SERAP sues Okonjo-Iweala over alleged breach of FOI Act
A CIVIL society group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, (SERAP), has instituted a suit against the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, over alleged “failure to provide information about spending of the alleged missing N30 trillion, which represents some accruable income to the Federal Government in the past four years.”
The suit filed over alleged refusal to grant the Freedom of Information request was instituted on behalf of SERAP by its Senior Staff Attorney, Olukayode Majekodunmi. The action was sequel to allegation by the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, that over N30 trillion has been missing, or stolen, or unaccounted for, or simply mismanaged under the minister’s watch.
SERAP stated that “obedience to the rule of law by all citizens, but more particularly those who publicly took oath of office to protect and preserve the constitution, is a desideratum to good governance. In a democratic society, this is meant to be a norm; it is an apostasy for public official like the minister of finance to ignore the provisions of the law.
“She has so far failed, refused and/or neglected to provide the plaintiff with the details of the information requested. By virtue of Section 1(1) of the FOI Act 2011, the plaintiff is entitled as of right to request for or gain access to information which is in the custody or possession of any public official, agency or institution. By the provisions of Section 2(7) and 31 of the FOI Act 2011, the defendant is a public official.
“By virtue of Section 4 (a) of the FOI Act, when a person makes a request for information from a public official, institution or agency, the public official, institution or urgency to whom the application is directed is under a binding legal obligation to provide the applicant with the information requested for, except as otherwise provided by the Act, within seven days after the application is received. By Sections 2(3)(d)(V) & (4) of the FOI Act, there is a binding legal duty to ensure that documents containing information relating to spending of the alleged missing N30tn is widely disseminated and made readily available to members of the public through various means,” the organization also said.
According to the SERAP, “The information requested for, apart from not being exempted from disclosure under the FOI Act, bothers on an issue of national interest, public peace and security, public concern, social justice, good governance, transparency and accountability. The defendant will not suffer any injury or prejudice if the information is released to the plaintiff.”
The organization is seeking an order of the court on the ground that, “Unless the reliefs sought herein are granted, the defendant will continue to be in breach of the Freedom of Information Act, and other statutory responsibilities. It is in the interest of justice to grant this application as the defendant have nothing to lose if the application is granted.
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