A Federal High Court siting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. has fixed judgment for October 2, 2019 in a Freedom of Information (FOI) suit filed by Port Harcourt-based journalist, Mr. Mark Lenu, against the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
The suit was filed on May 6, 2019 at the Port Harcourt Division of the Federal High Court over the Commission’s failure to grant him access to the information he requested through a letter dated April 11, 2019.
At the hearing of matter, both parties argued their cases and thereafter adopted the processes filed. NDDC submitted that the information sought was not in its custody, that the Minister of NDDC had since 2017 ordered the Commission to stop the scholarship scheme and that the other scholarships the Commission executed could be found on its website.
The Judge thereafter engaged Mark Lenu’s counsel, Mr. Kingdom Chukwuezie on oral rejoinder to NDDC’s position and urged him to consider withdrawing the suit since NDDC said it does not have the information sought and that Mr. Chukwuezie cannot substantiate the availability of the information sought.
Mr. Chukwuezie agreed that NDDC cannot manufacture the information if it claims the information is not in its custody. However, he argued that NDDC remains in breach of the Freedom of Information Act for not writing to Mark within seven days stating the non-availability of the information sought. He argued that since NDDC ignored Mark and allowed him to come this far, it was late in the day for NDDC, after subjecting him to the rigors and financial cost of filing the suit, to come to court to claim that the information is not in its custody. He therefore urged the court to determine whether NDDC refusal to inform Mark of the non-availability of the information sought within seven days of its receipt of the request, is not a violation of Mark’s right.
After his submission, the Judge threatened to award cost against him if he goes through the rigors of writing the judgment and finds that his going ahead to argue the suit was not necessary.
Chukwuezie nevertheless insisted on going ahead, and adopted all his application, and the judge adjourned the case to October 2, 2019 for judgment.
The suit is litigated under Media Rights Agenda’s Project funded by Open Society Initiatives for West Africa (OSIWA).