Tuesday, April 16, 2024

FG learns fate April 16 in suit seeking details of N200 billion spent on census preparation

Mr Opatola, who represented himself as the plaintiff, told the court that all processes had been filed and exchanged with the defendant.

• January 18, 2024
Nasir Kwarra
Nasir Kwarra [Photo Credit: Twitter]

The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court has fixed April 16 for judgment in a suit seeking an order completing the National Population Commission (NPC) to account for how it spent N200 billion out of funds allocated to it for the conduct of the deferred 2023 census.

A lawyer, Victor Opatola, had accused the NPC of refusing to provide detailed information on how the N200 billion was reportedly spent on preparations for the postponed 2023 population and housing census.

When the matter was called on Thursday before Justice Inyang Ekwo, the judge called counsel to identify and adopt all the processes they filed.

Mr Opatola, who represented himself as the plaintiff, told the court that all processes had been filed and exchanged with the defendant.

“The plaintiff filed an originating summons along with a 12-paragraph affidavit, and I also filed a reply on points of law, and I seek to adopt them,” he stated.

The counsel to the NPC, C.D. Chimezie, also identified and adopted all his processes.

The NPC executive chairman, Nasir Kwarra, in May 2023, said that the commission spent N200 billion for preparation, out of the expected N800 billion needed to conduct the census.

However, in an originating summons, Mr Opatola told the court that he had filed a Freedom of Information (FOI) application to the commission in March 2023, requesting information on the budget submitted by the commission for the 2023 census.

He said he also requested information on the funds received so far by the commission towards the conduct of the census, among other things.

The lawyer contended that the application addressed to the NPC was duly acknowledged and served on the commission through its chairman.

He stated, “By the provisions of Section 4 of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act (supra), the defendant/respondent has within Seven (7) days after the application was received to make the information available to the plaintiff/applicant.

“However, by virtue of Section 4(b) of the (FOI) Act (supra), where the public institution considers that the application should be denied, the institution shall give 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 Act under which the denial is made.”

The lawyer decried the refusal of the commission to comply saying the NPC had refused to do the needful in line with relevant laws.

The lawyer urged the court to grant his relief against the NPC.

He said, “An order of mandamus directing the defendant, including their servants, agents, privies, officials and or cohorts, to furnish the plaintiff with comprehensive and detailed information concerning information on the company/companies that provided due diligence report on the technology to be deployed by the commission for the coming 2023 census upon the plaintiffs’ application within seven days.

“An order of mandamus directing the defendant, including their servants, agents, privies, officials and or cohorts, to furnish the plaintiff with comprehensive and detailed information concerning information on the Due Diligence Report on the Technology to be deployed by the commission for the coming 2023 general census by the plaintiff’s application within seven days.”

The lawyer also sought an order of mandamus directing the defendant, including their servants, agents, privies, officials and or cohorts, to furnish the plaintiff with comprehensive and detailed information concerning information on the funds received so far by the commission towards the conduct of 2023 census by the plaintiff’s application within seven days.

Also sought is an order of mandamus directing the defendant, including their agents, privies, officials, and cohorts, to furnish the plaintiff with comprehensive and detailed information concerning the budget submitted by the commission for the 2023 census.

The plaintiff also wanted a declaration that the refusal, failure and or neglect by the defendant to release the information or records requested by the plaintiff concerning the quality test assurance report on the devices and technology to be deployed by the commission for the 2023 census amounts to a violation of section 4 (a) and (b) of the FOI Act and therefore is wrongful, illegal and unconstitutional.

“A declaration that the refusal, failure and or neglect of the defendant to release the information requested by the plaintiff concerning information on the due diligence report on the technology to be deployed by the commission for the 2023 general census amounts to a violation of the provisions of Section 4 (a) and (b) of the FOI Act, 2011.

“A declaration that the refusal, failure and or neglect by the defendant to release the information requested by the plaintiff concerning information on the funds received so far by the commission towards the conduct of the 2024 Census amounts to a violation of provisions of Section 4 (a) and (b) of the FOI Act, 2011,” stated the court document.

Mr Opatola explained that the request concerning the technology to be deployed for the census was to ensure that the equipment to be used was at par with world best practices.

He also said the request for the NPC to make a conflict of interest declaration in the allotment of contracts and jobs given to contractors was to ensure that no conflict of interest could undermine the integrity of the census.

Justice Ekwo adjourned the matter until April 16 for judgment. 

(NAN)

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