Journalist Files N15m Suit Against UNILAG, VC Over FOI ACT Violation

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UNILAG

Multiple award-winning, investigative journalist and anti-human trafficking advocate, Ms Tobore Ovuorie, has filed a N15 million suit at the Federal High Court in Lagos against the University of Lagos (UNILAG) and its Vice-Chancellor.

The suit was filed for alleged unlawful violation of the Freedom of Information Act 2011 and her right of access to information, arising from the institution’s reported failure to perform its statutory obligations under the Act.

Also joined as a respondent in the suit is the Attorney-General of the Federation, whom Ms Ovuorie described as having oversight responsibility by virtue of Section 29(6) of the Act to ensure that all public institutions comply with its provisions.

The suit was filed on behalf of Ms Ovuorie by Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Agu David Nwaze, a member of the Freedom of Information Legal Response Network, established by Media Rights Agenda (MRA).

In the motion ex-parte initiating the suit, filed pursuant to Order 34, Rules 1, 3(1) and (2) of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2019 and Sections 1(3), 2(6), and 20 of the FOI Act, Ms Ovuorie is asking the court to grant her permission to apply for judicial review under the FOI Act and to seek the following reliefs:

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A declaration that the failure and/or refusal by UNILAG to proactively publish certain information in its custody as specified in Section 2(3) of the FOI Act and widely disseminate the information as required by Section 2(4) of the Act amounts to a violation of her right of access to information, established and guaranteed by Section 1(1) and 2(4) of the Act;

A declaration that the failure and/or refusal by UNILAG to proactively publish the title and address of its appropriate officer to whom applications for information should be sent as required by Section 2(3)(f) of the FOI Act amounts to a violation of her right of access to information established and guaranteed by Section 1(1) and 2(4) of the Act;

A declaration that the failure and/or refusal by UNILAG to comply with Section 13 of the FOI Act in training of its officials on the public’s right of access to information and records held by it for the effective implementation of the FOI Act amounts to a violation of her right of access to information established and guaranteed by the Act;

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A declaration that the failure of UNILAG to widely disseminate and make readily available to members of the public the activities, records and information referred to in Sections 2(1), (2), (3), (4) and (5) of the Act through print, electronic, online media and/or at the Head office of UNILAG amounts to a flagrant violation of the provisions of these sections of the Act;

A declaration that the failure of UNILAG to submit to the Attorney-General of the Federation its annual reports on its implementation of the FOI Act amounts to a violation of Section 29(1) and (2) of the Act;


An order of mandamus compelling UNILAG to comply with the provisions of Section 2(1), (2), (3), (4) and (5) of the FOI Act by widely disseminating and making readily available to members of the public by print, electronic, online media and/or at the Head office of UNILAG the activities, records and information specified under these provisions of the Act;


An order of mandamus compelling UNILAG to train its officials on the public’s right of access to information and records held by the institution for the effective implementation of the Act as required by Section 13 of the Act;

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An order compelling UNILAG to submit its annual report for the year 2018, including that of previous years, of the implementation of the FOI Act, as required by Section 29(1) of the Act; and


The sum of N15 million as exemplary and aggravated damages for the unlawful violation of her right of access to information established and guaranteed by Sections 1(1) and 4 of the Act.

In a statement in support of the motion, filed pursuant to Order 34, Rule 3 of the Federal High Court Rules, Ms Ovuorie’s lawyer, Mr. Nwaze, said a letter dated November 12, 2019 was sent to Unilag requesting it to fulfil its statutory obligations under the FOI Act and to comply with the provisions of Section 2(3), (4) and (5); Section 29(1) and (2); and Section 13 of the Act.


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He said although UNILAG received and acknowledged receipt of the letter on November 20, 2019, the institution has refused to comply with her requests contained in the letter.


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