Law News
Court Adjourns Suit against LASG on $90m World Bank Education Loan for Argument

Justice Saliu Saidu of the Federal High Court in Lagos on Friday adjourned the suit filed by a civil society organisation, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), against the state Governor, Babatunde Fashola and the state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Ade Ipaye, to December 10  for arguments.

The applicant is seeking information on the spending of $90 million loan given to the state government by the World Bank to develop the education sector.

At the hearing last week, SERAP argued that the government has failed to comply with Order 29 Rule 2 of the Federal High Court Rules of Procedure which requires an applicant challenging the jurisdiction of the court to first file a memorandum of appearance stating clearly that he is appearing conditionally. The state government has not done this, SERAP observed.

But the court waived the requirement, relying on Order 51 of the Federal High Court Rules of Procedure to grant the motion dated June 30 by Ipaye to extend the time within which the government would file its preliminary objection and affidavit in support, and written address.
Order 51 deals with effect of non-compliance with the rules, and grants the court the power to allow any amendment to be made and to make any such order dealing with the proceedings generally as it deems fit.

The judge, while adjourning the case, asked Ipaye why the government has not provided the information requested by SERAP to which the attorney general said the government had already widely released the information to the media. The judge then asked why the government has not provided the information directly to SERAP so as to see whether that can bring the case to an end.
Ipaye, Director Civil Litigation, S.Y Kolawole, and Olamide Ibrahim represented the state government while Olukayode Majekodunmi and Oyindamola Musa-Oseni appeared for SERAP.

The state government is challenging the court’s jurisdiction to hear the suit, arguing that the freedom of Information Act (FoI) does not apply to it because Nigeria is a federation, and 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.

SERAP had in January this year sued the government over alleged failure to release information and documents on the spending for the past five years on furniture and other facilities in public schools in the state. The schools over which the governor is being dragged to court include Ewutuntun Grammar School in Mafoluku area of Oshodi; Ikeja Grammar School, Iloro Grammar School in Agege and Fagba Junior Grammar School, Iju Road.

The organisation is also seeking the order of the court for the state government to release information on spending of the World Bank loan of $90 million meant to improve education in the 639 public secondary schools in the state, and details of projects carried out to improve infrastructure and facilities across primary and secondary education in the state.
The suit followed a FoI request to the governor of the state dated December 1, 2013. The originating summons with suit number FHC/L/CS/57/2014 was brought pursuant to section 4 (a) of the FoI Act.
The plaintiff is arguing that under the FOI Act, it has “the right to request for or gain access to information which is in the custody or possession of any public official, agency or institution regardless of whether they are federal or state institution.”
According to the plaintiff, “the disclosure of the information requested will give the public a true picture and a clear understanding of how much the state government has spent to improve education in the 639 secondary schools in the state and also promote transparency which the governor of the state has expressly canvassed.”

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