Court Adjourns Hearing in Publisher’s FOI Suit Over FIIRO’s Failure to Disclose Details of Data Protection Policies

Mr. Owolabi Dawodu,
Member of Media Rights Agenda’s Network of Lawyers

A Federal High Court in Lagos has adjourned hearing to May 17, 2024, in a suit filed by the publisher of the online newspaper, BONews, Ms Blessing Oladunjoye, against the Federal Institute of Industrial Research, Oshodi (FIIRO) over its refusal to disclose information she requested under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, 2011 on its data protection policies.

The legal action was initiated after Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, Director General/CEO of NITDA, signed the NDPR in January 2019 under the NITDA Act. Section 4.1(1) of the Act mandates all Nigerian organizations controlling personal data to publicly disclose their data protection policies within three months of the regulations’ issuance. In response, Ms. Oladunjoye submitted a Freedom of Information request to the institution on October 26, 2020, in accordance to the provisions of the FOI Act, 2011.

In the suit filed on March 1, 2022, by Mr. Owolabi Dawodu, a Lagos-based lawyer and member of Media Rights Agenda’s network of lawyers, on behalf of Ms. Oladunjoye against FIIRO and the Director-General of the institution, the publisher is asking the court to declare that the failure and/or refusal by the institution to grant her access to the information requested in her letter dated October 26, 2020 is a violation of her right of access to information established and guaranteed by Sections 1(1) and 4 of the FOI Act.

She also asked the court for an order compelling FIIRO to disclose or make available to her the information, which she had requested in her letter, namely:

  • Copies of all data protection policies of FIIRO, issued in conformity with the NDPR 2019;
  • The name and contact details of the Data Protection Officer of FIIRO, designated in accordance with the NDPR 2019, together with the institution’s relevant data privacy instruments and data protection directives;
  • Details of all capacity building training or other capacity building activities undertaken for the Data Protection Officer of FIIRO and other personnel of the institution involved in any form of data processing since the issuance of the NDPR 2019;
  • The number of persons or individuals whose personal data FIIRO processes on an annual basis, that is over a period of 12 months.
  • A report from a detailed audit conducted by FIIRO of its privacy and data protection practices in accordance with the NDPR 2019, containing the following information:
  • the personally identifiable information that FIIRO collects on its employees and members of the public;
  • the purpose for which the personally identifiable information is collected;
  • copies of any and all notices given to individuals regarding the collection and use of their personal information;
  • details of any access or opportunities given to individuals to review, amend, correct, supplement, or delete their personal information collected or held by FIIRO;
  • information on whether or not consent is obtained from an individual before personally identifiable information is collected, used, transferred, or disclosed and details of any method used to obtain consent;
  • copies of the policies of FIIRO and details of its practices for ensuring the security of personally identifiable information;
  • copies of the policies of FIIRO and details of its practices for the proper use of personally identifiable information;
  • copies of FIIRO’s policies and details of its procedures for privacy and data protection;
  • copies of FIIRO’s policies and details of its procedures for monitoring and reporting violations of privacy and data protection policies; and
  • copies of FIIRO’s policies and details of its procedures for assessing the impact of technologies on its stated privacy and security policies.

Other reliefs sought by Ms Oladunjoye included an order directing FIIRO and its director-general to pay to her the sum of One Million Naira (₦1,000,000.00) only as exemplary and aggravated damages for the flagrant and unlawful violation of her right of access to information and the wrongful denial of the information to her.

On March 7, 2024, during the proceedings at the Federal High Court presided by Justice Daniel Emeka Osiagor, Ms. Oladunjoye, represented by Mr. Monday Arunsi, Esq., was directed to serve a hearing notice on the FIIRO and its director-general who were not only absent but had no legal representation in Court. He fixed May 17, 2024 for hearing and adoption of the filed processes in the suit.