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Court Passes Judgement On Suit Seeking CCB To Reveal Assets Of Jonathan, Buhari, Osinbajo, Others

The Court of Appeal in Abuja, on Friday, rejected the request to compel the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) to disclose the assets declared by former presidents, vice presidents, and principal officers of the National Assembly.

News360 Info understands that the Public & Private Development Centre (PPDC) and the Incorporated Trustees of the African Centre for Media & Information Literacy, had sought to overturn a high court judgment that denied them access to the asset declaration forms submitted to the CCB by past political leaders.

The organizations had taken the CCB and its chairman to the Federal Capital Territory High Court because the latter refused to comply with their request under the Freedom of Information Act.

However, in a unanimous decision on Friday by a three-member panel of justices, the appeals filed by two non-governmental organizations were dismissed.

PPDC had specifically requested the asset declaration forms of former president Goodluck Jonathan and his vice, Namadi Sambo, as well as ex-president Muhammadu Buhari and his vice, Yemi Osinbajo.

Additionally, African Media Centre had requested the forms of former principal officers of the National Assembly.

However, the high court dismissed their suit, with Justice A. G. Abdu-Kafarati delivering the judgment.

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Unsatisfied with this decision, the groups appealed to the appellate court, but their request was also dismissed on Friday. Justice Okon Abang, delivering the verdict, stated that the appellants had failed to fulfil the necessary conditions for the release of such information to them.

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Describing their application as premature, Justice Abang held thus: “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 those forms in the custody of the respondent.”

News360 Info understands that Justice Abang underscored the necessity for the appellants to have first resorted to the court to mandate the National Assembly to set forth the terms and conditions for the public to follow before approaching the CCB to divulge personal information concerning the declaration of assets by former officeholders.

He also pointed out that the FOI provisions referenced by the appellants did not align with the relevant sections 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 added, according to Vanguard.

Consequently, the appellate court dismissed the appeal, even as it awarded a cost of N200,000 each against the appellants.

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