…activities shrouded in secrecy, violates FOI with impunity
Amid violation of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, the Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has threatened the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) with legal action.
MRA also said for its impunity and dismal performance in the implementation of the FOI Act, it has inducted it into its “Enhanced Freedom of Information Hall of Shame”.
“We will take legal action against the institution to compel it to comply with its obligations under the FOI Act,’’ MRA’s Programme Officer, Mr John Gbadamosi, said in a statement in Lagos on Monday by Mr Idowu Adewale, the Communications Officer.
Persecondnews recalls leant that NHIS was first inducted into the FOI Hall of Shame on November 6, 2017.
The Federal Government had set up NHIS in 1999 by the Olusegun Obasanjo administration by Act 35 to regulate health insurance and provide easy access to healthcare and universal health coverage for all Nigerians through various prepayment systems, but the NHIS had decided to flout the FOI Act.
It has also failed to comply with most of its duties and obligations under the Act, resulting in unwarranted secrecy over many aspects of its operations.
“Being an agency responsible for the provision of critical public services to citizens, the NHIS should be open and transparent by default so that those it is intended to serve will know what services it provides.
“And how they can access those services, the costs at which the services are provided and other such information that will enhance its operations and the delivery of its mandate to the Nigerian public.
“It is totally unacceptable that the NHIS, particularly given its public service delivery mandate, would deliberately disregard a law validly enacted by the National Assembly to ensure that it is transparent in its business, operations and activities and accountable to the Nigerian public which it is supposed to serve,” Gbadamosi said.
He accused the organization of undermining the provisions of the law for nearly a decade.
According to the MRA officer, the NHIS has ignored its proactive publications obligations under Section 2 of the FOI Act which requires all public institutions covered by the Act to publish and periodically update certain categories of information for the nine years that the law had been in existence.
In addition, Gbadamosi alleged that the NHIS had failed to comply with the provisions of Section 13 of the Act which requires it to train its staff and officials on the public’s right of access to information and records held by it and to enable them to effectively implement the Act.
“NHIS has breached Section 2(3)(f) of the Act which requires it to proactively publish the title and address of the appropriate officer to whom applications for information under the Act should be made by members of the public.
“This stipulation is also contained in the Implementation Guidelines for the FOI Act issued by the Attorney-General of the Federation to assist all public institutions in their implementation of the Act.
“Records available from the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation show that since the FOI Act was enacted in 2011, the NHIS has not submitted any annual report on its implementation of the FOI Act to the Attorney-General of the Federation as required by Section 29 of the Act, when its ninth report is due in less than four weeks,’’ he stressed.