FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT.
- What is FOIA?
FOIA is the Act that gives a person the right to access information from Government Agencies, Parastatals, Federal Civil Service, Private and Public sectors etc.
- What are the objectives of the FOIA
The Objectives of the FOIA include
- To make public records and information more freely available:
- To provide for public access to public records and information, protect public records and information to the extent consistent with the public interest and the protection of personal privacy,
- To protect serving public officers from adverse consequences for disclosing certain kinds of official information without authorization and establish procedures for the achievement of those purposes.
- To ensure that public institutions answer applications for information.
- To ensure that public institutions practise good records management to make certain that information can be quickly identified, shared and retrieved.
- To ensure that access to any information that is in the custody or possession of any public institution is granted
- To ensure that Impediments or bureaucracy is not deployed to frustrate such requests
- To also ensure the right to take legal action in Courts to compel any public institution to comply with the Act is available.
- Who can make a request under the FOIA?
Any person, group, association, organization etc. can make a request. The request must be made in writing, describing the information sought for, and complying with specific institutional requirements.
- How does a person make a FOI request?
To get information under the FOIA, typically one must make a request. This could either be written (preferred) or oral describing the information sought for, and the format that is required, in as much detail as possible.
- Where does a person send an FOI request?
The Information Management Division of an organization or other unit specifically created usually handle FOI requests. For PTAD, a Monitoring & Compliance Unit FOI Officer avails all received requests the quickest possible response.
- Are there time limits for which information requested, must be furnished?
Unless an exemption applies, the information required must if it is held, be furnished within 7 working days.
- Are there any criminal sanctions for Non- compliance with the Act?
Yes, If a staff conceals, alters or deliberately destroys information, he/she would be liable to prosecution, and a fine or imprisonment.
- Are there any fees for making FOIA requests?
Yes, a fee will be charged to recover the costs of document search, duplication and, in commercial cases, review.
- Are all Records releasable under the FOIA?
The FOIA gives a person the right to request access to Federal records. However, some records are exempted from release and these include, but are not limited to:
1. National security records which have been lawfully classified on national security grounds, and remain classified;
2. Records which disclosure will constitute an unwarranted invasion of an individual’s personal privacy;
3. Records compiled for law enforcement purposes;
4. Records protected from release by statutes other than FOIA.
- What sections of the law provide exemptions to disclosure.
All government or public institutions are required, subject to certain exemptions, to disclose information pursuant to a request by any person. The exemptions are provided by:Section 11- Exemption of international affairs and defence.Section 12- Exemption of law enforcement and investigation.Section 14- Exemption of personal information.Section 15- Exemption of third party information.Section 16- Exemption of professional or other privileges conferred by law.Section 17- Exemption of course or research material.Section 19- Denial by a public institution to disclose records.
- What is the mandate of PTAD’s Freedom of Information Officer:
The mandate of PTAD’s Freedom of Information Officer includes:To process oral or written application(s) for access to information and records;
- To process oral or written application(s) for access to information and records;
- To liaise with other Depts./ Units to address request(s);
- To manage all requests in collaboration with Legal Services Unit at all times;
- Prepare and submit FOI implementation report to the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) on or before 1st February for the preceding year;
- Develop standard charges for documents and transcriptions in PTAD; and
- Provide advisory services on FOI.