Lagos - An Appeal Court Judge, Justice Chima Nweze, has faulted the Lagos State Government for deferring the implementation of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act until it is domesticated.
The judge, who presided over the Court of Appeal in Calabar, Cross Rivers State, said the domestication of laws or status relates to international treaties and agreements signed by the Federal Government and that it was therefore improper for a state government to "hide under such excuse to avoid implementing the FOI Act."
The judge stated this in Lagos at a one-day seminar on "the Role of Lawyers and Judges in the Implementation of FOI Act 2011" organised by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) in collaboration with MacArthur Foundation.
Nwaze noted that it was "an abuse of language" for a state government to claim that it cannot implement FOI Act until it is domesticated in such state.
Nweze said it was "unthinkable" for a state government to argue that because the FOI Act, which was passed by the National Assembly and which automatically applied to all public institutions, could not be implemented in his state because it has not be domesticated.
The judge added that it was time for substantive issues of law to be addressed and handled by the courts rather than technicalities.
Addressing the obstacle hindering the implementation of the act, Nwaze said Nigerians had rights to access information or records in the custody of public institutions under the FOI Act without providing any reasons for requesting the information.
The judge said public institutions are obliged to proactively disclose through diverse media at least 40 classes of information or records in their possession, adding that failure to do so under FOI Act is actionable in court and could in deserving cases be categorised as wrongful denial of information which attracts a fine of N500 000.
According to him, public institutions are statutorily obliged to create, keep, organise and maintain records/information about their set up, structure and operations in a manner that facilitates public access to such information.
- CAJ News
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