Court Grants MRA Leave to Pursue N15 Million Claim Against NNPC for Alleged Violation of FOI Act

Mallam Mele Kyari , Group Managing Director, NNPC
Mallam Mele Kyari , Group Managing Director, NNPC

Abuja, Thursday, January 30, 2020:  A Federal High Court in Abuja yesterday granted Media Rights Agenda (MRA) leave to pursue its N15 million damages suit against the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) for the institution’s alleged persistent breach of its statutory duties under the Freedom of Information Act, in violation of the organization’s right of access to information.

 Justice Taiwo Obayomi Taiwo fixed hearing in the substantive suit for February 25, 2020 after granting MRA leave to proceed with its claim against the NNPC following a motion exparte argued by the organization’s lawyer, Mrs. Mojirayo Ogunlana-Nkanga.

 In the motion in which the NNPC, its Group Managing Director and the Attorney-General of the Federation were named as respondents,Mrs. Ogunlana-Nkanga sought judicial permission to enable MRA apply for nine declarations and orders from the court, including an order to compel the NNPC to perform its statutory duties under the FOI Act within 30 days of the court’s order and to pay MRA the sum of N15 million as exemplary and aggravated damages for the violation of its right of access to information guaranteed by the Act.

 Mrs. Ogunlana-Nkanga contended that the NNPC was in breach of several statutory duties under the Act which it has consistently failed, neglected or refused to perform since the Act was enacted into law on May 28, 2011 in violation of MRA’s right of access to information as established and guaranteed by the Act.

 She argued that MRA has a right under Section 1(3) of the FOI Act to institute proceedings in court to compel any public institution, including the NNPC, to comply with the provisions of the Act as well as under Section 2(6) to also institute proceedings in court to compel any public institution, including the NNPC, to comply with the provisions of Section 2 of the Act.

 Among the nine declarations and orders which MRA is seeking are:

  • A declaration that the failure and/or refusal by the NNPC to proactively publish the information specified in Section 2(3)(a)-(f) of the FOI Act and widely disseminate the information as required by Section 2(4) of the Act amounts to a breach of the corporation’s statutory duty under Section 2(3) and (4) of the Act and constitutes a violation of MRA’s rights of access to information established and guaranteed by Sections 1(1) and 2(4) of the Act;
  • A declaration that the failure and/or refusal by the NNPC to proactively publish the title and address of its appropriate officer to whom applications for information should be sent as required by Section 2(3)(f) of the FOI Act amounts to a breach of its statutory duty under the Act and constitutes a violation of MRA’s rights of access to information established and guaranteed by Section 1(1) and 2(4) of the Act;
  • A declaration that the NNPC’s failure to submit to the Attorney-General of the Federation its annual reports on its implementation of the FOI Act, covering the fiscal years 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 and to make the report available to the public amounts to a breach of its statutory duty and a gross violation of Section 29(1) and (2) of the Act;
  • An order compelling the NNPC to comply with the provisions of Section 2(1), (2), (3), (4) and (5) of the FOI Act by publishing and widely disseminating and making readily available to members of the public the information specified in Section 2(3)(a) to (f) of the Act within 30 days of the order of the court;
  • An order compelling the NNPC to ensure the provision of appropriate training for its officials on the public’s right of access to information and records held by it for the effective implementation of the Act within 30 days of the court’s order;
  • An order compelling the NNPC to submit to the Attorney-General of the Federation its annual reports on its implementation of the FOI Act covering the fiscal years 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018, as required by Section 29(1) of the Act within 30 days of the court’s order; and
  • An order directing the NNPC and its Group Managing Director to pay MRA N15 million as exemplary and aggravated damages for the flagrant and unlawful violation of the organization’s right of access to information established and guaranteed by Sections 1(1) and 4 of the Act.

Ruling on the motion exparte, Justice Taiwo granted MRA leave to file a “Motion on Notice” which he said must be served on the NNPC, its Group Managing Director and the Attorney-General of the Federation to give them an opportunity to respond.

