Court Orders NDDC to Release Requested Information

Media Rights Agenda
By Media Rights Agenda February 10, 2017 11:29 Updated

Court Orders NDDC to Release Requested Information

A Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt on December 21, 2016 ordered the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to release to a group of activists and civil society organisations information they requested from the Commission, declaring that the Commission’s failure to disclose information requested by the activists was illegal, oppressive and vexatious.

Justice A. M. Liman, who presided over the suit brought by Some non-governmental organizations, civil rights lawyers and others comprising of 26 persons led by Aigbokhan President against Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), President of the Senate, Speaker of the House of Representatives and Minister of Finance, gave the ruling.

The group through its Counsel, Aigbokhan President had asked the Court to declare that the NDDC’s refusal to respond to their request for the information made on January 6, 2015 violates their fundamental right to information guaranteed by Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution, Sections 1 and 2 of the Freedom of Information Act 2011, Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1999; Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act 1948 and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) 1966.

They also prayed the Court for, among others, the following reliefs:

• Declaration that NDDC is under the law obliged to release certified true copy of documents to the Applicants showing its budget outline and expenditure of N309 Billion in the year 2014.

• Declaration that NDDC is under the law obligated to release certified true copy of Newspapers, journals or documents showing tender bids for each of the projects awarded by the commission between 2012- 2014 and receipts of payments to them.

• Declaration that NDDC must release to them certified true copy of documents detailing the breakdown of personnel and re-current expenditure for youth, women, sport and cultural activities between2013-2014.

• Declaration that NDDC must release certified true copy of materials, written, audio, visual, sound and electronic recording of meetings held with Niger Delta Communities on NEEDS assessment between 2012-2014.,

• Declaration that NDDC is under the law obligated to release certified true copy of documents detailing list, academic particulars, selection criteria of 210 beneficiaries of the 2014 Niger Delta Commission, Postgraduate Foreign Scholarship Program to them.

• Declaration that the 1st Respondent is under the law obligated to release certified true copy of documents showing the commission’s support for INEC, Political parties or stakeholders of parties by the commission between the year 2013-2014.

• Declaration that NDDC owes a constitutional duty to them to release to them certified true copy of documents detailing the amount of money transferred to the commission from Ecological Fund and the remittance by oil-producing and extractive industries and international oil companies to the commission between 2013-2014 and how the money was expended.

• An order of perpetual injunction restraining NDDC, its servants, agents, privies, or any other person from requesting for fund, monies, warrant, budgetary allocation or doing anything capable of interfering with their rights pending the disclosure of information as requested for in Exhibit A.
• An order of cost of N50,000,000.00 (Fifty Million Naira only) against NDDC as the cost of instituting prosecuting this action from the date of judgment and interest therein at 10% per annum until judgment sum is fully liquidated.

• An order of conviction against NDDC to a fine of N500,000.00 (Five Hundred Thousand Naira) for denying them requested information from the date of judgment and interest therein at 10% per annum until judgment sum is fully liquidated.

The group had in a letter dated January 6, 2015, requested the release of certified true copies of documents detailing certain information which was declined. It approached the Court when its FOIA request for the said information was denied.

After hearing the argument of both parties, the Court dismissed the Preliminary objection raised by NDDC, granted most of the reliefs sought by the group and then struck out the names of President of the Senate, Speaker of the House of Representatives and Minister of Finance as respondents.

The court also dismissed and refused five of the reliefs sought by the group namely:

• An order of court appointing an independent auditor to audit the account of NDDC and handing over the report to the court, the group or whoever is interested.

• An order of perpetual injunction restraining the President of the Senate, Speaker of the House of Representatives and Minister of Finance, their agents, servants, privies and by whomsoever from approving any expenditure, appropriating any sum, issuing any warrant, money or grant including but not limited to the 2015 budget estimate of NDDC, or releasing, giving of funds, monies, budgetary allocation to NNDC, their servants, agents, privies or any other person or doing anything capable of interfering with the applicants rights pending the disclosure of information as requested to the applicants.

• An order of perpetual injunction restraining NDDC, their servants, agents, privies or any other person from requesting for fund, monies, warrant, budgetary allocation or doing anything capable of interfering with the applicants’ rights pending the disclosure of information as requested for in “Exhibit A”

• An order of cost of N50,000,000.00 (Fifty Million Naira only) against NDDC as the cost of instituting prosecuting this action from the date of judgment and interest therein at 10% per annum until judgment sum is fully liquidated.

• An order of conviction against NDDC to a fine of N500,000.00 (Five Hundred Thousand Naira) for denying them requested information from the date of judgment and interest therein at 10% per annum until judgment sum is fully liquidated

Emeka Akwuruoha and P. I. Ogbu respectively, represented NDDC and Ministry of Finance.

Media Rights Agenda
By Media Rights Agenda February 10, 2017 11:29 Updated
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