MRA, Journalist Sue ASCON for Violation of FOI Act, Demand N1 Million as Damages

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Nelson Olanipekun, Memeber of MRA's FOI Legal Response Network
Nelson Olanipekun, Member of MRA’s FOI Legal Response Network

Media Rights Agenda (MRA) and Mr. SegunFatuase, publisher of the online news portal, The Newsturf, have filed a lawsuit at the Federal High Court in Lagos accusing the Administrative Staff College of Nigeria (ASCON) of gross violation of its duties and obligations under the Freedom of Information Act, 2011 thereby denying them the right of access to information under the Act.

In the suit filed by their Counsel, Nelson Olanipekun, the applicants are asking the court to compel the ASCON to perform its statutory duties under the FOI Act within 30 days of the court’s order as well as to pay the sum of N1million as exemplary and aggravated damages for the “gross and unlawful violation” of their right of access to information established and guaranteed by the Act.

In the motion exparte 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, MRA and Segun seek the leave of the court to apply for:

  • A declaration that the failure and/or refusal by the ASCON to proactively publish the information specified in Section 2(3)(a)-(f) of the FOI Act and widely disseminate the information as required by Section 2(4) of the Act amounts to a breach of the corporation’s statutory duty under Section 2(3) and (4) of the Act and constitute a violation of their rights 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 ASCON 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 breach of its statutory duty under the Act and constitutes a violation of their rights 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 ASCON to ensure the provision of appropriate training for 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 breach of its statutory duty under Section 13 of the Act and constitutes a violation of their rights of access to information established and guaranteed by the Act;
  • A declaration that the failure of the ASCON to widely disseminate and make readily available to members of the public the information specified in Section 2(3)(a) to (f) amounts to a breach of its statutory duty and flagrant violation of the provisions of Sections 2(1), (2), (3), (4) and (5) of the Act;
  • A declaration that the ASCON’s failure to submit to the Attorney-General of the Federation its annual reports on its implementation of the FOI Act, covering the fiscal years 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 and to make the reports available to the public amount to a breach of its statutory duty and a gross violation of Section 29(1) and (2) of the Act;
  • An order compelling the ASCON to comply with the provisions of Section 2(1), (2), (3), (4) and (5) of the FOI Act 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 Act within 30 days of the order of the court;
  • An order compelling the ASCON to ensure the provision of appropriate training for its officials on the public’s right of access to information and records held by it for the effective implementation of the Act within 30 days of the court’s order;
  • An order compelling the ASCON to submit to the Attorney-General of the Federation its annual reports on its implementation of the FOI Act covering the fiscal years 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018, as required by Section 29(1) of the Act within 30 days of the court’s order; and
  • An order directing the ASCON and it’s Director-General to pay MRA the sum of N1million as exemplary and aggravated damages for the flagrant and unlawful violation of their right of access to information established and guaranteed by Sections 1(1) and 4 of the Act.

Prior to the motion exparte, the applicants had sent a letter of demand to the ASCON for it to perform its statutory duties under the FOI Act but it refused to respond the demand by complying with the provisions of the FOI Act.

The lawsuit is supported by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) in collaboration with Media Rights Agenda (MRA).