A civil society group, Centre for leadership evaluation and accountability forum in conjunction with The Finder Multimedia, publisher of The Finder Newspaper, has asked the Federal High Court (FHC) sitting in Yola, Adamawa state for an order compelling the Chairman of the Adamawa state covid 19 committees, Bashir Ahmad, to release documents on all donations and utilisation of funds allocated to its committee.
The suit number FHC/YL/CS/1/2021 was filed on Thursday as a follow up to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by CLEAF and The Finder multimedia to Mr Bashir dated 5th January 2021.
The motion exparte with the suit was brought pursuant to section 20 of the FOI Act, and Order 34 of the FHC (civil procedure) rules, 2009, and signed by the organization’s staff, Mohammed Suleiman.
CLEAF/The Finder is arguing that under the FOI Act, “it has the right to request for or gain access to documents relating to all donations and the utilisation of covid 19 funds by Bashir Ahmad led covid 19 committee, which is in the custody or possession of the Bashir Ahmad committee, which is a public institution is as defined by the FOI Act.
The Defendant has no right whatsoever to deny the Plaintiff to the documents sought.” CLEAF/The Finder also said that, “the information requested for by the Plaintiff/Applicant stems from the powers derived from the FOI laws of Nigeria.
CLEAF further argued that “the power or discretion to refuse to give access to the information requested for and within the custody of the Bashir Ahmad led covid 19 committees cannot be exercised in vacuum. Such a power or discretion it said must be provided for by the FOI Act itself.
This means that a denial of such information must be justifiable within the Freedom of Information Act as provided by Section 4(b).” Among the reliefs sought by the group in the suit include a declaration that by virtue of the provisions of Section 4 (a) of the Freedom of Information Act 2011, the Bashir Ahmad committee is under a binding legal obligation to make available to CLEAF and The Finder the information within its custody as requested for in the letter dated 5th January 2021.
Another relief sought is a declaration that the failure of the committee to make available the information requested for within the stipulated time required by law, under section 4(a) of the FOI Act, is a violation of the CLEAF and The Finder’s right to information guaranteed by the 2011 information law.
The suit also seeks an order of mandamus directing and or compelling the Bashir Ahmad led the committee to make available to the CLEAF the information requested is contained in a letter dated 5th January 2021 to the committee.