Freedom of Information Act

Freedom of Information Act

Freedom of Information Act
Freedom of Information Act

This Act increases the accessibility of public records and information, allows for public access to them, protects them to the extent that doing so is consistent with the public interest and the protection of individual privacy, shields serving public officials from negative repercussions if they reveal certain types of official information without authorization, and establishes procedures for achieving those goals.

The National Assembly passed the Freedom of Information Act 2011 (142 KB) 2011, which outlawed the unauthorized transfer, acquisition, replication, or retention of any classified information. The Act is applicable to both public and private organizations that use public resources, fulfill public duties or provide public services.

The fundamental tenet of freedom of information is that government employees are stewards of the public trust on behalf of a populace that has a right to know what they do. The normal operations of government and public institutions will no longer be shrouded in the secrecy and exclusion that public employees have come to associate with them, thanks to the FOIA. Additionally, it aims to alter how public information and records are handled.

The Act expands on the presumption of transparency by imposing the burden of proof on those who want to withhold public information from the populace. It was passed on May 24, 2011, and President Goodluck Jonathan gave it his assent on May 28, 2011.

The Official Secrets Act (OSA) is superseded by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), as it was intended.

What is the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

An individual, group, association, or organization has the right to request information from government agencies, parastatals, the federal civil service, private and public sector organizations providing public services, etc., under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Under the FOIA, any person, group, association, organization, etc. may request information. The request must be made in writing, include a detailed explanation of the information requested, and adhere to any applicable institutional regulations.

Freedom of Information Act
Freedom of Information Act

How does one submit a FOIA request?

Under the FOIA, a request must be made in writing or electronically (such as via email), and it must include as much information as possible about the material that is requested as well as the preferred format for the response.

Who is in charge of fulfilling a FOIA request?

Responses to FOIA requests are handled by the Commission’s Legal & Regulatory Services (LRS) Department. Sending your request to will ensure that you get a response as soon as feasible.

The following should be written in letters:

Under the FOIA, a request must be made in writing or electronically (such as via email), and it must include as much information as possible about the material that is requested as well as the preferred format for the response.

Responses to FOIA requests are handled by the Commission’s Legal & Regulatory Services (LRS) Department. Sending your request to will ensure that you get a response as soon as possible.

The following should be written in letters:

The CEO and executive vice-chairman,

Commission for Nigerian Communications,

Aguiyi Ironsi Street, Plot 423,

Abuja, Maitama

The Federal Capital Region,


ATTN: Legal & Regulatory Services Director (FOIA Chief Officer)

Are there any deadlines by which the desired information must be provided?

If the information is kept by the Commission, it must be sent to the requester within 7 working days, unless an exemption exists.

Are there any criminal penalties for failing to comply with the Act?

Yes. A member of the Commission’s employees might face criminal charges and a fine of just N500,000.00 (Five Hundred Thousand Naira) [Section 7(5)] or a minimum of one (1) year in jail [Section 10] if they intentionally conceal, modify, or destroy information.

 Are FOIA requests subject to a fee?

Yes. The costs of document searches, duplication, and, in commercial circumstances, review, will be recovered through a fee.

 Are all records subject to FOIA release?

An individual, group, association, or organization has the right to request access to Federal documents under the FOIA, although some records are exempt from disclosure. These records include, but are not limited to National security records that have been lawfully and continuously classified on the basis of national security;

  • Documents whose disclosure would constitute an unjustified breach of a person’s privacy;
  • a database created for law enforcement use;
  • Records that are exempt from disclosure under laws other than the FOIA.


Following are some values and principles that support a strong institutional FOIA culture:

  1. The appropriate institution must work together to efficiently fulfill its proactive disclosure requirement under the FOIA or swiftly respond to information requests.
  2. Ensure that everyone in your institution and the general public is aware of who is in charge of handling requests for information made pursuant to the Act.
  3. Send any information requests that are not your responsibility right away.
  4. Keep, arrange, and maintain records in a way that promotes the efficient preservation, fast identification, and retrieval of information or data.
  5. Keep in mind that the seven-day period starts the moment a public institution receives a request for information or records. A public institution must either give the information within this time frame or provide a detailed justification for why it is unable to do so in light of the FOIA’s stipulations.

