Court grants leave to compel government to publish 1999-2015 audited reports

Two rights groups were yesterday granted leave by a Federal High Court in Lagos to compel the Federal Government to publish the audited reports for 1999-2015. The groups, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and Paradigm Leadership Support Initiative (PLSI) also got the nod to apply for a judicial review.

The order was sequel to an exparte motion filed by SERAP’s Deputy Director, Timothy Adewale, that the Federal Government and Auditor General of the Federation had failed, refused and/or neglected to provide the applicants the details of the information requested.

According to Adewale: “The refusal to publish the audited reports go beyond the limitations allowed under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI). It also negates international law and the principle of Open Government Partnership (OGP) to which Nigeria is a signatory.

“Also, the right to receive information without any interference or distortion should be based on the principle of maximum disclosure and a presumption that all information is accessible subject only to a narrow system of exceptions.”
Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo granted the applicants’ request, after hearing Adewale’s submission on Friday and fixed Wednesday June 28, 2017 for hearing of the defence’s argument.

In the substantial suit dated December 21, 2016, the applicants said the failure of the respondent to provide and furnish the applicants the audited reports of the years in question was illegal under the FOI Act.

They are also seeking an order of mandamus compelling and/or mandating the respondent to immediately publish the reports on a dedicated website.“The information requested does not fall within the purview of those exempted from disclosure by the provisions of the FOI Act.

“Besides, the respondent will not suffer any injury or prejudice if the information is disclosed, because it is of national interest, public concern, social justice, good governance, transparency and accountability,” they argued.

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SERAPTimothy Adewale
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