Abuja — The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, on Tuesday, declined to compel the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, and its Governor, Godwin Emefiele, to disclose how much that was expended on President Muhammadu Buhari's medical treatment in the United Kingdom last year.
The court, in a judgment that was delivered by Justice John Tsoho, held that under section 14(1) (b) of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011, such information, being personal in nature, could not be disclosed by a public institution.
The judge held that section 14(2) of the Act stipulated that such information could only be revealed with Buhari's consent, saying there was no evidence before the court that such consent was sought or obtained from the President.
The court maintained that the section was categorical that the sought information should be disclosed if the individual affected gave his nod or if such information was already available in the public domain.
"In this instance, there is no evidence that the President consented or that the information was in public domain, hence this application.
"I hereby hold that the information sought by the Applicant is exempted by virtue of section 14 (1) (b) of the Freedom of Information Act".
The judgment followed a suit that was filed by a civil society group under the aegis of Advocacy for Societal Rights Advancement and Development Initiative, ASRADI, which had on October 19, 2017, written a letter to the CBN, requesting full details of spendings on Buhari's treatment.
It will be recalled that President Buhari was away in London receiving treatment for an undisclosed ailment for 103 days in 2017
Contending that President Buhari's overseas medical expenses were paid from Nigeria's treasury, the group equally demanded for a breakdown of what it cost the country to keep the presidential aircraft and crew for 103 days at the Stansted Airport in the UK while the President's medical treatment lasted.
Following refusal by the CBN to accede to its request, the group filed the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1142/2017, wherein it sought for an order compelling the apex bank to release the information sought.
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, was cited as the 3rd Respondent in the suit.
Meantime, in his judgment, Justice Tsoho noted that CBN and Emefiele had upon receipt of the request, forwarded same to the office of the Chief of Staff to the President.
The court held that under section 5(1) of the FOI Act, both the CBN and Emefiele became absolved of any liability, having forwarded the request to the Presidency.
It said the Applicant ought to have followed up its request at the Presidency after it was notified of the action by the 1st and 2nd Respondents.
"It is not appropriate for the Applicant to question the propriety of the transfer of the application or insist that it is the 1st and 2nd Respondents who must answer it. The Act did not provide for that", the court held.
The court which struck out the name of the AGF from the matter, maintained that the Applicant was not entitled to any form of damages, saying its application against the CBN and Emefiele was "misinformed and misguided".
"On the whole, the Applicant's application is not sustained and is hereby struck out".