The judge directed that the Motion on Notice must be filed within seven days from January 29, 2019 and that the respondents should be served accordingly.

He adjourned hearing in the suit to February 25, 2020.

For further information, please contact:

Morisola Alaba
Legal Officer
Media Rights Agenda
Email: morisola@mediarightsagenda.org

Essay Competition Open for Students of Tertiary Institutions in Africa

0The African Organization for Standardisation, formerly known as the African Regional Organisation for Standardisation (ARSO) has opened a continental essay competition for students of tertiary institutions in Africa. The theme for the essay is: “The role of Standardisation in resolving and addressing the socio-economic issues for the Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons and creating durable Solutions to Forced Displacement in Africa”.

There will be three categories of winners in the Competition namely: the National, Regional and Continental.

To achieve this, ARSO has requested all the National Standards Bodies (NSBs) in Africa to organise the competition at the National level and send out the relevant documents (7th Continental Essay Concept Paper and Registration Form) to the various Universities/Colleges for the competition.

ARSO expects the NSB to conduct the competition at the National level by sending out the relevant documents to Colleges/Universities, receiving the essays from the participants, doing the assessment and awarding or giving recognition to the winners as appropriate to the NSB.

The organizers invite students in institutions of higher learning in Africa (Colleges/Universities approved by local African commission of higher education) to submit their essays on the theme to their respective National Standards Bodies (NSBs) email addresses.

Only University and College Students under the age of 35 years are eligible to participate.

Please log on to https://www.arso-oran.org/continental-essay-competition/ for more information and to participate.

Youth Journalism International Contest Opens to Teenagers

YJI-300pxTeenagers from around the world are invited to submit entries for the Youth Journalism International’s annual contest that seeks to beam the spotlight some of the exceptional journalism done by students across the globe.

It is open to journalist aged 19 years or below in any country who was not working professionally at the time the entry was published. The contest accepts underground papers, blogs, online papers and other venues for journalism including audio and video entries.

The contest is open in several categories and teachers, students or other third parties may make nominations; self-nominations are acceptable, though letters of support are especially encouraged in the Student Journalist of the Year, Courage in Journalism and Journalism Educator of the Year categories.

Open to student reporters, cartoonists and photographers, it is yet another way to showcase the voices of the next generation and this year, the student journalism contest will recognize outstanding work published between January 1, 2019 and December 31, 2019.

To participate, applicants must share the links to their works online or upload it in a google drive and share the link. Paper copy or email entries will not be accepted. The form through which applicants can submit their entries can be accessed at https://youthjournalism.org/2020-youth-journalism-contest/.

Entry fees for the contest are $25 each for Student Journalist of the Year and Journalism Educator of the Year and $20 for the Courage in Journalism Award, Jacinta Marie Bunnell Award for Commentary and the Frank Keegan “Take No Prisoners” Award for News. In other categories, fees are $10 for each team entry and $5 for each individual entry. There is no limit to the number of entries one person or publication can submit.

First place winners in each category will receive a beautiful crystal trophy.

The contest rules and categories are available at https://youthjournalism.org/contest/contest-rules/.

Deadline for submission of entries is February 8, 2020 at 11:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

Only Free Media Can Effectively Promote Human Rights, Says MRA Director

Mr. Edetaen Ojo, Executive Director of Media Rights Agenda (MRA)
Mr. Edetaen Ojo, Executive Director of Media Rights Agenda (MRA)

Mr Edetaen Ojo, Executive Director of Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has said that: “For the media to be able to effectively promote and protect human rights in any context, including in the Nigerian context, the media must be free, professional and independent.”

He said “Countries like Nigeria, therefore, have a duty to create the enabling environment for such media to emerge and thrive

He made this remark while delivering a paper titled “Role of the Media in the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in Nigeria” at the 2019 Human Rights Summit and Awards organized by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in collaboration with Human Rights Stakeholders in Nigeria.

