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FOI: SERAP, WARDC Sue FG Over Failure To Release Spending Records On Maternal Death Prevention

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and Women Advocates and Research and Documentation Center (WARDC) have dragged the Federal Government to the Federal High Court, Ikeja, asking the court for leave “to apply for judicial relief and to seek an order of mandamus directing and or compelling the government to disclose and make available up-to-date information on government/public spending relating to maternal death prevention for the past five years.”

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and Women Advocates and Research and Documentation Center (WARDC) have dragged the Federal Government to the Federal High Court, Ikeja, asking the court for leave “to apply for judicial relief and to seek an order of mandamus directing and or compelling the government to disclose and make available up-to-date information on government/public spending relating to maternal death prevention for the past five years.”

Joined as Defendants in the suit are the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Muhammed Adoke and the Minister of Health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu.

The suit followed a Freedom of Information request by the groups dated August 13, 2012 and signed by SERAP’s Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni.

The motion exparte with suit number FHC/IKJ/CS/223/12 was brought pursuant to section 20 of the Freedom of Information Act, and Order 34 of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules, 2009, and signed on behalf of the groups by SERAP’s Staff Attorney Chinyere Nwafor.

The organizations argued that “under the FOI, they have the right to request for or gain access to information which is in the custody or possession of any public official, agency or institution.”

According to the groups, “The Defendants/Respondents have a binding legal obligation to provide the applicants with the information requested for. The information requested for relates to the details of spending on prevention of maternal deaths for the past five years; and this information does not come within the purview of the types of information exempted from disclosure by the provisions of the FOI Act. Up till the time of filing this action, the Defendants/Respondents have failed, neglected and refused to make available the information requested by the Applicants. The Defendants/Respondents have no reason whatsoever to deny the Plaintiffs/Applicants access to the information sought for.”

In their request, the groups expressed “serious concerns about the worsening rate of maternal mortality in Nigeria, which is one of the highest ratios globally. Women in rural areas share a considerable percentage of this ratio. The main cause of maternal mortality suffered by the vulnerable sectors of the population is the lack of access of pregnant women to adequate, affordable and accessible healthcare services.”
They also said that, “This situation constitutes a violation of the human rights such as the right to life and the right to health guaranteed by the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights which Nigeria has ratified and incorporated as national law through the Ratification and Enforcement Act (Cap A9) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.”

The organizations are seeking the following reliefs in the substantive suit:
A DECLARATION that the high rate of maternal mortality in Nigeria is a breach of the obligation of government to respect, promote and fulfil the right to the best state of physical and mental health guaranteed by Article 16 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights Ratification and Enforcement Act (Cap A9) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.

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A DECLARATION that by virtue of the provisions of Section 4 (a) of the Freedom of Information Act 2011, the 1st Defendant/Respondent is under a binding legal obligation to provide the Plaintiffs/Applicants with up to date information on government/public spending relating to maternal health care delivery system and prevention and/or reduction of maternal mortality in Nigeria.

AN ORDER OF MANDAMUS directing and/or compelling the 1st Defendant/Respondent to provide the Plaintiffs/Applicants with up to date information on government/public spending relating to maternal health care delivery system and prevention and/or reduction of maternal mortality in Nigeria.
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the application.

 

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