Reporter Sues Federal Medial Centre Over Alleged Violation of FOI Act

Nurudeen Yusuf, Freedom of Information Legal Response Network
Nurudeen Yusuf, Freedom of Information Legal Response Network

A newspaper reporter, Ms Esther Egbe, has filed a suit at the Federal High Court in Lagos against the Federal Medical Centre in  Lagos and its Medical Director for allegedly violating the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, 2011. She is asking the court to compel the Centre to comply with the provisions of the FOI Act and is claiming N15 million as exemplary and aggravated damages for the violation of her right of access to information.

She 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 suit was filed on behalf of Ms Egbe by Nurudeen Yusuf of the Optimists Attorneys and a member of the Freedom of Information Legal Response Network, established by Media Rights Agenda (MRA).

The suit was initiated through a motion ex-parte, filed pursuant to Order 34, Rules 1, 3(1) and (2) of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2019 and Sections 1(3), 2(6), and 20 of the FOI Act. In the suit, Ms Egbe is asking the court to grant her permission to apply for judicial review under the FOI Act and to seek the following reliefs:

  • A declaration that the failure and/or refusal by the Federal Medical Centre, Ebute Metta, Lagos 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 the Federal Medical Centre, Ebute Metta, Lagos 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 the Federal Medical Centre, Ebute Metta, Lagos to comply with Section 13 of the FOI Act in training of its officials on the public’s right of access to information and records held by it for the effective implementation of the FOI Act amounts to a violation of her right of access to information established and guaranteed by the Act;
  • A declaration that the failure of the Federal Medical Centre, Ebute Metta, Lagos to widely disseminate and make readily available to members of the public the activities, records and information referred to in Sections 2(1), (2), (3), (4) and (5) of the Act through print, electronic, online media and/or at the Head office of The Federal Medical Centre, Ebute Metta, Lagos amounts to a flagrant violation of the provisions of these sections of the Act;
  • A declaration that the failure of the Federal Medical Centre, Ebute Metta, Lagos 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 the Federal Medical Centre, Ebute Metta, Lagos 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/or at the Head office of the Federal Medical Centre, Ebute Metta, Lagos the activities, records and information specified under these provisions of the Act;
  • An order of mandamus compelling the Federal Medical Centre, Ebute Metta, Lagos 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 the Federal Medical Centre, Ebute Metta, Lagos to submit its annual report for the year 2018, including that of previous years, of the implementation of the FOI Act, 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.

Available documents show that Ms Egbe sent a letter dated November 12, 2019, to the Federal Medical Centre, Ebute Metta, Lagos requesting it to fulfil its statutory obligations under the FOI Act and to comply with the provisions of Section 2(3), (4) and (5); Section 29(1) and (2); and Section 13 of the Act.

Although the Federal Medical Centre, Ebute Metta, Lagos received and acknowledged receipt of the letter on November 12, 2019, it has refused to comply with her requests contained in the letter.

No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.

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