A Federal High Court sitting in Enugu State has ordered the Enugu State Ministry of Health to make available, within 21 days, documents relating to the contract awarded for the construction of a diagnostics center at the Old Trade Fair Complex, Enugu.
The court judgement came after two years of legal battle between the Civil Liberties Organization, CLO, and the health ministry.
Delivering judgement in the suit No FHC/EN/M/263/2011, the court held that the FOI Act was applicable to all the states of the federation, including Enugu.
The South-East zonal coordinator of the CLO, Olu Omotayo, had applied on behalf of the CLO to the Commissioner for Health Enugu State, vide a letter dated 27th October 2011, for record in respect of the contract awarded for the construction of a diagnostics center.
The CLO had said the contract was abandoned after funds had been made available for the execution of the project.
Omotayo said application was made to the Commissioner for Health, pursuant to Clause 2 &4, of the Freedom of Information Act 2011.
According to him, the Commissioner refused to furnish the CLO with the records of the contract, stressing the he had to file the suit at the Federal High Court on the 5th December 2011, seeking an order of mandamus directed at the Commissioner for health to supply the CLO with the records and documents in
respect of the contract awarded for the building and completion of the Diagnostics Center.
The second prayer before the court was a declaration that the failure of the Commissioner to supply the records and documents in respect of the contact was wrongful and contrary to the provisions of Clause 2, 4 and 8(5) of the Freedom of Information Act 2011.
The state government in their defence to the suit maintained that they had no obligation under the Freedom of Information Act to provide the information sought.
It further contended that Enugu State was yet to adopt the Freedom of Information Act or enact same as it’s’ laws and that the Federal High court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
However, in delivering an elaborate judgment on Monday, the Federal High Court held that it has jurisdiction to entertain the matter and that nothing in the interpretation clause of the act robbed the court of its’ jurisdiction under the FOI Act 2011.
The Court further held that the FOI Act is applicable to both Federal and state institutions and that public officers of the states are also subject to the Act.
The Court further held that FOI Act covers the whole of Nigeria states like the EFCC Act, adding that the aim of the Act is to encourage accountability, transparency and Rule of Law and that the beauty of the Act is that it places public interest above
The Court also held that it completely agrees with the Counsel to the Applicant that the terms and nature of the FOI Act was intended to be a complete statement of the law and does not need a state law to be operative.
The Court ordered the Commissioner for Health Enugu State to within 21 days supply to the applicant records and documents in respect of the contract awarded for the building and completion of the Diagnostics Centre.
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