Edetaen in his paper took a deep look at the issue exploring a variety of option and coming to the conclusion that indeed the media have a role to play in the promotion of human rights in Nigeria.

Citing three sources: the social responsibility of the media, the 1999 Constitution, as amended and international instruments, he expressed the view that the media in Nigeria not only have a role to play in the promotion and protection of human rights but that indeed they have a duty or obligation to promote and protect human rights.

The MRA Executive Director, however, pointed out that there are conditions precedent to the media being able to perform the obligation and all media stakeholders have their roles to play to make this possible.

Edetaen also cited the provisions of several local and international laws and UN Resolutions that support his position.

He warned that: “Where the media are weak and do not know what to do, they will be of little value in the task of ensuring the promotion and protection of human rights.”

Looking at the state of media freedom and freedom of expression in Nigeria, he took the position that there are many legal, policy and institutional obstacles to the exercise and enjoyment of the rights to freedom of expression in Nigeria that makes the guarantee of these rights fall short of international standards and practices and expatiated on some of them.

Edetaen made several recommendations to strengthen the media and enhance its capacity to be able to independently and freely perform its duties.

He noted that there is an urgent need to transform state-owned broadcasting stations in the country, at Federal and State levels, into genuine public service broadcasters by removing them from the direct control of the President or the Minister of Information (at the Federal level) and of the Governor or Commissioners for Information (at the State level). Additionally, he recommended that the regulatory body in charge of broadcasting should be made one of the Federal Executive Bodies recognised under the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution.

Government stations, he said, should be run by independent boards whose members are appointed through a transparent process and have the security of tenure.

He also proposed “that the media should collectively put pressure on media owners in the Broadcasting Organizations of Nigeria (BON) as well as the Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN) to develop and adopt a Code of Conduct for Media Owners.”

Other concrete recommendations he made include that the right to freedom of expression should be balanced against the legitimate right of individuals and entities to protect their reputations against unfair, inaccurate and unwarranted reporting or attacks.  However, the laws of defamation and libel should be reviewed to ensure that they meet the requirements of international standards and, in particular, to re-orient the emphasis in defamation cases towards the vindication of the reputations of individuals who have been subjected to unfair and inaccurate reports.

In the paper, Edetaen called on Nigeria to take urgent steps to bring its laws into conformity with internationally accepted standards for the protection of media freedom and freedom of expression by repealing or amending, as the case may be, all laws which criminalize speech and media content, particularly laws on Criminal Defamation, False Publication, and Sedition or Seditious Libel Laws.

He pointed out that the overbearing presence of government officials in the governing body of the broadcast regulator should be curtailed and recommended removing representation for the State Security Service and the Federal Ministry of Information from the membership.

The process of appointing representatives of the different interests groups that constitute the governing body of the broadcast regulator, Edetaen noted should include a requirement for consultations to be held with the various stakeholder groups in each of the named sub-sectors of the Nigerian society when selecting their representatives for appointment to the governing body.

He also recommended that members of the governing body and staff of the regulatory body should have the security of tenure and clearly defined conditions of service.

“Part of the functions of the regulatory body should be the exclusive power or right to issue and revoke broadcast licenses through a transparent process with clearly stated criteria that are publicly available. This function should not be exercised with reference to or under the instructions of any other authority, but the decisions of the governing body should be subject to judicial review. Consequently, the proviso to Section 39(2) of the Constitution should be amended to reflect this principle of empowering the regulatory body to act in this manner,” Edetaen concluded.

The Human Rights Summit and Awards which took place from December 8 to 10, 2019 at the Sheraton Hotels and Towers, Abuja was held to commemorate the International Human Rights Day, celebrated worldwide on December 10.

Bertha Foundation Announce Launch of 2nd Bertha Challenge 

st-cc1The Bertha Foundation has announced the launch of the second Bertha Challenge, an opportunity for activists and investigative journalists to spend a year deep-diving into one pressing social justice challenge issue.

