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Court grants leave to MRA, journalist to sue Federal Civil Service Commission

OrderPaperToday-A Federal High Court in Abuja has ruled that Media Rights Agenda (MRA) and a journalist, Ms Tobore Ovuorie, can file a N15 million claim against the Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC) and the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (HCSF) for alleged violation of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, 2011 and their right of access to information.

Justice Inyang Edem Ekwo granted MRA and Ms Ovuorie leave to apply for, among other things, an order to compel the FCSC and the HCSF to comply with the provisions of the FOI Act, following a motion exparte filed on their behalf by their lawyer, Dr. Kayode Ajulo.

Also joined as a respondent in the motion filed on January 16, 2020 is the Attorney-General of the Federation, who MRA and Ms Ovuorie said has the responsibility of ensuring that all public institutions comply with the provisions of the FOI Act by virtue of Section 29(6) of the Act.

MRA and Ms Ovuorie complained that the FCSC and the HCSF failed to perform their statutory duties under the FOI Act, following which they asked the court to grant them leave to apply for judicial review and seek the following reliefs:

A declaration that the failure and/or refusal by the FCSC and the HCSF to proactively disclose  and widely disseminate information held by them as required by Section 2(3) of the FOI Act amounts  to  a violation of their rights of access to information established and guaranteed by Section 1(1), 2(4) of the Act;

A declaration that the failure and/or refusal by the FCSC and the HCSF to proactively disclose the title and address of the appropriate officers to whom applications for information should be sent as required by Section 2(3)  (f) of  the  FOI Act amounts  to a violation of their rights of access to information established and guaranteed by Section 1(1), 2(4) of the Act;

A declaration that the failure and/or refusal by the FCSC and the HCSF to comply with Section 13 of the FOI Act by training their officials on the public’s right of access to information and records held by them and for the effective implementation of the Act amounts to a violation of their rights of access to information established and guaranteed by the Act;

A declaration that the failure of the FCSC and the HCSF to widely disseminate and make readily available to members of the public through print, electronic and online means as well as at their offices amounts to a flagrant violation of the provisions of Section 2(1), (2), (3), (4) and (5) of the FOI Act;

A declaration that the failure by the FCSC and the HCSF to submit their annual reports on their implementation of the FOI Act to the Attorney-General of the Federation amounts to a violation of Section 29(1) (2) of the Act;

An order of mandamus compelling the FCSC and the HCSF 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 and online means as well as at their offices the information specified;

An order of mandamus compelling the FCSC and the HCSF to train their officials on the public’s right of access to information and records held by them and for the effective implementation of the Act;

An order of mandamus compelling the FCSC and the HCSF to submit their annual reports for the year 2019 as well as those for previous years; and

An order of mandamus compelling the FCSC and the HCSF to pay them the sum of N15 million as exemplary and aggravated damages for the unlawful violation of their right of access to information established and guaranteed by Sections 1(1) and 4 of the Act.

The judge thereafter adjourned the matter to February 26, 2020 when MRA and Ms Ovuorie are expected to report to the court on the filing of the suit.

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