in this effort. However, IRM could not ascertain whether this training focused on records management as intended (Milestone 1). An online platform was established so that FOI officers, the Ministry of Justice, and civil society partners can exchange knowledge and experiences.  However, IRM did not find evidence that the Ministry of Justice updated records management policies for public institutions (Milestone 2) or that the Federal Executive Council approved the E-policy on Electronic Data Management System (Milestone 3). This activity has been included in Nigeria’s 2023 action plan. The Ministry of Justice continues outreach to MDAs on the importance of making budgetary provisions for FOI compliance (Milestone 4).  Yet Media Rights Advocacy’s analysis of the 2023 federal budget highlighted that only 9 entities out of over 500 public institutions made financial provisions for FOI compliance and those that did allocated a low amount.  As of December 2022, guidelines for administrative sanctions and enforcement of FOI had been drafted but not adopted (Milestone 5).  The Ministry of Justice did not respond to IRM’s request for an interview.