VENTURES AFRICA – The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has dragged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) before the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos, over the apex bank’s failure to expose the financiers of the Boko Haram.
The organisation filed a suit numbered FHC/L/CS/1547/2014, Tuesday through its Executive Director of the organisation, Adetokunbo Mumuni, after a Freedom of Information request by SERAP to the CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, dated September 15, 2014 yielded no result.
“A necessary implication of the rule of law is that a public functionary and institution can only act in accordance with the law, as to do otherwise may enthrone arbitrariness,” argued SERAP in the suit.
“In a democratic society, this is meant to be a norm; it is an apostasy for public institutions like the CBN to ignore the provisions of the law,” the organisation added.
The rights group, among other things, sought a declaration that by virtue of the provisions of Section 4 (a) of the Freedom of Information Act 2011, the defendant was under a binding legal obligation to provide the Plaintiff with up to date information on persons involved in alleged money laundering through the CBN to fund the activities of Boko Haram, as well as the exact nature and duration of any such transactions.
SERAP claimed in a statement that “the CBN has so far failed, refused and/or neglected to provide the Plaintiff with the details of the information requested.
“By virtue of Section 1(1) of the FOI Act 2011, the Plaintiff is entitled as of right to request for or gain access to information which is in the custody or possession of any public official, agency or institution. By the provisions of Section 2(7) and 31 of the FOI Act 2011, the Defendant is a public institution.
“By virtue of Section 4 (a) of the FOI Act when a person makes a request for information from a public official, institution or agency, the public official, institution or agency to whom the application is directed is under a binding legal obligation to provide the Plaintiff with the information requested for, except as otherwise provided by the Act, within seven days after the application is received,” SERAP argued.
The organisation further said that its request does not fall into the category of information exempted from disclosure by the provisions of the FOI Act, and as such should be granted by the CBN.
“The information requested for, apart from not being exempted from disclosure under the FOI Act, bothers on an issue of national interest, public peace and security, public concern, social justice, good governance, transparency and accountability. The Defendant will not suffer any injury or prejudice if the information is released to the Plaintiff”.
According to SERAP, unless the court grants the relief sought, “the defendant will continue to be in breach of the Freedom of Information Act, and other statutory responsibilities.It added that it is therefore “in the interest of justice to grant its application, as the defendant have nothing to lose if the application is granted”.