Symbol of Justice
A public interest lawyer, Bob Olukoya, has sued the Nigerian Atomic Energy Commission (NAEC) and its Chairman, Dr. Franklin Osaisai, at the Federal High Court in Abuja for refusing to oblige him with information on the commission's unspent budget of 2010 and 2011.
The lawyer had applied for the information under the Freedom of Information Act.
But the commission refused to give him the information following which he applied to the court as required by the FoI Act.
In the suit before Justice Adeniyi Ademola, the plaintiff is seeking an order of mandamus compelling the defendants 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 Freedom of Information 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.
The plaintiff is also demanding 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 a named contractor for the provision of services in 2011.
He is also demanding for details of the recruitment of additional staff upon which interview was conducted on September 25, 2012, and details of the competitive bids from companies interested in the provision of security services to the commission.
At the hearing Monday, the defendants raised a preliminary objection, asking the court to dismiss the suit because the "plaintiff's affidavit are improper, fishy, and baseless."
According to the plaintiff, 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, Karik-Antyak Cynthia averred that since November 6, 2012, 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."
Justice Ademola yesterday fixed February 12, for hearing of the preliminary objection.