Successful applicants will receive non-residential paid fellowships and project budgets to work independently and together to: investigate the causes of and solutions to the annual Bertha Challenge; amplify their findings to a wider targeted audience; and connect with diverse stakeholders for information, support and sustainable impact.

The second Bertha Challenge will begin in July 2020 with a focus on our global climate and ecological crises, and specifically support Bertha Fellows to answer the question: How is the relationship between profit and politics contributing to our interconnected climate and ecological crises and what can activists and investigative journalists do to address this?

The Bertha Challenge aims to support the work of activists and investigative journalists by providing time to work exclusively on a focused project, the spaces in which to connect with a diverse global cohort of Bertha Fellows and partners, and the resources to develop tangible products speaking directly to the Challenge question.

For the one year duration, each Bertha Fellow is paid income not exceeding USD $60,000 and commensurate with the Fellow’s current or equivalent salary at the host organization – ideally a media outlet for an investigative journalist and an NGO, community organization or social movement for an activist.

In addition, a project funding of up to USD $10,000 is given to each Bertha Fellow to produce a culminating product that responds to the question posed by the Bertha Challenge. Directed toward a specified target audience, the product could be a series of articles, videos, podcasts, games or drama productions. Where Bertha Fellows work together, they will have the option to pool their project funding to produce on a larger scale.

They will also be trained through regular webinars, topics on a range of issues from current debates around the climate crisis and ecological collapse to methods of investigation, methods of communicating findings through news media, storytelling, popular education and more.

Applications should include a local host organization willing to act as a financial and oversight host. This could be an organization within which potential applicants already work or another appropriate organization willing to host applicants for the year. Bertha Fellows and host organizations are expected to share a commitment to Bertha Challenge objectives and conditions.

It provides space for leaders in their fields to develop professionally.  A further aim is to fuel productive debates and solidify networks that will last beyond the one-year project cycle.

The Bertha Challenge will launch in July 2020 with the Opening Convening at one of Bertha’s partnered global retreat spaces, where Bertha Fellows will meet other Bertha Fellows in the Bertha Challenge 2020/21 cohort, spend dedicated time getting to know one another and get the opportunity to introduce individual work and perspectives.

They will also find opportunities to refine the design of each fellow’s project work for the year within a supportive framework.

They will discuss and frame possibilities for collaboration across the cohort; debate current developments on the climate and ecological crises and responses, and learn from practitioners about innovative ways of reaching their target audience.

To be eligible, fellowship applications must include a local host organization willing to act as a financial and oversight host. This could be an organization within which potential applicants already work or another appropriate organization willing to host applicants for the year.

To apply, interested applicants should submit completed online application form; a brief resume/CV of no more than three pages; a list of 2-4 referees including name, relationship to applicant and contact details; and a signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) from applicant’s prospective host, – including commensurate salary and any benefits provided.

For further information and to apply, please visit: http://berthafoundation.org/shorthand_story/the-bertha-challenge/#group-the-challenge-KjD84Z31Ie.

Deadline for submission of application is February 10, 2020.

Banff Centre Invites Application for Literary Journalism Programme

Brian Calliou, BANFF
Brian Calliou, BANFF

The Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity is inviting fiction and non-fiction writers, journalists, freelance critics or curators, artists, and academics, among others to apply for its month-long literary journalism residency programme.

The programme encourages the exploration of new ideas in journalism and experimentation in writing. It is designed to challenge and stimulate and aims to inspire creative pieces of writing, which might otherwise be difficult to complete.

The programme gives writers time and studio space to work on their manuscripts, receive individual consultations with faculty, and participate in group discussions. Group sessions include time with editor faculty members and invited guest writers, as well as access to seminars focused on the craft of journalistic writing.

During the four-week programme, a series of outstanding guest writers and editors will be on hand for public talks and informal discussions.