Does My Institution Fall Under the Act?

All public institutions are subject to the FOIA. Sections 2(7), 29(9), and 31 of the FOIA apply, which means any of the following:

  1. Any board, committee, or commission of the State
  2. Any subsidiary body of those bodies, including but not limited to committees and subcommittees that are supported entirely or partially by public funds or that use public funds
  3. All businesses in which the government has a controlling interest
  4. Private organizations that provide public services or carry out public functions.

What Records are covered by the Act?

The Act applies to all data or documents that are kept by or on behalf of a public entity. Regardless of the information or record in question’s age, format, origin, or categorization, the law is applicable. It also includes all types of data or records, regardless of how they are stored, such as documents, emails, databases, loose reports, office notes, movies, photos, wall charts, maps, etc. It also includes information that is currently in use as well as information from closed files and archives.

However, the Act’s Section 26 disallows the use of some works that are already freely available to the public through other channels. It is crucial to keep in mind that other departments within your company may have information or records that are relevant to the application while evaluating a FOIA request.

Public institutions should be aware that the FOIA would also apply to information or records obtained from other institutions if the information or records are pertinent to the application, in addition to the information or records supplied by the institution. In situations like this, it is crucial to always speak with the original public institution before deciding whether to grant the FOIA request.

Information Access under the FOIA

Any person has the right to request information or records held by a public institution under Sections 1 and 2 of the FOIA. In general, these rights include

Public Institutions’ Responsibilities

Public institutions are subject to comparable obligations as a result of the right of access to information. There are obligations that are not dependent on any request for information, aside from the need to divulge a record or piece of information in its custody. These concern the organization and upkeep of records as well as the duty to proactively publish particular kinds of information.

The duties to preserve, manage and organize records in accordance with public policy.

Access goals under the FOIA.

A public institution is required to keep, organize, and maintain information or records about all of its operations, businesses, and activities in accordance with Sections 2(1), (2), 9(1), and 9(2) in a way that facilitates the public’s right to access such information or records that are in its custody.

Any officer who has custody of a record who deliberately modifies, modifies, or destroys the record is in violation of the Act. Anyone found guilty of one of these offenses has a mandatory minimum sentence of one year in jail. For any of the aforementioned offenses, there is no maximum sentence allowed, and a fine is not an option.

In light of these rules, it is the responsibility of public institutions to make sure that appropriate safeguards against record manipulation are observed.

Public Institutions’ Proactive Information Disclosure

Public entities are required to regularly disseminate specific information on an ongoing basis under the FOIA. This requirement is distinct from the duty to provide information in response to requests for information made according to the Act.

The Act’s Section 2 (3) lists the minimal information that must be proactively disclosed. Any of the aforementioned data must be made publicly by every public agency, with the exception of:

  • This information is not kept by the institution;
  • One of the Act’s exemptions would make the information exempt from disclosure.

According to the Act, public entities must proactively disclose various classifications of data or documents. Sections 2(3) (a) through (f), (4), and (5) expressly disclose details of these categories of information/records (5).

The records that must be proactively released are broken down into three major categories:

  • Descriptive Information: The first category or group deals with data or records that are intended to be described. Section 2(3)(a) & provides for them (c). They contain details regarding the institution’s activities, obligations, organizational structure, and the roles played by each unit. Additionally, it contains details about the decisions reached and the orders issued when cases were decided in these institutions.
  • List or enumeration of records: The second group or category is concerned with the categories of data or records that need to be mentioned. Section 2(3)(b) and Section 2(4) contain these (e). It contains a list of all the different types of records and information the institution has, as well as all the manuals, rules, and other papers it employs on a daily basis to carry out its obligations. The list of documents comprising applications for agreements made by the institution with other public or private institutions is also included in the second category. studies, reports, or publications created by any independent contractors for the university.
  • Actual Records/Data: The third category deals with data/information that the organization genuinely intends to disclose proactively.

