Reducing Security Sector Corruption Risks through a System for classifying Security information.

FOI compliance rankings carried out in 2014 and 2015 show that generally, security agencies are the least likely to respond to a request for information. However, for the same category of information (in this case, procurement related records), a few security organizations may provide some details whilst others would not provide any details at all. The basis for refusal, is often Section 11 of the Freedom of Information Act 2011, which provides thus:

(1) A public institution may deny an application for any information the disclosure of which may be injurious to the conduct of international affairs and the defence of the Federal Republic of Nigeria

(2) Notwithstanding subsection (1), an application for information shall not be denied where the public interest in 6 disclosing the information outweighs whatever injury that disclosure would cause.

The application of this section of the law has had various implications. For example, in 2014 an agency of the Federal Government, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), awarded a public relations contract to a US lobbying firm called LEVICK. The contract was worth 1,500,000USD and sought to change the narrative on the Bring Back Our Girls campaign in Nigeria . On request for details of the contract, disclosure was impliedly denied by NAN on the basis that the contract was domiciled in the office of the National Security Adviser. However, this contract was already made available in the United States and online by virtue of the Foreign Agencies Registration Act (FARA) which requires US persons acting as agents of foreign principals in a political or quasi-political capacity 8 to disclose details of the contractual relationship. Similarly, Paradigm Initiative of Nigeria, in 2013, requested for information on the supply of the WISE Intelligence Technology System for Intelligence Analysis and Cyber Defence for Nigeria. Whilst the ONSA declined to respond to this request, subsequently, details of this contract were made available online by the Israeli contractor, ELBIT, hired to provide the services. None of these disclosures have been seen to cause injury to the Nation’s defence. On the contrary, they have proven to have an embarrassing effect on the security sector, giving the impression that there was something to hide in the requested information.

For both the curious and the concerned, these illustrations leave much to be desired in terms of public accountability. Unfortunately, several outcries pointing to the inconsistencies in accessing information and the possible corruption risks do not seem to have been given adequate attention. However, this can be addressed now by critically considering a framework for public accountability within the security sector. This framework would be guided by rules for classifying security information.

This Policy Brief explains both the legal and moral basis for a publicly available classification system rooted in public accountability and transparency while balancing the need to withhold from disclosure, for a period of time, certain categories of information. The Policy Brief recommends the development of a classification system for security information that includes:

A rationale for classifying security information

An explanatory note on the harm/injury and public interest test and how that is being apply to classify security information

Guidelines to security sector institutions on what to classify and how

Various categories/levels of classification

Timelines for revision of classified information

Maximum classification period

Information that would be proactively available

Information that would be available on request

The Policy Brief further recommends the establishment of a working group of stakeholders by the Office of the National Security Adviser, to create a robust and balanced framework for classification of security information.

Key Areas

Key Policy Recommendation
Non-Uniformity in the Application of Section 11 of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011
The Increasing Corruption Risk in the Security Sector
Addressing the Challenges