The Cable Newspaper Journalism Foundation (CNJF) has sued the attorney-general of the federation (AGF) over his failure to respond to a freedom of information (FoI) request on the engagement of lawyers for the recovery of stolen funds.
The case, with suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/27/2018, was filed by Kusamotu & Kusamotu law chambers at a federal high court in Abuja, on January 10, 2018.
The Cable Foundation had written to the office of the AGF in respect of a report on the repatriation of $321 million stolen by Sani Abacha, former military ruler.
The foundation sought to know the reason behind the engagement of another set of lawyers to do a job that had already been completed by Erico Mofreni, a Swiss lawyer engaged by Nigeria since 2000.
It also requested a copy of the 2014 agreement that led to the withdrawal of the prosecution of Mohammed Abacha.
Nigerian lawyers, Oladipo Okpeseyi, a senior advocate, and Temitope Isaac Adebayo, were engaged in 2016 apparently to duplicate the job of the Swiss lawyer and get their own cut from the already done deal.
Incidentally, Okpeseyi and Adebayo were lawyers to the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), the legacy party of President Muhammadu Buhari. Malami was legal adviser to CPC.
The FoI request was sent on December 7, 2017 and the AGF’s office acknowledged receipt on December 8, 2017. The request made via the FoI portal on the website of the ministry of justice was received and electronically acknowledged. Both acknowledgments have been marked “Exhibit B” and “Exhibit C” respectively in the court papers.
Kusamotu & Kusamotu, counsel to CNJF, is seeking an order of mandamus compelling the AGF to make available to CNJF the information and documents requested from its office pursuant to the FoI act, 2011.
“Till the date of bringing this application, the respondent (AGF) has refused to comply with the provisions of the FoIA by his refusal and failure to make available to the applicant (CNJF) the information and documents requested, and/or denial of access to the request for records and information within a time limit allowed by the law,” Kusamotu & Kusamotu stated in the court papers.
The counsel added that there is no justification for the refusal and failure to make available to CNJF the information and documents requested as required by section 7 of the act.
“The applicant (CNJF) is entitled to the right to be granted access to public records and documents in the custody of or possession of any public official, agency or institution,” the counsel maintained.
The FoI act, enacted 2011, allows the right of any person to access or request information, whether or not contained in any written form, which is in the custody or possession of any public official, agency or institution.
Sections 4 and 5 of the act provide that a public official or institution should grant access to a request for records or information within a time limit of seven days. The institution is given three days within which it should transfer the request to another institution if it finds that another institution is in possession of the information under request.
CNJF is waiting for a date for court hearing.