Journalist Scales First Hurdle in N15 Million FOI Suit Against Unilag

Ms Tobore Ovuorie, Multiple award-winning Investigative Journalist
Ms Tobore Ovuorie,
Multiple award-winning Investigative Journalist

Lagos, Monday, February 17, 2020:  Award-winning investigative journalist, Ms Tobore Ovuorie, has won the first round of her N15 million lawsuit against the University of Lagos (Unilag) and its Vice-Chancellor at a Federal High Court in Lagos for alleged unlawful breach of the Freedom of Information Act and her right of access to information. The presiding judge, Justice Maureen Adaobi Onyetenu, who granted her leave to proceed with her action to compel Unilag to obey the Law, fixed March 4, 2020 for further hearing in the matter.

With the court’s decision on the preliminary motion, the stage is now set for the hearing of the substantive suit, initiated on behalf of Ms Ovuorie by Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Agu David Nwaze, a member of the Freedom of Information Legal Response Network, established by Media Rights Agenda (MRA).

In the suit, in which the Attorney-General of the Federation is also joined as a respondent, Ms Ovuorie is seeking:

  • A declaration that the failure and/or refusal by Unilag to proactively publish certain information in its custody as specified in Section 2(3) of the FOI Act and widely disseminate the information as required by Section 2(4) of the Act amounts to a violation of her right of access to information, established and guaranteed by Section 1(1) and 2(4) of the Act;
  • A declaration that the failure and/or refusal by Unilag 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 violation of her right of access to information established and guaranteed by Section 1(1) and 2(4) of the Act;
  • A declaration that the failure and/or refusal by Unilag to comply with Section 13 of the FOI Act under which it is obliged to train its staff and officials on the public’s right of access to information and records held by it for the effective implementation of the Act amounts to a violation of her right of access to information under the Act;
  • A declaration that the failure of Unilag to widely disseminate and make readily available to members of the public information about its activities as required by Sections 2(1), (2), (3), (4) and (5) of the Act through print, electronic, online media and at the Head office of the institution amounts to a flagrant violation of the provisions of the Act;
  • A declaration that the failure of Unilag to submit to the Attorney-General of the Federation its annual reports on its implementation of the FOI Act amounts to a violation of Section 29(1) and (2) of the Act;
  • An order of mandamus compelling Unilag to comply with the provisions of Section 2(1), (2), (3), (4) and (5) of the FOI Act by widely disseminating and making readily available to members of the public by print, electronic, online media and at the Head office of Unilag the activities, records and information specified under these provisions of the Act;
  • An order of mandamus compelling Unilag to train its officials on the public’s right of access to information and records held by the institution for the effective implementation of the Act as required by Section 13 of the Act;
  • An order compelling Unilag to submit its annual report for the year 2018 and those of previous years, on its implementation of the FOI Act to the Attorney-General of the Federation, as required by Section 29(1) of the Act; and
  • The sum of N15 million as exemplary and aggravated damages for the unlawful violation of her right of access to information established and guaranteed by Sections 1(1) and 4 of the Act.

At the preliminary hearing, Ms Ovuorie’s lawyer, Mr. Nwaze, moved three separate motions for an extension of the time allowed by Law for her to file her suit; for leave of the court to apply for judicial review of the actions of Unilag; and for an order to abridge the time within which the court should hear and determine all pending applications.

Justice Onyetenu granted the three applications and adjourned the matter to March 4, 2020 for further hearing.

For further information, please contact:

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

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