5 February 2013

Nigeria: FOI Act - Lawyer Sues Energy Commission Over Unspent Budget

Abuja — A public interest lawyer, Mr Bob Olukoya, has dragged the Nigerian Atomic Energy Commission, NAEC, and its Chairman, Dr. Franklin Osaisai, to court over unspent budget of 2010 and 2011.

In an originating motion he entered before the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, the plaintiff, is seeking an order of mandamus compelling the defendants to disclose the total amount the commission returned to the federal treasury as unspent budget for years 2010 and 2011.

The plaintiff is also demanding for the total amount allocated to the Centre for Nuclear Energy Research and Training, CNERT, University of Maiduguri, and Centre for Nuclear Energy Studies, CNES, University of Port-Harcourt for 2010 and 2011; copies of its annual report and amount payable to a named contractor for the provision of services in 2011.

He is further demanding for details of the recruitment of additional staff upon which interview was conducted on September 25, 2012, and details of the competitive bids from companies interested in the provision of security services to the commission.

However, when the matter came up for hearing before Justice Adeniyi Ademola yesterday, the defendants raised a preliminary objection, asking the court to dismiss the suit on the premise that the "plaintiff's affidavit is improper, fishy, and baseless."

According to the plaintiff, by virtue of Section 4(a) of the FOI Act, when a person requests for information from a public official, institution or agency, they are "under a binding legal obligation to provide the applicant with the information requested for except as otherwise provided by the Act, within seven days after the application is received.

"The information requested for, apart from not being exempted from disclosure under the FOI Act, bothers on issues of national interest, public concern, social justice, good governance, transparency and accountability".

In an affidavit he filed in support of the suit, one Karik-Antyak Cynthia averred that since November 6, 2012 that Olukoya requested for the information through a letter, the defendants have failed and refused to provide the details.

"By virtue of Section 1(1) of the FOI Act 2011, the plaintiff/applicant is entitled as of right to request for or gain access to information which is in the custody or possession of any public official, agency or institution. The case was adjourned till February 12 for hearing on the preliminary objection.

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