A chieftain of All Progressive Congress (APC), Osita Okechukwu, on Tuesday dragged the Petroleum Resources Minister, Mrs Diezani Alison Madueke, before the Federal High Court in Abuja over the minister's refusal to grant him access to the information he had requested under the Freedom of Information (FOI) law.
Mr. Okechukwu had written to the Minister requesting information about Nigeria's crude oil swap variant and the certification of subsidy for the importation of kerosene and Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) into the country by the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) since January 2012.
But according to Mr. Okechukwu, the Minister ignored the letter, prompting Mr.Okechukwu to approach the court. He is seeking, amongst other relief, a declaration that the Minister's refusal to release the information he requested amounts to a violation of Section 7(1) of the FOI Act, and therefore, wrongful, illegal and unconstitutional.
Mr. Okechukwu holds that as a public servant Mrs. Alison Madueke is obligated to furnish him with the information he requested in March, over six months ago.
He further asserts that his application requesting the information was duly served on the Minister on March 20 by the DHL courier service, and that in breach of Section 4 of the Act, the Minister completely ignored and neglected his request.
That section of the law provides that if a public institution considers that an application should be denied, it shall give a written notice to the applicant that access to all or part of the information will not be granted, stating reasons for the denial and the section of the FOI Act under which the denial is being made.
Mr. Okechukwu therefore asked the court for an order directing the Minister to pay the sum of five thousand Naira in penalties for the wrongful denial of his right of access to the information he sought, as well as N1 million in general damages.
At the proceedings, Mr. Okechukwu's lawyer, Mrs.Justina Obono- Obla, told the court that her client seeks an order of mandamus to compel the Minister to comply with his request and release the information being sought.
Justice Gabriel Kolawole has fixed ruling on the application for Thursday, September 25.