Federal Ministry of Finance and Others Taken to Court for Non-Compliance with the FOI Act

Media Rights Agenda
By Media Rights Agenda August 11, 2019 13:30 Updated
Charles Musa, Member of Media Rights Agenda’s (MRA) FOI Legal Response Network

Charles Musa, Member of Media Rights Agenda’s (MRA) FOI Legal Response Network

Ms Godsgift Onyedinefu, a journalist with Global Sentinel, an online news magazine, has taken the Federal Ministry of Finance to Court over the Ministry’s failure to make available to her the information she requested under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, 2011. She joined the Minister of Finance and the Attorney General of the Federation as parties in the suit.

In an Originating Summons filed on July 26, 2019 at the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court with suit no FHC/ABJ/CS/880/2019, Godsgift is also seeking a declaration that she is entitled, as of right, to receive the information she applied for from the Ministry, having made a written application on June 3, 2019 which was received by the Ministry on June 27, 2019.

The suit further seeks for an order for the Ministry to make available to Godsgift the information she applied for within seven days of the judgment of the Court. She is also demanding from the court an order directing the Attorney General of the Federation to initiate criminal proceedings against the Ministry for wrongful denial of access to information under the Freedom of Information Act, 2011.

The case was filed by Charles Musa, a member of Media Rights Agenda’s (MRA) FOI Legal Response Network, at the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja.

The suit is asking the Court for the following reliefs:

  1. A declaration that Ms Onyedinefu is entitled to receive from the Ministry and its Honourable Minister the information applied for, relating to, whether budgetary allocation for Nigeria’s participation in the Russia 2018 World Cup including the total cost were provided for and approved in the 2018 Appropriation Act of the Federal Government and to specify the head of expenditure to which the costs were charged and other information request for as specified in the journalist’s letter of June 3, 2019  and received on June 27, 2019 by the Ministry and its Honourable Minister pursuant to Section 1 (1) of the Freedom of Information Act, 2o11.
  2. A declaration that the failure, neglect and/or refusal of the Ministry and its Honourable Minister to make available to Ms Onyedinefu the information she applied for in her letter dated June 3, 2019 to the Ministry and its Honourable Minister is wrongful, unlawful and amounts to a gross violation to her right of access to information established and guaranteed by Section 1(1) and 4 of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011.
  3. A declaration that the failure and/or refusal of the Ministry and its Honourable Minister to make available to Ms Onyedinefu the information she applied for by her letter dated June 3, 2019 to the Ministry and its Honourable Minister, amounts to wrongful denial of access to information under Section 7 (5) of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011.
  4. A declaration that the failure and/or refusal of the Ministry and its Honourable Minister to give written notice to the journalist stating the reason for the denial of the information sought and requested is wrongful, unlawful and constitute a gross violation of Section 4 (b) of the Freedom of Information Act 2011.
  5. An order of the Honourable Court directing the Ministry and its Honourable Minister to make available to Ms Onyedinefu, not later than seven days of the judgment of the Court, the information she applied for in her letter date June 3, 2019 relating to whether budgetary allocation for Nigeria’s participation in the Russia 2018 World Cup, including the total cost, were provided  for and approved  in the 2018 Appropriation Act of the Federal Government  and to specify the head of expenditure to which the costs were charged and other information requested for as specified in her letter of June 3, 2019  and  received on June 27, 2019 by the Ministry and its Honourable Minister pursuant to Section 1 (1) of the Freedom of Information Act, 2o11.
  6. An order compelling the Attorney General of the Federation to initiate criminal proceedings against the Ministry and its Honourable Minister for the offence of wrongful denial of access to information under Section 7(5) of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011.
  7. The Sum of N1,000,000.00 (One Million Naira only) as exemplary and aggravated damages for the unlawful violation of the journalist’s right of access to information established and guaranteed by Sections 1(1) and 4 of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011 and wrongful denial of access to information under Section 7(4) of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011.

Ms Onyedinefu is also asking the Court to determine the following questions:

  • Whether she is entitled to the information she applied for from the Federal Ministry of Finance, relating to whether budgetary allocation for Nigeria’s participation in the Russia 2018 World Cup, including the total cost, were provided for and approved  in the 2018 Appropriation Act of the Federal Government as specified in her letter of June 3, 2019  and received on June 27, 2019 by the Ministry and its Honourable Minister pursuant to Section 1 (1) of the Freedom of Information Act, 2o11.
  • Whether the failure or refusal of the Ministry and its Honourable Minister to make available to her the information she applied for in the said letter of June 3, 2019 within seven days of their receiving the application, is not a violation of her right guaranteed by Section 4 (a) of the Freedom of Information Act 2011.
  • Whether the failure or refusal of the Ministry and its Honourable Minister to make available to her the information she applied for within seven days of their receiving the said application does not amount to wrongful denial of access to information under Section 7 (5) of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011.
  • Whether the failure of the Ministry and its Honourable Minister to give her notice stating the reason for the denial of the information she applied for is not a violation of her right guaranteed by Section 4 (b) of the Freedom of Information Act 2011.

No date has been fixed for hering the suit which is being litigated under a sponsored project by Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA).

Media Rights Agenda
By Media Rights Agenda August 11, 2019 13:30 Updated
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