Education fund: Fashola to file fresh objection against FoI suit

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Lagos state Governor Babatunde Fashola has indicated to file a fresh objection against a suit seeking an order to compel him to release information relating to how government spent the $90m loan obtained from the World Bank for the purpose of improving public schools in the state.

The state Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Ade Ipaye, said this on Wednesday before Justice Saliu Saidu, who is hearing the matter at a Federal High Court, Lagos.

Ipaye’s intention to file a preliminary objection followed a counter-affidavit he earlier filed in opposition to the suit.

A rights group, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, had sued the governor and the attorney-general over the loan allegedly obtained from the World Bank.

SERAP had stated that it resorted to suing the governor and the attorney-general after they refused to honour its letter dated December 1, 2013, requesting the information under the Freedom of Information Act 2011.

But Ipaye had, in a counter-affidavit, opposed the suit, arguing that the FoI Act was not applicable to Lagos State because the law was a federal legislation.

At Wednesday’s proceedings when the matter ought to have come up for hearing, Ipaye sought an adjournment to enable him to file the objection within seven days.

SERAP’s lawyer, Mr.Adetokunbo Mumuni, did not oppose the application for an adjournment.

The judge adjourned the matter till June 4 with a directive that the court would hear both the preliminary objection and the substantive application together at the sitting.

Ipaye, who is the second defendant in the suit, argued in the defendants’ counter-affidavit that since the FoI Act was a federal legislation, it was only applicable in relation to public records of government of the federation and not of the states.

The state government submitted that the power to make laws on public records had been concurrently shared between the National Assembly and the state Houses of Assembly in their respective sphere of jurisdiction.

It added that the FoI Act was not applicable to the records of states in the federation in so far as the states had not enacted them as laws through their respective Houses of Assembly.

The counter-affidavit reads, “The public records of the Lagos State Government are generated and kept by various Ministries, Departments, Agencies and personnel of the state government in execution of their functions and responsibilities in the service of the state.

“Such state government agencies and personnel are statutorily created or regulated by the laws of the state House of Assembly and the handling of public records has serious security implications which are routinely handled by rules established by the state government.”

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