Journalist Drags Secretary to the Government of the Federation to Court over FOI Request Denial

Media Rights Agenda
By Media Rights Agenda August 11, 2019 13:07 Updated
Darlington Onyekwere, Member of Media Rights Agenda’s (MRA) FOI Legal Response Network

Darlington Onyekwere, Member of Media Rights Agenda’s (MRA) FOI Legal Response Network

A journalist, Ms Godsgift Onyedinefu, with Global Sentinel has filed a suit at the Federal High Court in Abuja to compel the Secretary to the Government of the Federation to provide her with the information she requested from him through a letter dated June 3, 2019.

Relying on the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, 2011 the journalist made a request for information to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation asking for the following information:

  1. A list of Nigerian footballers and coaches who travelled to Russia for the 2018 World Cup and whose travel expenses (including flights, accommodation, visa costs, living expenses and other allowances) were borne by the Federal Government and/or through public funds.
  2. A list of supporters (other than government officials) who travelled to Russia for the 2018 World Cup to cheer the Nigerian team and whose travel expenses (including flights, accommodation, visa costs, living expenses and other allowances) were paid for by the Federal Government and/or through public funds, either in part or in full.
  3. A list of government officials and their aides or assistants (including the designations of everyone on the list and the public institutions to which they are affiliated) who travelled to Russia for the 2018 World Cup as part of the Federal Government’s delegation and whose travel expenses (including flight, accommodation, visa costs, living expense and other allowances) were covered by the Federal Government and/or through public funds, either in part or in full.
  4. The duration of each person’s stay in Russia, including the date of departure from Nigeria (or other point of departure) and the date of return to Nigeria (or to some other location) as well as the total cost of each person’s travel to Russia to the Federal Government for all aspects of the trip for which the Federal Government was responsible.
  5. The total cost to the Federal Government or the total amount budgeted by the Federal Government for Nigeria’s participation in the Russia 2018 World Cup.
  6. Whether budgetary allocation for Nigeria’s participation in the Russia 2018 World Cup, including the total cost referred to in Paragraph 5 above, 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.

The office, however, failed to respond to the request within the seven-day timeframe from the time it received the request as provided by the Act.

In the suit filed on her behalf by Darlington Onyekwere a member of Media Rights Agenda’s (MRA) FOI Legal Response Network, at the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, Godsgift Onyedinefu is seeking for a judicial review of the matter in accordance with Section 20 of the FOI Act which states that “An applicant who has been denied access to information, or a part thereof, may apply to the Court for judicial review of the matter within 30 days after the public institution denies or is deemed to have denied the application, or within such further time as the Court may either before or after the expiration of the 30 days fix or allow.”

The suit is seeking the following reliefs:

  • A declaration that Ms Onyedinefu is entitled to receive the information she applied for from the Secretary to the Government of the Federation having made a written application dated June 3, 2019 which was received by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation on June 17, 2019.
  • A declaration that the refusal of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation to give Ms Onyedinefu the access to the information she requested in her letter of June 3, 2019 within the time limit set out in section 4 of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011 is a deemed denial of the said requested information under Section 7(4) of the Act.
  • A declaration that the Secretary to the Government of the Federation’s refusal and/or deemed denial of the information requested by Ms Onyedinefu in her letter of June 3, 2019 to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation on the details on the 2018 World Cup in Russia, is an infraction of Sections 1 (1) and 4 of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011 and the journalist’s guaranteed rights to such information under the said sections.
  • A declaration that the failure and/or refusal by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation to make available to Ms Onyedinefu the information applied for in her letter dated June 3, 2019 to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, amounts to wrongful denial of access to information under Section 7 (5) of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011.
  • An order of the Court compelling the Secretary to the Government of the Federation to disclose to Ms Onyedinefu within seven days of the order, the detailed information required by the journalist in her letter dated June 3, 2019 which was received by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation on June 17, 2019.
  • An order of the Court compelling the Attorney General of the Federation to initiate criminal proceedings against the Secretary to the Government of the Federation for the offence of wrongful denial of access to information under Section 7(5) of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011.
  • An order of the Court granting the Sum of N1, 000.000.00 (One Million Naira) only as exemplary damages for the violation of the journalist’s right of access to information established and guaranteed by Section 1(1) and 4 of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011 and for wrongful denial of access to information under Section 7(4) of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011.
  • An order granting the sum of N500, 000 (Five Hundred Thousand Naira) against the Secretary to the Government of the Federation in favour of the Applicant as cost of the suit.

No date has been fixed for hearing of the suit.

The suit is litigated under a sponsored project by Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA).

Media Rights Agenda
By Media Rights Agenda August 11, 2019 13:07 Updated
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