A Federal High Court in Abuja has directed the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to pay the Media Rights Agenda (MRA), a non-profit organisation dedicated to protecting media freedom in Nigeria, N1 million as damages for denial of access to information.
The court also asked the apex bank to release the information on the bank’s data protection policies and practices as requested by the organisation in its May 22, 2020 letter, a statement from MRA stated.
The presiding judge, Donatus Uwaezuoke Okorowo, gave the order on Wednesday, June 14.
According to the statement by the MRA communication Officer, Idowu Adewale, Justice Okorowo said CBN’s failure to provide the information requested by the organisation was a breach of the law.
Okorowo held that the apex bank violated the MRA’s right to access information as established by Sections 1 and 4 of the Freedom of Information Act (FoIA).
He also said the failure of the government to notify the organisations of its decision to withhold the information and the reasons for this also violated the FOIA Act.
“In his judgment, Justice Okorowo agreed with MRA that the failure of the CBN to give written notice to the organisation that access to all or part of the information requested would not be granted, as well as its failure to state the reasons for its denial of access and the section of the Act under which the denial was made amounted to a violation of section 4(b) of the Act.
“He accordingly issued an order compelling the CBN to make all the information requested by MRA available to the organisation.
“The judge also ruled that MRA was entitled to damages for the unlawful violation of its right of access to information and granted the organisation’s claim of N1 million as damages,” the statement read.
However, the court ruled against MRA’s request for an order mandating the Attorney-General of the Federation to initiate criminal proceedings against the CBN for withholding the requested information.
In June 2020, the NGO had challenged the CBN’s refusal to disclose information on the bank’s data protection policies and practices following its FOI request.
The MRA had asked for copies of all the “CBN’s data protection policies issued in conformity with the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation (NDPR), 2019; the name and contact details of the CBN’s Data Protection Officer, designated in accordance with the NDPR and its relevant data privacy instruments and data protection directives.“
It requested “details of all capacity building training or other capacity building activities undertaken for the Data Protection Officer and other CBN personnel involved in any form of data processing since the issuance of the NDPR; the number of persons or individuals whose personal data it processes on an annual basis; and a report from a detailed audit it conducted of its privacy and data protection practices in accordance with the NDPR.”
The MRA had filed a suit asking the court to compel the bank and its Governor to release the information.