Lagos State rejects request for public information despite court ruling on FOI

THE Lagos State Government (LASG) has said the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) does not apply within the state and has not been domesticated by its House of Assembly.

This was contained in a letter signed by the Chairman of the Lagos State government Internal Revenue Service Ayodele Subair in response to an FOIA request made by The ICIR over revenue of the state’s transport sector.

Subair said after considering the request from The ICIR, he was unable to provide the information because the FOI Act does not ‘automatically’ apply in the state.

“You asked for detailed information on issues bordering on internal revenue generation of Lagos State with emphasis on the Transport sector.

“However, after a careful consideration of your request which was hinged on the FOIA, the Agency is unable to furnish you with the requested information at this time because the freedom of Information Act does not have automatic application in Lagos State and it has not been domesticated in the State by the State House of Assembly,” the letter read.

The ICIR had requested comprehensive details of the revenue generated by the Lagos State government in the transportation sector.

The FOIA was signed into law by former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2011 as a law that guarantees the right of public access to information held by government institutions and relevant private entities in Nigeria.

According to the FOI Act, government institutions are to make information available on request within a time limit of seven working days which begin immediately after the request is received by the public institution.

Since the establishment of the FOI Act, Nigeria has recorded a low level of compliance by several state governments and public institutions.

In 2014, a Federal High Court held that the FOI Act was not binding on the 36 states in Nigeria, but applied only to the Federal Government and its agencies.

However, a Lagos State High Court ruled in 2017 that the FOI Act was applicable to LASG, and did not require domestication by the government to be effective.

The ruling was given by Justice Beatrice Oke-Lawal in a suit filed against LASG by the Media Rights Agenda (MRA) over the failure of the government to provide the information requested by the MRA under the Act.

A Court of Appeal in Ondo State ruled in 2018, that FOI requests for information or records from public institutions were made in public interests and should be honoured by all states.

Although the Lagos state government did not provide the details of the transportation revenue, The ICIR investigation found that motor park touts, popularly known as agberos fleece the state of billions of naira in transport taxes gotten from drivers of commercial buses, tricycles and motorcycles.

Ijeoma Opara is a journalist with The ICIR. Reach her via [email protected] or @ije_le on Twitter.

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