Court of Appeal Dismisses Suits Seeking Jonathan, Buhari, Others’ Asset forms

The Court of Appeal in Abuja on Friday dismissed separate appeals seeking an order compelling the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, to release the asset declaration forms of former presidents and vice presidents and National Assembly principal officers.

The Public and Private Development Centre, PPDC, and the Incorporated Trustees of the African Centre for Media and Information Literacy had in a separate suit dragged the CBB, and its chairman before a Federal Capital Territory High Court for their refusal to honour a Freedom of Information, FOI, initiative demanding the asset declaration forms of former public office holders.

PPDC sought the asset declaration forms of former President Goodluck Jonathan and his Vice President, Namadi Sambo and ex-President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, while African Media Centre requested that of former National Assembly principal officers.

The trial judge, Abdulkadir Abdu-Kafarati dismissed the application stating that

The National Assembly did not prescribe the terms and conditions to apply for.

Displeased with the court’s decision, the applicants approached the Court of Appeal for redress.

However, reading the lead judgement on Friday, Justice Okon Abang equally dismissed the appeals, adding that the suits were immature.

He said: “As 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 will guide any members of the public to either apply for the inspection of the assets form or disclosure of information in the forms in the custody of the respondent. ”

He noted that the appellants ought to have gone to court first to compel the National Assembly to prescribe the terms and conditions for members of the public to comply with before approaching the CCB to disclose personal information relating to the declaration of assets by former office holders.

Justice Abang also held that the provisions of the FOI relied upon by the appellants were not in agreement with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution as amended.

“Contrary to the submission of the appellant, the applicability of the right to information established in the FOI is contiguous with the terms and conditions contained in Paragraph 3(c) Part 1, Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution as amended which is the supreme law of the land.”

“The process cannot be circumvented. The appellant has no choice but to comply with what the Constitution states.”

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

Justice Abang, however, awarded N200,000 each as costs against the appellants.