A Federal High Court, Abuja, on Wednesday, struck out a suit seeking to compel the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) to release details of the asset declaration forms of Prof. Mahmud Yakubu, Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and those of his unmarried children.
Justice John Tsoho, in his judgment, held that the applicant, Emmanuel Agonsi, failed to establish that it was in the public interest of the CCB to make public the information he sought.
While Agonsi is the applicant, CCB and INEC chair were 1st and 2nd respondents respectively in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/33/2021.
In the suit, Agonsi sought an order of mandamus directing the CCB to release to him details of the asset declaration forms of Yakubu’s unmarried adult children in its custody as requested in his letter of Dec. 17, 2020; as well as accept payment of the appropriate fees from him forthwith.
The applicant further prayed the court for an order of mandamus directing the 1st respondent (CCB) to forthwith produce for the examination of the court-certified copies of the assets declaration forms of Yakubu and his unmarried adult children submitted to CCB for the period between 2007 and 2012 when he held office as executive secretary, Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) and as INEC chairman between 2015 and 2020, and any other ones declared thereafter.
He, therefore, sought the following reliefs: “A declaration that the 1st respondent has a statutory and public duty to furnish the applicant information and details concerning the 2nd respondent as contained in the applicant’s letter of request dated Dec. 17, 2020.
“A declaration that the refusal or failure of the 1st respondent to respond to or comply with the applicant’s request as contained in his letter dated Dec. 17, 2020, constitutes a refusal/failure of the 1st respondent’s statutory and/or public duty to the applicant and is therefore unlawful, illegal, abuse of powers, abuse of discretion and ultra vires.
But the INEC chair, in a preliminary objection, prayed the court to strike out the suit for being incompetent.
Delivering the judgment, Justice Tsoho upheld the preliminary objection raised by Yakubu on the ground that the applicant failed to provide material facts to convince the court to grant his prayers.
The judge said: “Having considered the facts, circumstances of the case and the submissions of counsel, it is my respective view that the applicant does not warrant the grant of the reliefs sought.
“The information sought related to personal information and personal privacy which is exempted under Section 14(1) of the Freedom of Information Act.”
He said the applicant had failed to show reasons the respondents ought to disclose the information vide Section 14(2)(a) of the act.
“The applicant has not established by credible evidence that there exists public interest in disclosing the information which outweighs whatever injury that the disclosure of the information will cause,” he said.
The judge also proceeded to determine the suit on its merit and further concluded that the applicant did not warrant the reliefs he sought.
According to him, as earlier noted, nothing weighty or reliable in the affidavit of the applicant before this court to show that the disclosure sought is in public interest and that the public interest outweighs the protection of the privacy of the individual for the injury that the disclosure will cause.
The judge held that the application was without merit and proceeded to strike it out.