lagos—Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN has criticized the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, saying that, “The erroneous submission that the NNPC is not a public institution is embarrassing in that their Counsel did not advert her mind to section 2(7) of the Freedom of Information Act which has defined public institutions to include the NNPC.”
The NNPC had rejected FOI request by Falana to provide information on the amount of money spent on petrol subsidy and turnaround maintenance of refineries.
The NNPC said this in a letter titled, ‘Re: Request for Information on Proposed Review of the Pump Price of Premium Motor Spirit’ dated March 1, 2018.
NNPC said, “We regret to inform you that the NNPC is not in a position to provide any information or document as your request is incongruous with, unsupported by or outside the scope and purview of the Freedom of Information Act. Be informed that the FOI Act is not applicable to the NNPC because it is not a public institution within the meaning of Section 31 of FOIA.”
But Falana in a paper titled “Advancing the anti-corruption fight: the role of lawyers” and delivered at the SAY NO CAMPAIGN launched at Abuja on March 17, 2018 said, “Contrary to the untenable contention of the Counsel the NNPC is a public institution as the federal government has controlling interest in it and it is utilizing public funds to provide public services. Indeed, because the NNPC is a public institution its budget is appropriated by the national assembly while its accounts are audited by auditors appointed by the Auditor-General of the Federation in line with section 85 of the Constitution.
“In exercise of its oversight functions the national assembly regularly conducts investigation into allegations of corrupt practices. Of course, the NNPC Board reports to President Buhari in his capacity as the head of the federal government while the NNPC Management reports to him as the Minister of the petroleum resources. It is therefore preposterous to say that the corporation is not a public institution.”
The paper read in part: “Under the FOI Act, public institutions mean all authorities whether executive, legislative or judicial agencies, ministries and extra-ministerial departments of 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.”