A public interest lawyer, Mr. Bob Olukoya has taken the Nigerian Atomic Energy Commission (NAEC) and its Chairman, Dr. Franklin Osaisai, to the Federal High Court in Abuja for refusing to give him information on the Commission’s unspent budget for 2010 and 2011.
Olukoya said he applied for the information under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, which the Commission refused to give to him.
In the suit before Justice Adeniyi Ademola, the plaintiff, Olukoya sought an order of mandamus to compel NAEC to disclose the total amount returned to the treasury as unspent budget for 2010 and 2011. The motion was brought pursuant to Section 7 and 20 of the FOI Act 2011 and Order 34 Rules 1, 3 (1), (2) and 6(b) of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2009 and under the inherent jurisdiction of the court.
Olukoya also demanded for the total amount allocated to the Centre for Nuclear Energy Research and Training (CNERT), University of Maiduguri, and Centre for Nuclear Energy Studies (CNES), University of Port-Harcourt for 2010 and 2011; copies of its annual report and amount payable to contractors for the provision of services in 2011.
He also demanded for details of the recruitment of additional staff for whom interviews were conducted on September 25, 2012, as well as details of the competitive bids from companies interested in the provision of security services to the Commission.
At the hearing on February 4, 2013, the defendant, NAEC raised a preliminary objection, asking the court to dismiss the suit because the “plaintiff’s affidavit are improper, fishy, and baseless.”
According to Olukoya, by virtue of Section 4(a) of the FOI Act, when a person requests for information from a public official, institution or agency, the government official is “under a binding legal obligation to provide the applicant with the information requested for except as otherwise provided by the Act, within seven days after the application is received.”
He said: “The information requested for, apart from not being exempted from disclosure under the FOI Act, borders on issues of national interest, public concern, social justice, good governance, transparency and accountability”.
In an affidavit deposed to by Karik-Antyak Cynthia, she averred that since November 6, 2012, when Olukoya requested for the information through a letter, the defendants had “failed, refused and or neglected to provide the details.
“By virtue of Section 1(1) of the FOI Act 2011, the plaintiff/applicant is entitled as of right to request for or gain access to information which is in the custody or possession of any public official, agency or institution” She said.
Justice Ademola fixed February 12, 2013, for hearing of the preliminary objection.