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Legal Defence & Assistance Project (Gte) Ltd. V. Clerk of the National Assembly of Nigeria

Case number:
FHC/ABJ./CS/805/2011
Country:
Nigeria
Date of decision:
25 June 2012
Court / Arbiter:
Federal High Court of Nigeria; reviewable by Federal Court of Appeals ( First instance )


Decision:

The salaries of the Members of Parliament are not personal information and should be disclosed.


Keywords:
Income and assets
Legislature / Parliament (including committees, individual legislators)
Personal information (including personnel files, other records concerning or held by public servants)
RTI law
Time (time limit, delay)

Case details:

Facts

The Legal Defence & Assistance Project (LEDAP) is a registered non-governmental organization that aims to promote “good governance, public accountability, and the rule of law in Nigeria” (p. 4). On 6 July 2011, LEDAP applied to the National Assembly of Nigeria (NAN) for information “on details of salaries, emolument, and allowances paid to the Honourable Members of Representatives and Distinguished Senators, both of the 6th Assembly, from June 2007 to May 2011” (p. 4). The Assembly did not respond to the request, prompting LEDAP to bring suit in the High Court (p. 4).

The NAN argued primarily that the applicant did not file within the time limit set in Section 20 of the FOI Act, that it would be “prejudicial” to pending cases to grant LEDAP’s request; and that the information constituted personal information that was exempted under Section 14 of the Act.  (p. 5).

Decision

The Court denied the argument regarding late filing, agreeing with LEDAP that Section 20 of the Act granted the Court discretion to extend the time limitations for filing suit (p. 8).

Before looking into the exceptions, the Court emphasized that “the onus . . . is on the denying authority to show that it is justified by the Act to deny the information requested” (p. 19).  With respect to the “prejudicial” argument, the Court found that the NANs explanation for “what interest . . . will be prejudiced” had to do with a jurisdictional issue that was irrelevant to the present proceedings (p. 21). Since the Court could not “speculate” as to the actual relevance, the NAN’s rationale was “not justified by the Act” (p. 21). Nor was the NAN’s Section 14 argument persuasive. After reviewing the wording of the relevant provision, the Court concluded that LEDAP “did not request any of the personal information relating to the Honourable Members, but simply what was paid to them while they were in service from the public fund,” and that such information was “not among those exempted” under Section 14(1) of the Act (p. 24).

Resources:

Judgment of the Court.