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Activists Sue NDDC, National Assembly Over FOI Violation
A group of Niger Delta activists, lawyers and civil society organizations have asked a Federal High Court sitting in Benin to restrain the Niger Delta Development Corporation, NDDC, from accessing funds from the 2015 Appropriation Budget.
The applicants accused the corporation of denying them access to information on specific details on the 2014 budget outline and also the expenditure profile of the N309 billion released to it for its operations last year.
The group argued that its refusal violates their fundamental human rights and the rights to information granted it under Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution and the Freedom of Information, FOI, Act.
The group had requested for the documents on January 6 but it said they had not been given till date.
In the case, in which the National Assembly and Ministry of Finance are joined as co-defendants the applicants asked the court to bar the 1st Respondent (NDDC), from accessing fund appropriated to it in the 2015 budget appropriation pending when it releases the certified true copies of documents requested from the agency.
When the case came up for hearing last Thursday, counsel to the applicants, Aigbokhan President argued that even though the NDDC sends audit report to the Nigerian President, the audit report could still be scrutinized and challenged by the applicants under the law.
President also urged the court to grant it the relief seeking for the appointment of an auditor to check the NDDC account.
He noted also that though the traditional approach to accountability is the presentation of the account openly before the legislative body, the budgetary appropriation can be scrutinized by the citizens.
The plaintiffs’ counsel also said that the expenditure of 50 per cent of monies due to member states of the commission from Ecological Fund; the 15 per cent of the total monthly statutory allocations due to states from the federation account; the three per cent of the total annual budget of any oil producing company operating, both on-shore and off-shore in the Niger Delta area and all other monies due to the states of the states covered by the commission ought to be made public as guaranteed by the FOI Act.
However, counsels to NDDC and finance ministry, Emeka Akwuruoha and P. I. Ogbu respectively, argued that a request for information cannot be brought under Fundamental Human Right Procedure Rules 2009.