Section 2(3) (d) & contains these (f). Examples include:

  • The institution’s substantive norms;
  • The institution’s staff members’ names, positions held, dates of employment, and remuneration;
  • data pertaining to the institution’s revenue and expenses;
  • The institution’s final planning policies, suggestions, and conclusions;
  • factual reports, inspection reports, studies, and other publications produced by the institution itself or by third parties it has hired to work on its behalf;
  • Proclamations and interpretations of institutionally established policies;
  • The names of representatives who attend institution meetings and the vote records for those meetings;
  • The contact information for institution officers who the public should contact;

The rights of the public institution or of any private individual.

Proactive Disclosure Technique

The public must have easy access to any information or documents that public institutions are required to share proactively. Additionally, they are to be widely distributed by a variety of information dissemination methods, including hard copy printing, print and electronic media, as well as online channels (i.e. the internet). You should make sure that these publications are distributed to all of your institution’s offices, and that whenever the contents alter or are revised, the publications are updated and new copies are sent to the general public.

You should also be aware that failure to promptly disclose material may lead to enforcement action.

What Is a FOIA Application (An Application for a Record)?

  • A FOIA application and ordinary correspondence are two different things. Any information request that can be fulfilled without a doubt
  • Items such as press releases, press kits, recruitment brochures, and the text of public speeches – should be viewed as regular and necessary contact. Requests made between public institutions are typically not FOIA requests.

Contrarily, every request for information or a record that must be actively or seriously evaluated should be formally handled as a request under the Act, particularly if it appears likely that the information requested may not be supplied. As a result, such a request needs to be officially documented and handled as a FOIA request.

NOTE: A FOIA request does not have to be submitted in writing, and the applicant does not have to show a specific motivation for or interest in the requested information.

The FOIA Request and Deadlines

According to the Act, any request for information must receive a substantive response quickly, and in any case, within seven days. If the information requested pertains to a large number of records and the consultations required to comply with the application cannot be fairly finished within the initial 7-day period, there is some room to extend this period by a maximum of 7 days.

NOTE: Within THE FIRST 7 days of the extension, the applicant shall get a notification that he or she has the right to seek that the court reconsiders the decision to extend the deadline for (either positively or negatively) responding to the applicant’s request for information.

The applicant must be given notice of the transfer and the right to judicial review within this time frame if the application needs to be transferred to another institution pursuant to Section 5 as soon as practicable, but no later than the first 7 days.

The Interpretation Act

In accordance with section 15 of the Interpretation Act of 1990, the seven-day period begins on the day the public institution receives the FOIA application.

  • Any holiday must be excluded from the calculation of the 7-day period.
  • A day that is a Sunday or a public holiday is referred to as a “holiday.”

A FOIA request should not be ignored since failing to respond by the deadline can result in litigation (see section 7(4)) and raises a presumption of refusal under the Act.

Advice and Support Under the FOIA

Although it is not required by the Act, requests made under the FOIA are typically made in writing.

However, those who are illiterate or physically unable (disabled) can still request information under the Act by speaking with any public entity. According to the Act, authorized officers of a public institution are required to help such applicants by putting their verbal petitions in writing and providing a copy of that writing to the applicant.

The FOIA Official is advised to make sure that the transcription is read to the applicant in these situations, and a statement to that effect should be made on the application: “THE APPLICATION HAS BEEN READ TO THE APPLICANT AND THE APPLICANT IS SATISFIED THAT IT IS A TRUE AND ACCURATE REPRESENTATION OF THE ORAL FOIA APPLICATION.”

Application Transmission

Written applications may be sent in person, by courier, by mail, or electronically (through email). Public organizations are recommended to designate an email account specifically for accepting requests sent by email. This email address should be widely advertised and set up to automatically create an acknowledgment and receipt of the request.

Meetings with the Applicant

Consult with the applicant immediately if the FOIA application is confusing.

The most important prerequisite is to start a conversation with the applicant. If an additional application explanation is required to discover and identify the information. This needs to start right away.

NOTICE that the procedure of clarification should, to the greatest extent practicable, be completed within the Act’s allotted 7 days. It will be beneficial to let the applicant know about the data that is easily accessible or to look into ways to make an application more detailed. All communications with the applicant should be documented in writing and retained on file or made available to the applicant, as appropriate.


