Court orders Delta councils to disclose budgets, approved projects
Following three separate suits filed on May 15, 2014 by a Lagos lawyer, Mr. Andy Isioma Ogbolu, on behalf of HDI against Oshimili South, Ika South and Oshimili North local councils, Justice Mojisola Olatoregun-Isola granted HDI leave on May 21, 2014 to apply for, among others, a declaration that the failure and or refusal by the councils to disclose and make available to HDI the information sought in its letters of request dated February 24, 2014 amounts to a violation of HDI’s right of access to information as guaranteed by sections 1(1) and 4(a) of the Freedom of information Act, 2011.
HDI also sought a declaration that the failure and or refusal by the councils to give it a written notice that access to all or part of the information requested would not be granted and stating reasons for the denial and the section of the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act upon which the councils relied to deny HDI access to the information requested in its letters amounts to a flagrant violation of sections 4(b), 7(1), (2) and (3) of Act and is therefore wrongful.
Ruling on the suits on February 18, 2015, Justice Olatoregun-Isola granted all the prayers sought against Oshimili South and Ika South local councils.
She, however, adjourned the suit against Oshimili North to February 26 as the council’s lawyer, Mr. B.O. Okoji, had raised a preliminary objection on the grounds the council was not given a pre-action notice as required by Section 7 of the Delta State Local Government Law 2004, as amended, and that the council and its former chairman, Innocent Esenwaeze, also named as a respondent, were not served with the originating court processes.
At the conclusion of arguments by both parties on the preliminary objection, Justice Olatoregun-Isola on April 2 dismissed the objection relating to non-issuance of pre-action notice to the council.
While the judge upheld the argument of Ogbolu that service of the court processes on the council through its clerk “is good service” she, however, held that there was no evidence before the court that the former chairman of the council or the most senior officer of the council was served with the processes.
Following the ruling, Ogbolu applied to the court to strike out the name of the former chairman of the council from the suit since he was no longer in office, which the court granted.
In a brief ruling on May 12, Justice Olatoregun-Isola granted the prayers sought by HDI and ordered the councils to make available to HDI as requested in its letters of February 24, 2014 the councils’ budgets for the years 2012, 2013 and 2014; documents detailing all projects duly approved for implementation in 2013; the locations of the projects; and the actual cost of each of the projects approved and or implemented by the councils in 2013.
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