Court Adjourns Appeal by First Bank for Hearing in FOI Suit Filed Against it by EiE Nigeria

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The Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos has adjourned to June 22, 2023, for hearing an appeal lodged by First Bank of Nigeria plc against the judgment of a Federal High Court in Lagos in a Freedom of Information (FOI) suit filed against the bank by Enough is Enough Project (EiE Nigeria).

The EiE Nigeria had through its counsel, Mr. Ayodeji Acquah, by way of application for judicial review, commenced an action against First Bank Nigeria and the Attorney-General of the Federation at the Federal High Court sitting at Ikoyi, Lagos on January 9, 2014, over First Bank’s refusal to grant access to information requested by it.

Justice Mohammed N. Yunusa of the Federal High Court, Lagos had on June 15, 2015, ordered First Bank of Nigeria Plc to disclose details of the loan facility it granted the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for the 2013 purchase of two bullet-proof BMW cars for the then Aviation Minister Stella Oduah. He issued the order while delivering judgment in a suit instituted by EiE Nigeria against the bank over its refusal to disclose the information to the organization following an application it made under the Freedom of Information Act.

Not satisfied with the judgment, First Bank filed a notice of appeal through its counsel, Mr. Thomas Eboh, on September 11, 2015.

Consequently, the record of appeal was settled, compiled but not transmitted from the Federal High Court to the Court of Appeal within the stipulated time. To regularize the defect, Mr. Thomas Eboh filed a Motion on Notice seeking for an extension of time within which the First Bank may transmit record of appeal from the Federal High Court to the Court of Appeal, accompanied by a 15-paragraph affidavit dated July 31, 2017.

The Court of fixed January 10, 2022 for hearing of the First Bank’s application for enlargement of time within which to transmit record of appeal from the Federal High Court to the Court of Appeal.

At the proceedings of Court of Appeal on January 10, 2022, Mr. T. B. Eboh appeared for First Bank while Mr. O. A. Okonkwo appeared for EiE Nigeria. There was no legal representation for the Attorney General of the Federation.

In the suit No.CA/L/893/2017, Mr. Eboh moved his motion on notice dated July 31, 2017 praying for the following reliefs:

  1. An order enlarging time within which First Bank may compile and transmit the record of appeal from the Federal High Court, Ikoyi Lagos to Court of Appeal for hearing and determination of the appeal.
  2. An order deeming as properly complied and transmitted, the bundle of documents compiled by First Bank to the court for use in the court for hearing and determination of the appeal.
  3. An order deeming Exhibit “FBN 2” aforesaid as record of appeal for hearing and determination of the appeal.
  4. And for such further or other orders as the Court may deem fit to make in the circumstance.

The Court of Appeal granted the application which counsel to EiE Nigeria did not oppose. The Court however, complained about the EiE Nigeria’s brief of argument and directed it to refile its brief of argument to be in tandem with the stipulated form prescribed in the Court of Appeal Rules, 2021. The judge then adjourned the matter to June 22, 2023 for hearing and determination of the appeal and hearing notice to be served on the Attorney General of the Federation.