Selected applicants will receive 100% scholarship to cover tuition, on-site accommodation, and on-site meals and they will be eligible for a travel award to assist with travel costs, and a $2,000 CAD commission for the completed manuscript.

The programme is designed for writers seeking professional development opportunity in a community of peers with the guidance of an experienced writer/editor. Each participant is expected to prepare a long form piece of between 5,000 and 10,000+ words.

Participants should be experienced professionals, active in the diversified fields of writing, including print or electronic media. Emphasis is placed on those who can write for a lay audience with logic, vigour, and charm—and those who have a portfolio to prove it.

The programme welcomes writers from all backgrounds, and all gender identities and expressions. It is run in English and the commission is payable for an English language essay, in Canadian dollars and is subject to Canadian income tax laws.

Application closes on February 12, 2020. For further information and to apply, interested persons should visit https://www.banffcentre.ca/programs/literary-journalism/201607.

ACSPN Releases E-version of  Book on Fake News and Hate Speech

acspn_Logo-2The Association of Communication Scholars and Professionals of Nigeria (ACSPN) has announced the release of the electronic version of its book titled: “Fake News and Hate Speech: Narratives of Political Instability.”

The fourth in its series of book publication, it was edited by Nosa Owens-Ibie, Majority Oji, and Joyce Ogwezi. It was published by Canada University Press, Concord Ontario, Canada, with a Foreword written by Dr Winston Mano, Reader and Director, Africa Media Centre, University of Westminster, London, UK.

Earlier editions of the ACSPN Book Series are: ACSPN Book Series 1 – “Taking Stock: Nigerian Media and National Challenges”, edited by Oluyinka Esan; ACSPN Book Series 2 – “Digital Media, New Order? Emergent Practices in the Nigerian Media Environment”, edited by Victor Ayedun-Aluma; and ACSPN Book Series 3 – “Media Reflections on Governance and Development in Nigeria”, edited by Umaru Pate.

Preliminary pages, Chapter One, Abstracts, and subscription information of each of the book series can be downloaded from www.acspn.com.ng.

Enquiries on how to obtain the hard copy and electronic version of the book series should be made to info@acspn.com.ng.

We Art Water Film Festival Seeks Submissions

Judith Colell, We Are Water Foundation Curator
Judith Colell, We Are Water Foundation Curator

The We Art Water Film Festival is now accepting submissions from around the world for its international short film competitions.

Organized by the We Is Water Foundation, the Festival aims to raise awareness of the water problem around the world by means of the creation of audiovisual pieces that address this issue.

Entries which should be short films must address the topic “Climate Crisis” and link them to the global problem of water and sanitation and its relation to hygiene, pollution, agriculture, diseases, nutrition, education, etc.

The Public Prize is an award chosen by the audience with an economic value of 1,000 Euros. It will be awarded to the most voted short film among all finalists.

Members of the public are allowed to vote by casting their votes as follows: (a) by accessing the webpage of the We Are Water Foundation, https://www.wearewater.org/en and (b) through social networks. In both cases, the votes will be cast with the Facebook-style “like” format. All users wishing to vote will, therefore, need to be registered with that social network. This will allow users to vote for as many short films as they wish, although only one vote may be cast for each piece.

In this year´s edition, a total of 10,000 Euros will be awarded in four categories as follows:

  • Best Micro-documentary: 3,000€
  • Best Micro-fiction: 3,000€
  • Best Micro-animation: 3,000€
  • Public Prize: 1,000€

Between the April 3 and the May 3, a pre-selection committee made up of representatives of the We Are Water Foundation will select 30 projects from amongst the entries received (10 short films for each of the three categories), which will be presented to the juries. The list including all finalists will be published on the 4th May 2020. The public can vote for the finalist pieces to award the public prize from the May 4 until 12:00 (GMT+2) on June 1, 2020.

The jury will choose the winners of this edition from the pre-selected pieces between May 4, 2020, and June 1, 2020.

The winners will be announced in June 2020 at the award ceremony that will take place at the emblematic Roca Madrid Gallery.

