The minister for finance and the coordinating minister of the Nigerian economy, Dr Ngozi Okojo-Iweala has been dragged to an Abuja High Court for refusing to reveal the salaries and other emoluments that accrue to public office holders per annum.
A non-governmental organisation, Centre for Social Justice, through its lawyer, Mr. Nnajiaka Kingsley, is praying the court to issue an order of mandamus, compelling the minister to disclose the details of salaries and emoluments of civil servants as distinct from that of political office holders.
The plaintiff, in the suit filed pursuant to section 1, 20 & 21 of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011, and section 48(1) & 51 of the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2007, further prayed the court to declare that the action of the Minister in denying it access to the information, by ignoring an application that was made to her since February 3, 2014, without explanation as to why such details could not be made public, amounted to an infringement of the applicant’s right guaranteed and protected by section 1(1) of the FOI Act, 2011.
It told the court that the conduct of the respondent was in violation of section 4 of the FOI Act, 2011, and section 48 of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007.
Consequently, it urged the court to award N500, 000 as damages against the Finance Minister over her continued refusal to disclose the information sought from her office.
Whereas section 4 of the FOI Act provided a time line of seven days for a public institution to accede to any request for information, section 20 on the other hand prescribed 30 days for an applicant who was denied access to information, to go to court to seek for a judicial review of the action of such public institution.
The plaintiff contended that section 48(1) of the Fiscal Responsibility Act stipulated that the Federal Government should ensure that its fiscal and financial affairs are conducted in a transparent manner and accordingly, ensure full and timely disclosure and wide publication of all transactions and decisions involving revenues, expenditures and their implications for its finances