Code of Conduct Bureau Inducted into ‘FOI Hall of Shame’

Code of Conducts

LAGOS, Monday, September 17, 2018: The Code of Conduct Bureau today
joined the ever-growing list of public institutions occupying the
“Freedom of Information (FOI) Hall of Shame” as Media Rights Agenda
(MRA) named the Bureau this week’s inductee for its troubling refusal
to comply with its obligations under the FOI Act and enforce the
provisions of the Law which would help it achieve its institutional
objectives.

In a statement in Lagos, Mr. John Gbadamosi, MRA’s Programme Officer,
said:  “We find it extremely troubling that the Code of Conduct
Bureau, which is supposed to regulate the conduct of public officers
and enforce the Code of Conduct for Public Officers contained in the
Constitution so as to ensure integrity in public office, is exhibiting
this level of lack of integrity in its application of and compliance
with a Law whose objective is also to enhance integrity in public
institutions and among public officials.”

He noted that the Bureau had failed to carry out its obligations under
the FOI Act, including its duties to submit annual FOI implementation
reports to the Attorney-General of the Federation, to proactively
disclose certain categories of information, to designate an FOI Desk
Officer to whom requests for information from the public should be
directed, and to train officials of the institution to ensure
effective implementation of the Act.

Established in 1979, the Bureau has a mandate to maintain a high
standard of public morality in the conduct of government business and
to ensure that the actions and behavior of public officers conform to
the highest standards of public morality and accountability.

Mr. Gbadamosi said: “The Bureau has clearly failed Nigerians in this
its core function and is itself perhaps the greatest obstacle to the
maintenance of high standards of public morality in the conduct of
government business. We are confounded by its persistent refusal to
disclose to requesters the assets declarations made to it by public
officers based on flimsy excuses despite the provisions of the Para
3(c) of Part One of the Third Schedule to the Constitution, which
makes it quite clear that the Constitution intends that citizens
should have access to such assets declarations.”

According to him, “It is ironic that although the Bureau lacks the
capacity to verify all the assets declarations made to it by different
categories of public officers and would obviously do a better job with
public participation in the assets declaration and verification
processes, it has opted to shield the assets declarations from public
access, thereby protecting thousands of corrupt public officers who
have made false declarations from exposure.”

Mr. Gbadamosi said the Bureau, like all other public institutions, is
required to proactively publish certain types of information listed in
Section 2(3)(a) to (f) of the FOI Act, by various means including
print, electronic and online sources, adding that the Bureau has
failed to comply with this mandatory requirement of the Law as well as
several other duties and obligations that it has under the Act.

He also accused the Bureau of failing to comply with its statutory
reporting obligations, observing that since 2011, when the FOI Act
came into force, the organization has submitted only one annual report
on its implementation of the Act to the Attorney General of the
Federation in accordance with section 29(1) and (2) of the Act and the
Guidelines on the Implementation of the FOI Act issued by the Attorney
General.  He explained that the Bureau ought to have submitted seven
of such reports by February 1, 2018.

Mr. Gbadamosi said the Bureau’s lack of consistency in the submission
of annual reports to the Attorney General of the Federation makes it
virtually impossible to determine the number of applications for
information that it has received and the number of such applications
that it processed and granted.

He noted that there was no indication that the Bureau had provided
appropriate training for its officials on the public’s right of access
to the information held by it as well as on the effective
implementation of the Act as required by section 13 of the Act.

According to him, although the Bureau has created many departments,
units and committees and has designated officers to oversee these, it
has done nothing towards the implementation of the FOI Act and has not
designated an FOI Desk Officer to be in charge of receiving requests
from the public and the overall implementation or the Act within the
institution.

Mr. Gbadamosi said the Bureau had not published the title and address
of such an officer whether on its website or anywhere else despite the
clear mandatory provisions of the FOI Act, which requires all public
institutions to do.

He stressed that by the totality of its actions, the Bureau has
exhibited an intolerably high level of disregard for basic principles
of transparency and accountability despite its claim that honesty,
transparency and accountability are its core values.

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.

For further information, please contact:

Ridwan Sulaimon

Programme Manager, Freedom of Information

Media Rights Agenda, Lagos

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