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Court grants MRA, journalist leave to sue FCSC for N15m claim

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CSOs, stakeholders converge on Benin over implementation of FoI Act
A Federal High Court in Abuja has granted leave for Media Rights Agenda (MRA) and a journalist, Tobore Ovuorie, to file N15m claim against the Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC) for alleged violation of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, 2011.

It also joined Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (HCSF) for the violation of the Act and denial of their right to access requested information.

Justice Inyang Edem Ekwo granted MRA and Ovuorie leave to apply for, among other reliefs, an order to compel the FCSC and HCSF to comply with provisions of the FOI Act, following a motion ex parte filed by their lawyer, Kayode Ajulo.

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The judge, thereafter, adjourned the matter to February 26, 2020 when MRA and Ovuorie were expected to report to the court on the filing of the suit.

Also joined as respondent in the motion filed on January 16, 2020 is Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), who MRA and Ovuorie said was responsible for ensuring that public institutions comply with provisions of the FoI Act by virtue of its section 29 (6).

The plaintiffs complained that the FCSC and HCSF failed to perform their statutory duties under the FoI Act, following which they asked the court to grant them leave to apply for judicial review.

Accordingly, Justice Ekwo granted them leave to apply for judicial review under the FoI Act and claim the reliefs the sought and adjourned the matter to February 26, 2020.

Relatedly, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) will today converge on Benin City, Edo State, to examine issues pertaining to access and usage of the FoI Act.

Expectedly, the British Council, which manages funding support of the European Union (EU), would train permanent secretaries, directors of public institutions and information officers of the Edo State Government, among others, on receptiveness and access to the Act.

A statement issued by Chairman, Board of Governors, Freedom of Information Coalition Nigeria (FOICN), Dr. Walter Duru, confirmed that officials of the Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (RoLAC) would conduct the training.

Describing the FoI Act as necessary in the fight against corruption and holding public officers at all levels accountable, Duru described its access and usage in the country as abysmally low.

“The FOI Act was signed into law on May 28, 2011. The law was passed to enable members of the public to access certain government information to ensure transparency and accountability,” the statement added.

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