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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Court of Appeal dismisses appeals for release of Buhari, Jonathan’s asset declaration forms

Court Rules FOI Act Cannot Circumvent Constitutional Provisions, Awards Costs Against Applicants

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In a significant ruling, the Court of Appeal in Abuja has rejected separate appeals seeking the release of asset declaration forms of former presidents, vice presidents, and National Assembly principal officers, stating that the suits were premature.

The appeals, filed by the Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC) and the Incorporated Trustees of the African Centre for Media and Information Literacy, challenged the Code of Conduct Bureau’s refusal to disclose the asset declaration forms in response to Freedom of Information Act requests.

PPDC requested the forms of former President Goodluck Jonathan, ex-Vice President Namadi Sambo, former President Muhammadu Buhari, and his vice, Yemi Osinbajo, while the African Centre for Media and Information Literacy sought those of former National Assembly principal officers.

Justice Okon Abang, delivering the lead judgment, emphasized that the suits lacked maturity, highlighting that the National Assembly had not prescribed terms and conditions for accessing the asset declaration forms.

He stated, “The appellants ought to have compelled the National Assembly to prescribe terms and conditions before approaching the CCB for disclosure of personal information relating to asset declaration.”

Furthermore, Abang underscored the supremacy of the 1999 Constitution over the provisions of the FOI Act, emphasizing that any inconsistency between the two would be nullified by the Constitution.

“The 1999 Constitution as amended will nullify any provision of the FOI Act that is inconsistent with it,” he asserted.

Concluding the judgment, Abang awarded costs of N200,000 against each appellant, underscoring the importance of adherence to constitutional provisions in matters of public disclosure and access to information.

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