The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is not bound by the Freedom of Information Act (FOI), its Secretary and Legal Adviser, Anthony C. Madichie, has said.
The government-owned corporation disclosed this in a letter, while responding to Daily Trust's request for information concerning its recent recruitment in line with the FOI Act.
FOI Act was signed into law by President Goodluck Jonathan on May 28, 2011 to make access to public information easy. In January 29, 2012, the office of Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke, SAN, issued implementation guidelines through a circular titled: "Implementation of the Freedom of Information Act 2011 and the Reporting Requirements under Section 29 thereof (HAGF/MDAS/FOIA/2012/I), to all government ministries, departments, agencies and corporations for implementation."
In a letter dated July 12, 2012 and addressed to the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Daily Trust wrote: "In line with provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011, we hereby request you to furnish us with the details of the just concluded recruitment exercise conducted by the corporation as follows: Number of applicants from each state, points scored by each candidate at the test and interview levels, benchmark points set by the corporation, number of candidates that qualified with their states of origin and number of candidates employed by the corporation and their states or origin."
But, in its response, through a letter dated July 17, 2012 with reference number CSLD.1099, NNPC said that it is not bound by the provisions of the act as a "statutory corporation" by virtue of section 31 of the FOI Act.
The NNPC letter reads thus: "Please be informed that the Freedom of Information Act applies to Public Institutions as defined under the Act. In this regards, Section 31 of the Act defines Public Institution as follows: "... any legislative, executive, judicial, administrative or advisory body of the government, including boards, bureau, committees or commissions of the state, and any subsidiary body of those bodies including but not limited to committees and sub-committees which are supported in whole or in part by public fund or which expends public fund and private bodies providing public services, performing public functions or utilising public funds."
The letter, signed by NNPC secretary and legal adviser, added that "it is our position that this definition does not extend to statutory corporations such as NNPC and thus, we are not bound by the provision of the act."
But Section 2 (7) of the FOI Act 2011 defines public institutions thus: "Public institutions are all authorities whether executive, legislative or judicial agencies, ministries, and extra- ministerial departments of the government, together with all corporations established by law and all companies in which government has a controlling interest, and private companies utilizing public funds, providing public services or performing public functions."