A group of Niger Delta Activists, Civil Rights Lawyers and Non Profit Organizations, have dragged the President of the Senate, Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Minister of Finance and the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), before Justice A. M. Liman of the Federal High Court, Benin Division, seeking an order restraining the NDDC from accessing the 2015 budget appropriation.
In the case cited as Aigbokhan President, 25 Others vs NDDC, National Assembly and Ministry of Finance, with number FHC/B/CS/21/2015, the Applicants asked the Court to bar the 1st Respondent (NDDC), from accessing the 2015 budget appropriation pending when it releases the certified true copies of documents showing it’s budget outline and expenditure of N309 billion for the year 2014.
The applicants contended that the non release of information on specific details on how the 2014 budget appropriation they requested from the 1st Respondent on 6 January, 2015, violates their fundamental right to information guaranteed by Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution and the Freedom of Information Act 2011.
When the case came up for hearing last Thursday, Counsel to the Applicants, Aigbokhan President, Esq; argued that even though the NDDC sends audit report to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the audit report is not immune from being challenged by the Applicants. He urged the court to grant the relief seeking for the appointment of an auditor to audit the NDDC account. He noted that the traditional approach to accountability is the presentation of account openly before a legislative body, and even more so with the advent of FOIA, the budgetary appropriation can be scrutinized by the people.
Aigbokhan contended that expenditure of 50 per cent of monies due to member States of the Commission from Ecological Fund; 15 percent of the total monthly statutory allocations due to member States from the Federation Account; three percent of the total annual budget of any oil producing company operating, both on shore and off shore in Niger Delta area and all other monies due to member States of the Commission, ought to be made public to the Applicants on their request, as sustained by the Freedom of Information Act 2011.
Counsel to NDDC and Ministry of Finance, Emeka Akwuruoha, Esq and P. I. Ogbu, Esq, respectively, argued that a request for information cannot be brought under Fundamental Human Right Procedure Rules 2009.
The presiding judge of the court, Justice A. M. Liman, adjourned the case to 12th June, 2015, for judgement.
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