A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has ruled that assets of President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet members are not of public interest.
Justice Inyang Ekwo made this ruling on Friday while delivering a judgement on a suit filed by a non-profit news organisation, The International Centre for Investigative Reporting (The ICIR), against the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) since 2019.
Other respondents in the suit were the CCB Chairman Danladi Umar and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) Abubakar Malami.
The ICIR had filed a suit against the respondents following the CCB’s refusal to avail the Centre of details of the assets declared by all cabinet members of Buhari.
In a letter dated January 16, 2019, The ICIR had requested details of all asset declarations by all cabinet members in the present administration, including the secretary to the government of the federation, chief of staff, head of civil service, national security adviser and 31 other ministers.
Following CCB’s refusal to comply, The ICIR prayed the court to compel the bureau to make copies of the requested documents available and order the attorney-general of the federation to “initiate criminal proceedings against the 1st and 2nd Respondents for the offence of wrongful denial of access to information.”
Delivering his judgment on Friday, Ekwo said the form in the first schedule referred to Section 15 of the CCB Act, designated as form CCB1 filled by public officials, contained personal information.
He noted that the asset declaration of the public officials in the custody of the CCB became personal information of the public officer in the control of the bureau.
“It is pertinent to know that FOI Act defines personal information in section 31 to mean “any official information held about an identifiable person but does not include the information that bears on the public duty of public employee or official,” Ekwo said.
The judge further said after studying The ICIR’s application, he did not find “any material which demonstrates that the disclosure of the information which is requested from the first respondent is in the public interest.”
Ekwo stated that The ICIR did not place any material for the first respondent to act as requested by law.
“This means that the first respondent had nothing upon which to consider a weight of public interest in the applicant’s application, I find in the end that this application lack in merit and is dismissed. That is the order of the court,” Ekwo ruled.
The ICIR is making plans to appeal the judgement.