Court Grants MRA Leave to Sue  Customs  for Non-Compliance with FOI Act

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Ms.Benedicta Obanye, MRA’s lawyer
Ms.Benedicta Obanye, MRA’s lawyer

A Federal High Court in Abuja has granted Media Rights Agenda (MRA) leave to sue the Nigeria Customs Service for alleged non-compliance with the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act and violation of the organization’s right to access of information.

The Court granted MRA leave to proceed with its claim against the Nigeria Customs Service following the motion exparte argued by the organisation’s lawyer, Ms.Benedicta Obanye.

In the motion in which the Nigeria Customs Service, its Comptroller- General, the Nigeria Customs Service Board and the Attorney General of the Federation were named as the respondents, Ms. BenedictaObanye sought judicial permission to enable MRA to apply for declarations and orders from the court compelling the customs service to perform its statutory duties under the FOI Act within 30 days of the court’s order and to pay MRA the sum of N15 million as exemplary and aggravated damages for the violation of its rights of access to information guaranteed by the Act.

She argued, before Justice Mohammed sitting in Court 4, that MRA has a right under Sections 2 (6) and 1(3) of the FOI Act to institute proceedings in court to compel any public institution, including the Nigeria customs service, to comply with the provisions of Section 2 of the Act and the Act in entirety respectively.

In the suit FHC/ABJ/CS/126/2020, MRA is seeking the Declarations and Orders:

  • A declaration that the failure and/or refusal by the Nigeria Customs Service to proactively publish the information specified in Section 2(3)(b) – (f) of the Freedom of Information Act and widely disseminate the said information as required by Section 2(4) of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011 amounts to a breach of the its statutory duty under Section 2(3) and (4) of the said Act and constitutes a violation of the MRA’s rights of access to information established and guaranteed by Section 1(1), 2(4) of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011.
  • A declaration that the failure and/or refusal by the Nigeria Customs Service to proactively publish the title and address of the appropriate officer of the service to whom an application for information shall be sent as required by Section 2(3) (f) of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011 amounts to a breach of the Nigeria Customs Service’s statutory duty under the said Act and constitutes a  violation of the MRA’s rights of access to Information established and guaranteed by Section 1(1), 2(4) of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011.
  • A declaration that the failure and/or refusal by the Nigeria Customs Service to ensure the provision of appropriate training for its officials on the public’s right of access to information and records held by the Nigeria Customs Service institution for the effective implementation of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011 amount to a breach of the Nigeria Customs Service’s statutory duty under Section 13 of the said Act and constitutes a violation of the MRA’s rights of access to Information established and guaranteed by the Freedom of Information Act, 2011.
  • A declaration that the failure of the Nigeria Customs Service to widely disseminate and make readily available to members of the public the information specified in Section 2(3) (b) to (f) amounts to a breach of its statutory duty and a flagrant violation of the provisions of Sections 2 (1), (2), (3), (4) and (5) of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011.
  • A declaration that the Nigeria Customs Service’s failure to submit to the Attorney-General of the Federation its annual report of the implementation of the Freedom of Information Act, covering the fiscal years 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 and to make the said reports available to the public amounts to a breach of its statutory duty and a gross violation of section 29(1) (2) of the Act.
  • An order compelling the Nigeria Customs Service to comply with the provisions of Sections 2 (1), (2), (3), (4) and (5) of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011 by publishing and widely disseminating and making readily available to members of the public the information specified in Section 2(3) (a) to (f) of the said Act within 30 days of the Order of this Honourable Court.
  • An order compelling the Nigeria Customs Service to ensure the provision of appropriate training for its officials on the public’s right of access to information and records held by the institution for the effective implementation of the Act within 30 days of the Order of this Honourable Court.
  • An order compelling the Nigeria Customs Service to submit to the Attorney-General of the Federation its annual reports on its implementation of the said Act covering the fiscal years 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018, as required by Section 29 (1) of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011 within 30 days of the Order of this Honourable Court.
  • An order directing the Nigeria Customs Service, its Comptroller- General and the Nigeria Customs Service Board to pay to MRA the Sum of N15, 000.000.00 (Fifteen Million Naira) only on the footing of exemplary and aggravated damages for the flagrant and unlawful violation of the MRA’s right of access to Information established and guaranteed by Section 1(1) & 4 of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011.

This suit was instituted in line with MRA commitment to enforcing compliance with the FOI Act after public institutions have been inducted into its Enhanced FOI Hall of Shame.