Court Grants Journalist Leave to Sue Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation for non-Compliance with FOI Act

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Nurudeen Yusuf, Memeber of MRA's FOI Legal Response Network
Nurudeen Yusuf, Memeber of MRA’s FOI Legal Response Network

A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has granted Ms Esther Egbe, a journalist, leave to proceed with her case against the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation (CBAAC) and its Director-General for non-Compliance with the Freedom of Information Act, 2011 and violation of her right to information.

Joined as respondents in the suit, is the Attorney-General of the Federation, who has oversight responsibility of ensuring the effective implementation of the Act by virtue of Section 29(6) of the Act to ensure that all public institutions comply with its provisions.

The Court granted Ms Egbe leave to proceed with her claim against CBAAC following the motion exparte argued by her lawyer, Nurudeen Yusuf of Optimists Attorneys and a member of the Freedom of Information Legal Response Network, established by Media Rights Agenda (MRA).

The suit was initiated through a motion ex-parte, filed pursuant to Order 34, Rules 1, 3(1) and (2) of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2019 and Sections 1(3), 2(6), and 20 of the FOI Act. In the suit, MsEgbe is asking the court to grant her permission to apply for judicial review under the FOI Act and seeks the following reliefs:

  • A declaration that the failure and/or refusal by the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation to proactively publish certain information in its custody as specified in Section 2(3) of the FOI Act and widely disseminate the information as required by Section 2(4) of the Act amount to a violation of her right of access to information, established and guaranteed by Section 1(1) and 2(4) of the Act;
  • A declaration that the failure and/or refusal by the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation to proactively publish the title and address of its appropriate officer to whom applications for information should be sent as required by Section 2(3)(f) of the FOI Act amounts to a violation of her right of access to information established and guaranteed by Section 1(1) and 2(4) of the Act;
  • A declaration that the failure and/or refusal by the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation to comply with Section 13 of the FOI Act in training of its officials on the public’s right of access to information and records held by it for the effective implementation of the FOI Act amounts to a violation of her right of access to information established and guaranteed by the Act;
  • A declaration that the failure of the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation to widely disseminate and make readily available to members of the public the activities, records and information referred to in Sections 2(1), (2), (3), (4) and (5) of the Act through print, electronic, online media and/or at the Head office of the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation amount to a flagrant violation of the provisions of these sections of the Act;
  • A declaration that the failure of the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation to submit to the Attorney-General of the Federation its annual reports on its implementation of the FOI Act amounts to a violation of Section 29(1) and (2) of the Act;
  • An order of mandamus compelling the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation 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, online media and/or at the Head office of the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation the activities, records and information specified under these provisions of the Act;
  • An order of mandamus compelling the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation to train its officials on the public’s right of access to information and records held by it for the effective implementation of the Act as required by Section 13 of the Act;
  • An order compelling the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation to submit its annual report for the year 2018, including that of previous years, of the implementation of the FOI Act, as required by Section 29(1) of the Act; and
  • The sum of N15 million as exemplary and aggravated damages for the unlawful violation of her right of access to information established and guaranteed by Sections 1(1) and 4 of the Act.

Prior to this suit, MsEgbe sent a letter dated November 12, 2019, to the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation requesting it to fulfil its statutory obligations under the FOI Act and to comply with the provisions of Section 2(3), (4) and (5); Section 29(1) and (2); and Section 13 of the Act.

Although the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation received and acknowledged receipt of the letter on November 12, 2019, it has refused to comply with her requests contained in the letter.