Court Grants MRA Leave to Sue NITDA for Failure to Disclose Details of Proposed Regulation of Online Platforms

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Rosemary Onu
MRA’s lawyer

A Federal High Court in Abuja on January 30, 2023 granted Media Rights Agenda (MRA) leave to proceed with its Freedom of Information (FOI) suit against the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) for refusing to disclose details requested by the organization on its proposed regulatory framework for social media and other online platforms through a “Code of Practice for Interactive Computer Service Platforms/Internet Intermediaries” reports.

Justice N.E Maha paved the way for the suit to proceed upon a preliminary motion brought by MRA’s lawyer, Rosemary Onu, asking the court to grant the organization leave to mount a legal challenge to NITDA’s failure to provide it with the information it requested through a letter dated June 15, 2022.

In the suit in which the NITDA and the Attorney-General of the Federation are named as respondents, MRA is contending that the NITDA’s refusal to provide it with the information it requested amounts to a breach of its right of access to information as well as a flagrant violation of the FOI Act.

The motion ex-parte brought by Rosemary, pursuant to Order 34, Rules 1, 3(1) and (2) of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2009 and Sections 1(3) and 20 of the FOI Act, asked the court to grant MRA leave to seek the following reliefs:

A declaration that the failure and/or refusal by NITDA to grant access or make available to MRA, the information requested by it, in a letter dated June 15, 2022, constitutes a violation of the MRA’s rights of access to information established and guaranteed by Section 1(1), 4 (a and b), of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011,

A declaration that the failure and/or refusal by NITDA to give MRA a written notice that access to all or part of the information requested would not be granted and stating reasons for the denial and the section of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011, upon which NITDA relied to deny MRA access to the information requested by MRA in its letter dated June 15, 2022, amounts to a flagrant violation of Section 4 (b), 7 (1), (2) & 3 of the Freedom of Information Act.

An order directing NITDA to disclose or make available to the MRA, the following:

  • A copy of the letter or other documents containing the directive given by President Muhammadu Buhari to the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) to develop a draft code of practice for Interactive Computer Service Platforms/Internet Intermediaries
  • A list of all interactive computer service platforms, civil society organisations and expert groups that collaborated with NITDA in the development of the Code of practice for Interactive Computer Service Platforms/Internet Intermediaries issued and presented for public input on June 13, 2022, or thereabout.
  • The dates and venues of meeting held with interactive computer service platforms, civil society organizations, expert groups and other stakeholders to discuss the development of the Code of Practice for Interactive Computer Service Platforms/Internet intermediaries as well as list of participants at each of the meetings.
  • Copies of the minutes of each meeting held with interactive computer service platforms, civil society organizations, expert groups and other stakeholders to discuss the development of the Code of Practice for Interactive Computer Service Platforms /Internet Intermediaries.
  • Copies of all documents including letters, memoranda or other submissions containing inputs made by stakeholders including the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp. Tik Tok, Instagram, Google and other interactive computer service platforms, civil society organizations and expert groups in the development of the draft. code of practice for Interactive Computer Service Platforms/Internet Intermediaries.

An order directing NITDA to pay MRA the sum of ₦1,000.000.00 (One 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) and 4 of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011; and

An order directing the Attorney-General of the Federation to initiate criminal proceedings against NITDA for the offence of wrongful denial of access to information under Section 7 (5) of the FOI Act.

Upon listening to J.I Onwugbolu move the motion and after reviewing the motion papers as well as a copy of MRA’s request to the NITDA, Justice Maha granted the request as prayed.