THE Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday fixed June 5 for judgment in a suit seeking an order compelling the Central Bank of Nigeria and its Governor, Godwin Emefiele, to provide information on the amount Nigeria expended on President Muhammadu Buhari’s treatment in London, United Kingdom, last year.
The President was away in London receiving treatment for an undisclosed ailment for 103 days in 2017.
Alleging that the President’s overseas medical expenses were paid from Nigeria’s treasury, a civil society group, Advocacy for Societal Rights Advancement and Development Initiative, had written a letter dated October 19, 2017 to the CBN requesting on the strength of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011, the details of the spending.
The group had also requested information on what it cost the country to keep the presidential aircraft and crew for 103 days at the Stansted Airport in the United Kingdom while President Buhari’s medical treatment lasted.
When the CBN bank failed to yield its demands, the group filed a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1142/2017 before the Federal High Court in Abuja praying for an order compelling the apex bank to release the information sought.
Parties to the suit adopted their papers after which the judge fixed June 5 for judgment on Tuesday.
Arguing his client’s case, the plaintiff’s lawyer, Chukwuwike Okafor, urged the court to ignore the respondents’ opposition to the suit and grant the prayers sought in it.
But the respondents’ lawyer, Babafemi Durojaiye, urged the court to dismiss the suit, arguing that the applicant’s grievance was misdirected.
But the CBN and its governor had, in opposing the suit, argued that it was not within their immediate responsibilities to provide such information on the treatment of the President or on what it cost the country to keep the presidential aircraft and crew at the Stansted Airport in the United Kingdom while President Buhari’s medical treatment lasted.
In their counter-affidavit filed on February 13, 2018, the CBN and its governor urged the court to reject the applicant’s prayers and dismiss the suit.
They also urged the court to vacate an earlier ex-parte order granting leave to the applicant to apply for “a prerogative order of mandamus” compelling them to provide the requested information.
They admitted receiving the October 19, 2017 letter from ASRADI, but stated that they forwarded it to the President’s Chief of Staff, who they believed was the proper person to provide the information sought by the applicant.
The CBN and its governor accused the applicant of failing to inform the court that they wrote it, informing the group to resort to the President’s Chief of Staff for the information it sought.
“The particular information sought by the applicant related to the overseas medical expenses incurred on the President of Nigeria, General Muhammadu Buhari and aircraft parking fees at Stansted Airport in the UK,” the counter-affidavit read.
The CBN and its governor added that having transferred the applicant’s request to the President’s Chief of Staff in line with the requirement of the Freedom of Information Act, the request is deemed to have been made to the President’s Chief of Staff. – Punch
– Apr. 17, 2018 @ 17:55 GMT