Journalist Sues National Health Insurance Scheme for Denial of Access to Information

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

A journalist with the Abuja Enquirer newspaper, Mr David Lawani, has instituted a suit at the Federal High Court in Abuja against the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) and its Chief Executive Officer,  over the agency’s refusal to accede to his request for information under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act

He joined, as a respondent in the suit, the Attorney-General of the Federation, who has oversight responsibility of ensuring the effective implementation of the Act by virtue of Section 29(6) of the Act to ensure that all public institutions comply with its provisions.

The motion was brought pursuant to Order 34 Rules 1, 3 (1) (2) Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2019; Regulation 4.1 (8) of the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation 2019; sections 1, 4, 20 & 22 of the Freedom Of Information Act, 2011. The Journalist requested the following information:

  1. Copies of all of the NHIS’s data protection policies, issued in conformity with the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation 2019;

(a)       The name and contact details of the NHIS’s Data Protection Officer designated in accordance with the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation 2019, together with its relevant data privacy instruments and data protection directives;

(b)       Details of all capacity building training and other capacity-building activities undertaken for the NHIS’s Data Protection Officer and other personnel involved in any form of data processing since the issuance of the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation 2019;

(c)       The number of persons or individuals whose personal data the NHIS processes on an annual basis, that is, over a period of 12 months;

(d)       A report of a detailed audit of its privacy and data protection practices conducted by the NHIS in accordance with the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation 2019, which report should contain the following information:

(i)        The type of personally identifiable information that the NHIS collects on its employees and members of the public;

(ii)       The purpose for which the personally identifiable information is collected;

(iii)      Copies of any and all notices given to individuals regarding the collection and use of their personal information;

(iv)      details of any access or opportunities given to individuals to review, amend, correct, supplement, or delete their personal information collected or held by the NHIS;

(v)       information on whether or not consent is obtained from the individuals before their personally identifiable information is collected, used, transferred, or disclosed and details of any method used to obtain the consent;

(vi)      copies of the NHIS’s policies and details of its practices for ensuring the security of personally identifiable information;

(vii)     copies of the NHIS’s policies and details of its practices for the proper use of personally identifiable information;

(viii)    copies of the NHIS’s policies and details of its procedures for privacy and data protection;

(ix)      copies of the NHIS’s policies and details of its procedures for monitoring and reporting violations of privacy and data protection policies; and

In the case filed by Mr. Charles Musa, a member of MRA’s FOI Legal Response Network, in an originating motion at the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, David is seeking the following reliefs:

(1)       A DECLARATION that the failure and/or refusal by the NHIS to grant the Applicant access to the information requested in the Applicant’s letter dated August 17, 2020 is a violation of the Applicant’s right of access to information established and guaranteed by Sections 1(1), & 4 of the FOI Act.

(2)       A DECLARATION that failure and/or refusal by NHIS to grant the Applicant access to the information requested in the Applicant’s letter dated August 17, 2020, constitutes wrongful denial of access to information under section 7(5) of the FOI Act.

(3)       A DECLARATION that the failure and/or refusal by the NHIS to give written notice to the Applicant that access to all or part of the information requested will not be granted, and stating reasons for the denial, and the section of the FOI Act under which the denial is made amounts to a violation of section 4(b) of the FOI Act.

(4)       AN ORDER directing the NHIS to lodge the documents and/or information requested in the Applicant’s letter dated August 17, 2020, with this Honourable Court, pursuant to Section 22 of the FOI Act.

(5)       A PRAYER that this Honourable Court examines the documents and/or information lodge by the NHIS pursuant to the immediately foregoing paragraph, and if upon such examination it makes a determination that the Applicant has a right to access documents and/or information, orders that the Clerk of Court releases same to the Applicant.

(6)       AN ORDER directing the Attorney General of the Federation to initiate criminal proceedings against the NHIS and its Chief Executive Officer for the offence of wrongful denial of access to information under Section 7(5) of the FOI Act.

(7)       AN ORDER directing the NHIS and its Chief Executive Officer to pay to the Applicant the sum of One Million Naira (N1, 000.000.00) only as exemplary and aggravated damages for the flagrant and unlawful violation of the Applicant’s right of access to information established and guaranteed by Section 1(1) & 4 of the FOI Act and wrongful denial of access to information under Section 7 (4) of the FOI Act.

Prior to the motion exparte, the applicants had sent a letter of demand to the NHIS for it to perform its statutory duties under the FOI Act but it refused to respond the demand by complying with the provisions of the FOI Act.

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

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