The only fees allowable under the FOIA are the usual costs for photocopying and transcribing the records, if necessary.

You may give the applicant the information at no charge if the cost of copying or transcription is little or if the expense of collecting or recovering the fees would be equal to or higher than the amount being collected. The scale of prices in the guidelines’ schedule gives an idea of typical transcription or duplicating charges.

Nepc Response Process

According to the type of information requested, the NEPC often takes any or all of the following actions after receiving an application under the FOIA:

Stage 1

To note the application’s receipt date, register and record it.

An acknowledgment should be sent to the applicant when the application is filed personally, and a registry record should be made for the application.

Stage 2

Read the correspondence, determine whether it is a request or not, and, if it is, determines whether the Council is in possession of the information, what it refers to, and whether it has to be transferred to another public institution. If so, we move quickly since the Act mandates that the application be transferred between three and seven days after the date of receipt to another public institution that has a higher need for the sought information.

Stage 3

Over ten FOI requests were handled at Stage 3.

Record: Due to the potential for legal action before the courts, it is crucial to establish a formal system in place for noting all FOIA requests and keeping a record of any significant activities performed in response to the request.

Stage 4

Responsibilities: The Council must notify the relevant institution department as soon as possible of any application it receives.

Stage 5

Retrieve: You must gather and take into account all the pertinent data covered by the FOIA request.

Stage 6

Refer to others: When necessary, we speak with representatives from both inside and outside of our institution, particularly from the Ministry or government agency that specializes in or is largely in charge of the material.

Keep in mind that it may occasionally be required to consult a professional regarding information disclosure and the balance of the public interest.

Stage 7

Separate and redact: Some documents may have both exempt and disclosable information. Redaction is the process of separating pertinent information from other information in a record that is either exempt from disclosure or not relevant, as allowed by Section 18 of the Act.

Redactions can be produced by erasing or blocking certain words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, or even entire records. Therefore, in the copy supplied to the applicant, any potentially sensitive information that is irrelevant to the request or for which disclosure has not been approved should be deleted or blacked out. This requires reading a document line by line.

Stage 8

When a response to a request has been prepared, it must be evaluated by a person who has the legal right to either divulge or withhold information. This will very certainly be the head of the unit or the FOIA point of contact. Local guidelines should outline the procedure for allowing the dissemination of information.

The appropriate level within the public institution should approve the use of exemptions to withhold information.

Stage 9

Response: The applicant receives the reply after the required disclosure approval has been obtained. Reactions are written down. We make sure the response is submitted together with an exact copy of any attachments.

Stage 10

After disclosure, it is determined whether or not the information is likely to be of general public interest. Release to Publication Scheme under Section 2. If so, it is evaluated to see if it can be added to the publication of the Council as a part of the information that has been proactively released through a variety of communication channels, including the Council’s website.

Exemptions under the Act

Requests for records should, whenever practicable, be granted and made public. The Act does acknowledge that there are times when disclosing the information is not acceptable. As a result, the Act includes eight issue-based exemptions that may be used to support the denial of a FOIA request.

Sections 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, and 26 of the Act list the exemptions under the Act. Two general categories can be used to categorize these exemptions:

Exemptions from Conditions Unqualified Exemptions include Sections 15(2), 16, and 17.

Information Access Refusal

Refusal Notices, which must be sent within the Act’s seven-day window of time, must include an explanation of why access to information or record(s) requested by an applicant is being denied. Your response must go further than a generalization like “harmful to the conduct of International Affairs and Defense.”

You must, at the very least, specify an exemption that justifies the withholding of the material in question. Additionally, the applicant must be made aware of their legal entitlement to appeal the denial and have a judge consider it.

Freedom of Information Act
Freedom of Information Act

Organizational Structure (a) The NEPC has chosen the proper people and put them in charge of carrying out this task in addition to overseeing every aspect of the FoI process in order to facilitate their ability to proactively disclose information. This is necessary for the FoI law to operate effectively. The FOIA’s Sections 2(3)(f), 3(4), and 29(1)(h) all support this provision.

Level of Compliance with NEPC

In February 2015, the Council received its first FOI request. Over ten FOI requests have been addressed by the Council since then.