A Federal High Court in Abuja has fixed June 5 for judgment in a suit seeking to compel the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and its Governor, Godwin Emefiele to provide information on the amount the country paid for President Muhammadu Buhari’s treatment in London last year.
Justice John Tsoho chose the date on Tuesday after parties adopted their final written addresses and made their final submissions.
Chukwuwike Okafor, for the applicant – the Incorporated Trustees of Advocacy for Societal Rights Advancement and Development Initiative (ASRADI) – urged the court to discountenance the respondents’ argument and grant his client’s reliefs.
Babafemi Durojaiye, for the 1st and 2nd respondents (CBN and its Governor), prayed the court to dismiss the suit.
He argued among others, that the applicant’s grievance was misdirected.
ASRADI had filed the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1142/2017 last year following the alleged failure of the CBN and its Governor to respond to a Freedom of Information request on what the bank released for the payment of Buhari’s treatment in London.
ASRADI stated that the CBN and its Governor refused to honour its Freedom of Information request contained in a letter of October 19, 2017 for information on the amount released for Buhari’s medical treatment in London and the amount paid on behalf of the Nigerian government as parking fees for keeping the presidential aircraft and crew in the UK while the President’s treatment lasted.
The group wants the court to declare that the failure of the respondents to provide it with information it sought through its letter of October 19, 2017 (on the expenditure of the President’s London treatment) “amounts to a wrongful denial of information and is a flagrant violation of the provisions of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2011.”
The applicant also seeks an order compelling the respondents to furnish it with information sought in the letter of October 19, 2017, and a further order, mandating the CBN and its Governor to pay the plaintiff N10million in damages “for the wilful refusal of the 1st and 2nd respondents to release information in respect of the applicant’s letter dated 19th Ocober 2017.”
The applicant hinged its prayers on the ground that the applicant, being a civil society organisation, that advocates for public interest issues and engages in anti-corruption and other related campaigns, was entitled to the information sought under the FOI Act.
In a supporting affidavit, ASRADI’s Executive Director, Adeolu Oyinlola stated that his group had, through a letter of October 19, 2017 filed under the FOI Act, applied to the CBN and it Governor for information on the country’s expenditure on President Buhari’s treatment in London, but was ignored by them.
He stated that it was within the responsibilities of the CBN and its Governor to provide the requested information they “are responsible for all foreign currency transactions of the Nigerian government or transactions involving the Federal Government of Nigeria and foreign institutions as it concerns transfer of money outside the shores of Nigeria.”
Oyinlola further stated that it was in the interest of the Nigerian public that the court grants his group’s prayers to compel the respondents to declare the requested information because ASRAD was daily inundated by demands from the public to investigate the amount of tax payers’ money spent by the Federal Government in the course of the treatment of President Buhari in London and what it cost to keep the Presidential aircraft at the Stansted airport for the duration of the treatment.