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FOI violation: MRA slams N15 million suit against NNPC

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Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has slammed a N15 million suit against the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) over alleged consistent breaching of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011.
MRA, in a statement issued on Wednesday by Mr Idowu Adewale, its Communications Officer, said NNPC violated its statutory duties under the FOI by denying access to information under the Act.

In the suit filed on its behalf by Abuja-based lawyer, Mrs Mojirayo Ogunlana-Nganga, MRA is asking the court to compel NNPC to obey the FOI Act within 30 days of the court’s order.

The MRA is also claiming N15 million as exemplary and aggravated damages for the “flagrant and unlawful violation” of its right of access to information as provided and guaranteed by the Act.

In addition to the NNPC and its Group Managing Director, also named as a respondent in the suit is the Attorney-General of the Federation.

According to MRA, the Attorney General has oversight responsibility under the FOI Act by virtue of Section 29(6), to ensure that all public institutions to which the Act applies comply with its provisions.

“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 is seeking leave of the court to apply for:

“A declaration that the failure and/or refusal by the NNPC 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 constitutes a violation of MRA’s 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 NNPC 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 MRA’s 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 NNPC 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 MRA’s rights of access to information established and guaranteed by the Act;

“A declaration that the failure of the NNPC 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 a flagrant violation of the provisions of Sections 2(1), (2), (3), (4) and (5) of the Act;

“A declaration that the NNPC’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 report available to the public amounts to a breach of its statutory duty and a gross violation of Section 29(1) and (2) of the Act.

‘`An order compelling the NNPC 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 NNPC 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 NNPC 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 NNPC and its Group Managing Director to pay MRA N15 million as exemplary and aggravated damages for the flagrant and unlawful violation of the organization’s right of access to information established and guaranteed by Sections 1(1) and 4 of the Act,’’ the statement read.

In an affidavit in support of the motion, filed pursuant to the Rules of the Court, MRA’s lawyer, Ogunlana-Nkanga listed the organisation’s constitutional powers to compel any public institution, including the NNPC, to comply with FOI Act.

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