Mike Odiegwu, Yenagoa
Stakeholders under the auspices of the Patriotism Advancement and Community Orientation Network (PACON) have dragged Ogbia, the Local Government Area of former President Goodluck Jonathan to court for failing to render account of its stewardship.
PACON on December 9 wrote to the authorities of the Ogbia council demanding full disclosure of some of its transactions including revenue that accrued to the council.
PACON in the letter dated December 9 and addressed to the Ogbia Chairman, Ebinyo Turner, said its request was in line with Sections 1 of the Freedom of Information (FOI), Act 2011.
The letter, which was signed by PACON’s Arch Convener, Aluzu Ebikebuna, asked the council to provide certified true copies of transactions relating to Ogbia Local Government.
PACON demanded proof of the total allocation received from January 1, 2019 to November 30, 2019; All receipts from the Joint Account Allocation Committee within the period under review and Financial Statement of Account from January 2019 to November 15, 2019.
The organisation asked the council to provide documents proving total expenditure of the local government for the period of January 1, 2019 to November 30, 2019; list of capital projects of the local government within this period and list of locations of capital projects their status (completed or ongoing) within the period under review.
Folowing the refusal of the council to honour the demands, PACON instituted a legal action against the council accusing its management of breaching justice.
Also joined in the suit as defendant is the Executive Chairman of the Local Government Area, Ebinyo Turner.
In a13-paragraph affidavit deposed to by the Secretary, Board of Trustees, PACON, Mr. Debekeme Powedei in support of the originating summons filed by the group’s lawyers, Wisdom Adike and Aluzu Ebikebuna, PACON said if granted, its application would encourage aid proper accountability by leaders and citizens’ participation in governance.
Part of the affidavit said: “On the 9th December 2019, the claimant/applicant wrote an application to the defendants/respondents that the claimant/applicant should be allowed unfettered access to certain certified true copies information concerning Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State of Nigeria that is within the control and custody of the Defendants/Respondents.
“That the defendants/respondents have failed, refused and or neglected to reply to the said application.
“The Defendants/Respondents have failed, refused and or neglected to allow the Claimant/Applicant access to the certified true copies of information sought within seven (7) days as provided by Law.
“That unless the defendants/respondents are compelled by an Order of this Honourable Court the defendants/respondents will continue to fail, neglect and or refuse the Claimant/Applicant access to the certified true copies of information sought by the Claimant/Applicant from them.”
PACON, therefore, asked the court to make a declaration that by the true interpretation and construction of Section 31 of the Freedom of Information Act the first defendant/Respondent is a public Institution within the meaning of the Act
Others are: “A declaration that the refusal, failure and or neglect by the defendant/respondents to release the information requested by the claimant/applicant concerning Ogbia Local Government Area Council of Bayelsa State of Nigeria amounts to a violation of Section 4 (a) of the Freedom of Information Act, (supra) and therefore is wrongful, illegal and unconstitutional.
“A declaration that the refusal, failure and or neglect by the Defendant/Respondents to notify the claimant/applicant of its refusal to grant access to information contained in the claimant/applicant’s request concerning Ogbia Local Government Area Council of Bayelsa State of Nigeria within seven (7) days of the receipt of same amounts to a violation of the provisions of Section 7 (1-3) of the Freedom of Information, Act.
“A declaration that the refusal, failure and or neglect of the defendant/respondent to grant the Claimant/Applicant access to information concerning Ogbia Local Government Council of Bayelsa State of Nigeria within seven (7) days of the receipt of the application dated 9th December 2019 without lawful excuse is an infringement on the right of the Claimant/Applicant to access information as contained in Section 1 of the Freedom of Information Act.
“A mandatory order of mandamus directing the defendant/respondent including their servants, agents, privies, officials and or cohorts to within 14 days of the delivery of Judgment furnish the claimant/applicant of the requested information”.