A Federal High Court sitting in Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory, Abuja this afternoon granted an order of mandamus compelling the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission-EFCC to explain why it must not release the information requested by a Civil Society Coalition under the Freedom of Information Act.

Federal High Court 2, Abuja, presided over by Justice Kasarati granted the leave as sought by the plaintiff- Media Initiative against Injustice, Violence and Corruption-MIIVOC to issue an order of mandamus against the anti-corruption Agency.

Reacting to the Court decision, Counsel to MIIVOC, Barrister Obasi Agu expressed satisfaction with what he described as judicial uprightness and expressed confidence that justice shall prevail.

“The implication of today’s court pronouncement is that the Court has issued an order, compelling the EFCC to explain to the Court why it must not make the information requested by my client available to him. The Commission has about fourteen days to respond.”

Adding his voice, MIIVOC Executive Director, Walter Duru expressed confidence in the ability of the judiciary to deliver justice, reiterating the coalition’s commitment to making anti-Corruption agencies in the country accountable.

He decried what he described as the absence of transparency and accountability in the operations of anti-corruption agencies in the country and reiterated his coalition’s commitment to righting the wrongs in the system.

It would be recalled that a Coalition of Civil Society Organisations under the aegis of Media Initiative against Injustice, Violence and Corruption-MIIVOC dragged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission-EFCC to Court over its refusal to respond to a request made under the Freedom of Information Act.

The matter filed in Federal High Court, Abuja, with Suit number: FHC/ABJ/CS/265/13 between the Incorporated Trustees of Media Initiative against Injustice, Violence and Corruption as plaintiff and the Executive Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission-EFCC-defendant, prays the Court to compel the defendant to make available the information sought by the Plaintiff in accordance with section 4 of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011.

The matter seeks four reliefs, among which is “a declaration by the Court that the denial of assess by the respondents to make available to the applicant the information sought, without explanation amounts to a violation of the applicant’s right to information enshrined in the Freedom of Information Act 2011, section 4”

MIIVOC had through a letter dated 27th January, 2014, invoked the Freedom of information act via a request for information bothering on credibility, finances and Police presence in the Commission, a copy of which he displayed.

According to the FOI request, signed by the Organisation’s Programme and Publicity Director, Philip Inyang, copy of which is acknowledged by the EFCC, MIIVOC made a 7-point demand that centered on the controversies surrounding the Commission’s financial state, alleged dominance of the Commission by the Police and other credibility issues.

“We refer to the August 5, 2013 publication on Daily Sun Newspapers and the Punch newspaper of August 2nd, 2013 which reported that there are about 700 Policemen working in the EFCC, majority of whom are top management Staff. In another report in the Nigerian, an online newspaper, it was alleged that most heads of Units, Departments and zones in the Commission are headed by Policemen, irrespective of qualifications, federal character and background. In response to the Vanguard Newspapers publication of January 21st, 2013, the EFCC Spokesman denied the predominant presence of Policemen in the Commission, without explaining what the 700 policemen are doing in EFCC and how 700 policemen, out of less than 1,200 EFCC staff is not a predominant figure in an organization that was created more than ten years ago. He also failed to address the issues raised in the report by the Senate where EFCC was alleged to be spending funds meant for the recruitment of new staff and payment of benefits to its core officials to Police.”

“On ThisDay newspaper of 17th December, 2013, the Commission was quoted as being broke and having less than N2m in her accounts. In another statement credited to the Commission’s Spokesman, Wilson Uwajuren and published on Vanguard and Guardian newspapers of 19th December, 2013, the Commission was reported to have somersaulted, claiming that it was not broke.”

“To sustain the credibility of this Commission among Nigerians and at the international level, a more robust and convincing response is expected from the Commission in situations such as this, considering the series of controversies that have trailed the Commission’s activities and operations lately.”

“It is the need for this credibility and in view of the right of Nigerians to know, that we most respectfully invoke Sections 1, 2 (3)(V), 2(3)(Vi) of the 2011 Freedom of Information Act to request for the following: Details of all Police officers posted to EFCC, their qualifications, ranks, and duties as well as dates of secondment to EFCC; Details of police officers that are in charge of operations, sections and units of EFCC; Details of senior officers of EFCC occupying Directorate positions and the number that are supposed to be in Directorate positions if not for the police officers; The volume and value of EFCC funds (INCLUDING NON-APPROPRIATED FUNDS) that go to the Police, Ministry of Trade and Investment Special Control Unit Department, Training of staff, number of officials of EFCC trained (and other officials who are not EFCC officials) and how much was saved from EFCC budget in 2013 given all the international funding and support it obtained in 2012/2013.

Other requests are: Details of support and funding from the international community in 2013, especially, funds from: GIABA/ECOWAS and World Bank; Details of EFCC officials trained by international agencies in 2013 and how much was saved in the budget of EFCC because of this support and the actual financial statement of the Commission, as at December 31st, 2013.

Media Initiative against Injustice, Violence and Corruption (MIIVOC) is a coalition of communication, civil society and human rights activists and groups with interest in the war against injustice, Violence, immorality and corruption, as well as the protection of human rights, from a communication perspective. It is believed to be working with a coalition of over twenty different non-governmental Organisations in the Project.

Among the NGOs in the Coalition are: Network on Police Reforms in Nigeria-NOPRIN; International Association of Criminal Justice Practitioners-IACJP; Foundation for Environmental Rights, Advocacy and Development- FENRAD; Citizens Centre for Integrated Development and Social Rights-CCIDSOR, Center for Zero Violence Advocacy-CEZVA; Media Initiative Against Injustice, Violence and Corruption; Initiative for Reorientation for Peace-building –I-REP, among others.

Philip Inyang
Director, Publicity

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *