The Freedom of Information Act 2011 was passed by the National Assembly on 24th May 2011 and assented by President Goodluck Jonathan on 28th May, 2011.
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) supersedes the Official Secrets Act (OSA), originally enacted in 1911, which forbade the unauthorized transmission, obtaining, reproduction, or retention of any classified matter. The Act applies not only to public institutions but also to private organizations providing public services, performing public functions or utilizing public funds.
The underlying philosophy of Freedom of Information is that public servants are custodians of a public trust on behalf of a population who have a right to know what they do. In particular, the FOIA promises to remove the aura of mystery and exclusion with which public servants cloak the ordinary operations of government and public institutions. It also seeks to change the manner in which public records and information are managed.
The Act builds on the presumption of openness, by placing on those who wish to keep public information away from the people, the onus of justifying why they have to do so.
What is the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)?
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is an Act that gives a person, group, association or organization the right to access information from Government Agencies, Parastatals, Federal Civil Service, Private and Public sector organizations providing public services, etc.
Who can make a request under the FOIA?
Any person, group, association, organization, etc. can make a request for information under the FOIA. The request must be in writing with a clear description of the information being sought, and in compliance with specific institutional requirements.
How is an FOIA request made?
To get information under the FOIA, a request must be made either electronically (e.g. email) or by letter in written form, describing the information sought for, and the preferred format of the response, in as much detail as possible.
Who is responsible for responding to an FOIA request?
The Legal Services Department of the Authority is responsible for responding to an FOIA request. Your request will receive the quickest possible response if it is sent to the following email address;
Letters should be addressed as follows;
The Managing Director,
No. 2 Zambezi Crescent, Cadastral Zone A6
off Aguiyi Ironsi Street
Federal Capital Territory,
ATTN: Director, Legal Services
Are there time limits for which information requested must be provided?
Unless an exemption applies, the information, if it is held by the Authority, must be provided to the requester within 7 working days.
Do any criminal sanctions apply for non-compliance with the Act?
Yes. If a staff of the Authority conceals, alters or deliberately destroys information, the staff would be liable to prosecution, with the penalty of a fine of N500,000.00 (Five Hundred Thousand Naira) only [Section 7(5)], or imprisonment for a minimum term of one (1) year [Section 10].
Is there a fee for making FOIA requests?
Yes. A fee will be charged to recover the costs of document searches, duplication and, in commercial cases, review.
Are all Records releasable under the FOIA?
While the FOIA gives a person, group, association or organization the right to request access to Federal records, some records are exempted from release. These documents include but are not limited to;
- National security records which have been lawfully classified on national security grounds, and remain classified;
- Records which disclosure will constitute an unwarranted invasion of an individual’s personal privacy;
- Records compiled for law enforcement purposes;
- Records protected from release by statutes other than FOIA.