Justice Beatrice Oke-Lawal of the High Court of Lagos State, Ikeja Division, on March 22, 2017 granted Media Rights Agenda (MRA) leave to sue the Lagos State Ministry of Health over its refusal to grant access to the information requested by MRA under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, 2011.
After hearing Counsel to MRA, Ms Chioma Nwaodike and Ms Morisola Alaba, both FOI Attorneys, the Judge granted the prayers in the Motion Ex parte filed before her.
The Court gave MRA leave to sue the Ministry for the following reliefs:
1. A declaration that the failure and/or refusal by the Ministry to disclose or make available to the MRA the information requested by it in its Applicant’s letter to the Ministry dated November 4, 2016 amounts to a violation of MRA’s right of access to Information established and guaranteed by Section 1(1), & 4 of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011.
2. A declaration that the failure and/or refusal by the Ministry to disclose or make available to MRA the information requested by it in its letter to the Ministry dated November 4, 2016 amounts to a wrongful denial of access to information under section 7(5) of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011.
3. A declaration that the failure and or refusal by the Ministry to give a written notice to MRA that access to all or part of the information requested will not be granted, stating reasons for denial and the section of the Act under which the denial is made amounts to a violation of Section 4(b) of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011.
4. AN ORDER OF MANDAMUS compelling the Ministry to disclose or make the following available to MRA;
• Details and copies of plans put in place to provide the Araromi Zion Estate located in Akiode Area of Ojodu LCDA with health care services;
• Details and copies of plans put in place to provide the Araromi Zion Estate located in Akiode Area of Ojodu LCDA with health care services taking into consideration their peculiar needs and circumstances;
• Details of any research or assessment carried out on the needs of the said Estate and copies of relevant research or assessment report or reports;
• If there are plans to provide the said Estate with primary health care facilities, please outline the timeframe for the implementation of the plans; and
• Details of the budgets and costs estimates for the implementation of the said plans, if any.
The Judge, in her ruling, however refused to grant the relief seeking to compel the Attorney General of the Federation to initiate criminal proceedings against the Ministry for wrongful denial of access to information. The judge also declined to grant MRA leave to seek damages against the Ministry.
Relying on the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, MRA made a request for information to the Ministry pertaining to its plans for providing primary health care services to the Araromi Zion Estate in Akiode Area of the State.
The Ministry, however, failed to respond to the request within the seven-day timeframe provided by the law for public institutions to respond to such requests for information.
For MRA to file its papers for judicial review, the Court adjourned the matter to April 12, 2017.