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Appeal Court fines group N400,000 for asking CCB to disclose former president Jonathan, Buhari’s assets



Buhari Jonathan

The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja, on Friday has imposed ₦400,000 fine on the incorporated Trustees of the African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL) over their application which asked the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) to disclose the asset declaration forms of former presidents Goodluck Jonathan, Muhammadu Buhari and their vice.

The appeal court Justice Okong Abang equally dismissed the case of the group for lacking in merit and for being inconsistent with the 1999 Constitution.

The group’s lawyer, Godwin N. Chigbu, in appeal no: CA/A/247/2018, told the appellate court that Nigerians have the right to enquire about the assets of public officers through the FOI Act.

He urged the appellate to set aside the judgment of the Federal High Court which turned down its application and compel the CCB to make the assets of the former president public in line with Paragraph 11, Part I of the Fifth Schedule to the 1999 Constitution which provides that:

Reading the lead judgment on Friday, Justice Abang held that at the time the suit was filed at the trial court, the National Assembly did not make any written instrument prescribing the terms and conditions that would guide any members of the public to either apply for the inspection of the assets form or disclosure of information in those forms in the custody of the CCB.

He agreed with the trial court that the suit filed by the group was immature, adding that it ought to have first complained to the National Assembly to pass a law on how members can access the asset declaration forms of public officers.

Abang said the appellant did not point out where the FOI Act outlined how an applicant can go about getting what he or she requested from the CCB.

Abang said,

On July 28, 2011, AFRICMIL sent what it called a Freedom of Information(FOI) request to the CCB asking for copies of the 2007 asset declaration of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan; the asset declaration of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan after the end of his tenure on May 28, 2011; and the asset declaration of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan when he assumed office on May 29, 2011.

The group’s team lead, Ashimole Felix later alleged the CCB was not yielding to its request and subsequently filed a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/877/2011 on October 21, 2011, at the Federal High Court, Abuja.

The group requested the trial court to compel the CCB to comply with its request to make available to the public the asset declaration of former president Goodluck Jonathan.

But the court below threw out the case for lacking in merit, paving the way for an appeal.