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

Media Rights Agenda
By Media Rights Agenda January 30, 2020 10:33 Updated
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

Media Rights Agenda
By Media Rights Agenda January 30, 2020 10:33 Updated
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