AITA Rejects Judgment Trivializing FOI Act, Set To Appeal Ruling

By Mr. Joseph Ugo

 

The national President/CEO of an anti-graft NGO with branch office in Kaduna State and with its headquarters in Abuja FCT; Almushahid Initiative for Transparency and Accountability (AITA) Amb. Aminu A. Majidadi has condemned in strong terms, the judgment handed down by Hon. Justice A. B.  Mohammed of the FCT high court sitting in Gudu; in a suit filed by Alh Atiku Sani Sain Maradun, Case File: CV/1523/18 Challenging the right of the NGO to request information on alleged corruption on the grounds of Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2011

The plaintiff who is the chairman of Zamfara State Feeding Commission had dragged the incorporated trustees of the NGO, its  chairman and two others before the court in May this year after the defendant sent him letter and questionnaire demanding explanation on alleged corrupt practices in his office.

Rather than respond to the issues raised, Alh Atiku Sani Sain Maradun proceeded to the court, claiming that only the EFCC, ICPC, OAGF and related government Agencies are empowered by law to demand such information. However, after waiting for response to no avail; the anti-graft NGO, then furnished the EFCC with the information available to it through a petition. The report as at last month is that the EFCC have discovered and confiscated more fraudulently acquired assets belonging to the plaintiff who was eventually released on bail while investigation continues.

“To my greatest surprise”, said Amb. Aminu, “Hon. Justice A. B.  Mohammed in his ruling, held that though AITA and three others did not clearly invite the plaintiff to for questioning”, “He ruled in favor of the plaintiff”, and ordered the defendants to pay cost of action amounting to one hundred thousand Naira and damages of three hundred thousand Naira respectively to the plaintiff, having agreed that the receipt of such letter caused the plaintiff enormous health challenges.

Hon. Justice A. B. Mohammed

In his remark the National President/CEO of AITA Amb. Aminu A. Majidadi vehemently opposed the judgment, stating that the FOI Act empowers every citizen who so wish, to demand information for the purposes of accountability and transparency, let alone a duly registered NGO whose core mandate falls squarely within such niche.

In his words, “We have instructed our counsel – A. B. Abutu & Co. to obtain the full judgment, study it and proceed on appeal immediately”. “We also invite all well-meaning Nigerians to lend their voices to such miscarriage of justice where the hunter becomes the hunted”, he said.

Furthermore, the national president/CEO AITA avail that we must commend the effort of the EFCC so far in this matter, especially the Kaduna branch where the acting chairman of EFCC assigned the case to be investigated, and as well, draw the attention of the National Judicial Council (NJC), Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), and the Civil Societies to this questionable act by Hon. Justice A.B. Mohamed which is an affront to the dignity of the judiciary as the last hope of the common man.