Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has named the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) as this week’s inductee into the Freedom of Information (FOI) Hall of Shame for leaving Nigerians in the dark over its operations and activities arising from its flagrant disregard of several provision of the FOI Act, including its failure to submit annual reports and disclose information proactively, among others.
The TCN manages the electricity transmission network in Nigeria and is one of the 18 companies that emerged from the unbundling of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) in April 2004. It is a product of a merger of the transmission and system operations parts of PHCN. It was incorporated in November 2005 and issued a transmission license on July 1, 2006.
The TCN is currently fully owned and operated by the Federal Government. It carries out activities which include electricity transmission, systems operation and electricity trading as well as taking responsibility for evacuating electric power generated by the electricity generating companies (GenCos) and wheeling such power to the distribution companies (DisCos).
In a statement in Lagos, MRA’s Programme Manager in charge of Digital Rights, Ms Eseohe Ojo, noted that as part of the reform programme of the Federal Government, the TCN is to be reorganised and restructured to improve its reliability and expand its capacity in the power sector.”
She interpreted the proposed reorganization and restructuring as evidence of a clear failure on the part of TCN to effectively carry out its mandate and the Federal Government’s recognition of public dissatisfaction with the company’s performance of its functions.
Ms Ojo accused the company of failing to use “the most essential tool in its toolbox, which is the Freedom of Information Act, in ensuring that Nigerians are well informed, updated and carried along in its operations, businesses and activities, which might have resulted in public understanding of its challenges and generated the necessary public sympathy for it.”
According to her, despite the fact that the core functions of the TCN ought to be guided by the principles of transparency, accountability and integrity, among others, “it has chosen to operate in silence and secrecy, thereby depriving Nigerians of the right to be informed while at the same time failing to deliver to them in an efficient manner an essential public service.”
She noted that since the coming into force of the FOI Act in 2011, the company had failed to submit a single annual report on its implementation of the Act to the Attorney General of the Federation, thereby violating section 29 (1) of the Act as well as the more detailed requirements contained in the Guidelines for the Implementation of the FOI Act, issued by the Attorney-General of the Federation in the exercise of his powers under the Act.
Ms Ojo said the TCN had also contravened the section 2 (3)(d)(i) and (e)(iii) of the Act as it failed to proactively disclose information relating to the receipt and expenditure of public or other funds of the institution as well as information containing applications for any contracts made by or between the company and another public institution or private organization, which includes the foreign loans of $1.5 billion and $500 million that it received for its operations and contract processes.
She added that this action had already caused the House of Representatives of the National Assembly to institute an investigation into the violation by the TCN of the Constitution, the Fiscal Responsibility Act, and the Public Procurement Act in October 2017.
Ms Ojo also cited as a further breach of the FOI Act by the TCN its failure to publish on its website or on any other public platform, the title and address of the appropriate officer to whom applications for information under the Act should be made, as required by Section 2(3) (f) of the Act, evidencing a clear lack of intention to provide members of the public with information as it is obliged to do by the Act.
She said the TCN had apparently also not trained its officials on the public’s right of access to information or records held by it and for the effective implementation of the Act as required by Section 13 of the Act.
Ms Ojo also accused the company of non-responsiveness to requests for information made to it under the FOI Act and cited as an example, requests made on several occasions by the Abuja-based non-governmental organization, Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC), for information in the custody of the TCN, which were never granted or even answered.
She said: “One should perhaps not be surprised by this lack of responsiveness on the part of the TCN to requests for information as it is apparent from its failure or refusal to designate an appropriate official to whom such requests for information should be directed that it never intended to respond to any such request for information, regardless of whatever the FOI Act stipulates.”
Ms Ojo observed that although the TCN listed the names and titles of its management team on its website, it, failed to disclose the names, salaries, titles and dates of employment of all its employees, as required by the FOI Act.
She also noted that the TCN has failed to list the classes of records under its control in sufficient detail to facilitate the exercise of the right to information under the Act as well as the manuals used by its employees in administering or carrying out any of the programmes or activities of the institution as required by Section 2 (3)(b) of the Act.
Launched in July 2017, the “FOI Hall of Shame” draws attention to public officials and institutions undermining the effectiveness of the Freedom of Information Act through their actions, inactions, utterances and decisions.