The We Art Water Film Festival is an international short film festival, presented at the San Sebastian International Film Festival

For more information and to apply or vote, please visit https://filmfestival.wearewater.org/en/about_302911.

German Government Invites the World to the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue

logo-revisedThe Government of Germany is inviting the world to the 2020 edition of its annual dialogue on the Global Energiewende, the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue (#betd2020), which has become a leading international forum on the green energy transformation.

Journalist from around the world with a proven record of reporting on the energy transition, an international energy and climate policies, decarburization, foreign policy or a related field are encouraged to apply for its media fellowship.

The BETD Media Fellowship gives young journalists from around the world the opportunity to gather in the German capital in order to gain access to this exclusive conference; talk to high-level stakeholders from science, politics; industry and civil society; connect with other BETD Media Fellows and experience the energy transition hands-on with exclusive guided tours and side events during the Berlin Energy Week taking place from March 23 to 27, 2020.

During the conference, the BETD Media Fellows will report on the conference sessions through social media channels; especially Twitter; video clips; interviews and reports; and the official website

In addition, BETD Media Fellows will have the opportunity to submit photos, stories and interviews and to report on energy-related stories from their own countries.

Fellows’ works and contributions to the BETD 2020 are of high value, as reporting on the international energy transition and raising awareness about the opportunities of renewable energies and energy efficiency are crucial in order to meet the Paris Climate Agreement targets.

The fellowship will cover travel costs including board and lodging. The deadline for applications is February 2, 2020. The number of spaces is limited and interested journalists are therefore encouraged to apply here with their documents such CV, essay on their motivation which should be between 250 to 300 words and writing samples.

 For more information and to apply, please go to https://fellows.energydialogue.berlin/apply-now/.

Court Grants Bail to Ayade’s Critic Charged with Terrorism

Joseph Odok
Joseph Odok

A Federal High Court sitting in Calabar, Cross River State, has granted bail to a lawyer and social critic, Mr. Joseph Odok, who was charged with terrorism for criticising the State governor, Prof. Ben Ayade.

Joseph was granted bail on January 21 by Justice Simon Amobeda after 117 days of incarceration in a police cell and Afokang medium prison. He spent 26 days in a police cell and 91 days in prison.

While granting the bail, Justice Amobeda said the defendant had shown “exceptional circumstances” to permit the court to exercise its discretion and admit him to bail.

Justice Amobeda granted joseph the bail which includes a bail bond valued at N10 million with two sureties in like sum, and one of the sureties must be a state or federal civil servant not below Grade Level 13, while the other must be a “close relative with a verifiable address”.

In addition, he asked both sureties to depose to an affidavit and provide two passport photographs.

Leading two other lawyers, the Joseph’s counsel moved the motion for bail pursuant to Section 35 of the 1999 constitution supported by an eight-paragraph affidavit deposed to by Emmanuel Otona.

The motion had three annexures and was accompanied by a written address, which the Joseph’s Counsel adopted as part of the oral argument to support the application.

In his oral submission, the Joseph’s counsel submitted that the counter-affidavit by the prosecution counsel did not contradict the proof in the annexures of the application and urged the court to grant the defendant bail on self-recognition.

The prosecution counsel, Dennis Tarhemba, was not present in court when the matter was called, but another prosecutor from the Cross River State Police Command entered an appearance for the prosecution.

He relied on all the eight paragraphs in the counter-affidavit deposed to by the Investigating Police Officer (IPO), Inspector Ihezuo Ibe, and adopted the written address as part of the prosecution’s oral argument.

He argued that the defendant/applicant had not shown exceptional circumstances for the court to admit him to bail.

But Justice Amobeda, in his ruling, held that bail, pending trial, remained a right enshrined in the constitution and that the counter-affidavit of the prosecution was “bare”, as the deponent is a police officer who “has no expertise in medicine.”

The matter was adjourned till January 28 for trial.