As part of activities marking the celebration of the International Day for Universal Access to Information 2021, a non-governmental organization, Media Initiative against Injustice, Violence and Corruption-MIIVOC, has dragged Nigeria’s Attorney General and Minister for Justice, Abubakar Malami to court for violation of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011.
The Suit filed at the Federal High Court, Benin, with number FHC/B/CS/122/2021 between the Registered Trustees of Media Initiative against Injustice, Violence and Corruption (MIIVOC) and the Attorney General of the Federation, seeks to compel the Attorney General of the Federation to release a copy of the Forensic Audit Report on the Niger Delta Development Commission-NDDC.
Confirming the suit, MIIVOC’s Executive Director, Dr. Walter Duru explained that the step became necessary following what he described as an unsatisfactory response of the Attorney General to a request for a copy of the Audit Report brought, pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, 2011.
According to Duru, “following the submission of the report of the Forensic Audit on NDDC to the Attorney General by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Chief Godswill Akpabio, MIIVOC’s Executive Director, Dr. Walter Duru, had, during a live programme on Africa Independent Television called on the Attorney General to publish the report for the consumption of members of the public. We followed up with an FOI request. In a letter dated September 7, 2021, MIIVOC sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the Attorney General of the Federation, asking for a copy of the Forensic Audit Report on the NDDC.”
“In a letter dated September 14, 2021, signed by Hamza Adeyinka Omolara, Assistant Chief State Counsel, with reference number MJ/7215/1/26, the Attorney General’s office invoked section 6 of the Freedom of Information Act, seeking extension of time to deal with the request.”
“In another letter dated September 20, 2021, with reference number MJ/7215/1/28, also signed by Hamza Adeyinka Omolara, Assistant Chief State Counsel, the Attorney General further invoked Section 5 (1) of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011, informing us that our request had been transferred to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, who, according to him, has greater interest in the matter. Section five says “may” and not shall. The Attorney General has the document and there is no reason why he should not release it to us. We are not satisfied with the Attorney General’s response, hence, our decision to invoke section 20 of the FOI Act, seeking judicial review.”
Also speaking, Ayodele Otuakhena, Esq of FOI Counsel, who filed the suit on behalf of MIIVOC accused the Federal Ministry of Justice of abuse of the FOI Act.
According to him, “there is overwhelming evidence that the Attorney General has copies of the report, as he received the same from the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs. He is therefore under obligation to release it.”
MIIVOC’s other activities marking the International Day for Universal Access to Information 2021 include a Freedom of Information Implementation review meeting for FOI Desk officers of public institutions in Edo State, supported by the Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption programme, funded by the European Union, but managed by the British Council, as well as other enlightenment programmes.
Other highlights of the celebration of the International Day for Universal Access to Information 2021 in Edo State was a TweetChat on the ‘Right to Know’, with the theme: Building Back Better with Access to Information, organized by the FOI Counsel.