Justice Abdul-Kafarati of the Federal High Court in Abuja has issued an order of mandamus compelling the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development to disclose to the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) details of a ₦25 billion National Egg Production contract awarded to Turns Farms Nigeria Limited.
Delivering its judgment on November 2, 2017 in the matter between Centre for Social Justice and the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Court held that Section 1 of the Freedom of Information Act entitles all Nigerians to the right of access to information in the custody or possession of any public official, agency or institution however described. The Court therefore specifically ordered that the Minister should make available to CSJ the following information: a copy of the signed agreement; the contact address of the company; the newspaper where the procurement contract was advertised; and the criteria for selecting Turns Farms for the project.
The counsel who appeared on behalf of the Minister, Odoeme N. V. (Mrs), had filed a preliminary objection which was dismissed by the court. She also argued that the Minister’s inability to meet up with the seven days deadline as required by the Freedom of Information Act in order to reply to the applicant’s letter dated June 2016 was not deliberate but due to administrative bureaucracy. She further stated that the letter was misdirected hence could not be traced on time.
Her arguments was however rejected after the court listened to the arguments of the counsel to Centre for Social Justice, Kingsley Nnajiaka, who stated that the Minister violated the applicant’s right of access to information as provided by the Freedom of Information Act
He further recalled that the organisation had by a letter dated 20th June 2016 applied to the Minister to make available to it the details and the copy of the N25 billion contract the Minister signed with Turns Farms Nigeria Limited to facilitate egg production in the country on the project called “National Egg Production Scheme (NEGPRO)” and instead of responding to the letter as anticipated by law, a media assistant to the Minister wrote and circulated an abusive press statement that did not address the substance of the FOI request.