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Court Rejects Suit To Compel CCB Release INEC Chair’s Asset Declaration Forms

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The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court has dismissed a suit seeking to compel the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) to release details of Mahmud Yakubu, the chairman of the INEC, and his unmarried children’s asset declaration forms.

Justice John Tsoho, in his judgement on Wednesday, held that the applicant, Emmanuel Agonsi, failed to establish that it was in the public interest for the CCB to make public the information he sought.

While Mr Agonsi is the applicant, CCB and INEC chair were the first and second respondents in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/33/2021.

In the suit, Mr Agonsi sought an order of mandamus directing the CCB to release to him details of the asset declaration forms of Mr Yakubu’s unmarried adult children in its custody as requested in his letter of December 17, 2020, as well as accept payment of the appropriate fees from him forthwith.

He sought the following reliefs: “A declaration that the first respondent has a statutory and public duty to furnish the applicant information and details concerning the 2nd respondent as contained in the applicant’s letter of request dated December 17, 2020.

“A declaration that the refusal or failure of the first respondent to respond to or comply with the applicant’s request as contained in his letter dated December 17, 2020, constitutes a refusal/failure of the first respondent’s statutory and/or public duty to the applicant and is therefore unlawful, illegal, abuse of powers, abuse of discretion and ultra vires.”

But the INEC chair, in a preliminary objection, prayed the court to strike out the suit for being incompetent.

Delivering the judgement, Justice Tsoho upheld the preliminary objection raised by Mr Yakubu on the ground that the applicant failed to provide material facts to convince the court to grant his prayers.

The judge said, “Having considered the facts, circumstances of the case and the submissions of counsel, it is my respective view that the applicant does not warrant the grant of the reliefs sought.

“The information sought related to personal information and personal privacy which is exempted under section 14(1) of the Freedom of Information Act.”

He said the applicant failed to show reasons the respondents ought to disclose the information vide section 14(2)(a) of the act.

“The applicant has not established by credible evidence that there exists public interest in disclosing the information which outweighs whatever injury that the disclosure of the information will cause,” he said.

The judge also proceeded to determine the suit on its merit and further concluded that the applicant did not warrant the reliefs he sought.

“As earlier noted, nothing weighty or reliable in the affidavit of the applicant before this court to show that the disclosure sought is in the public interest and that the public interest outweighs the protection of the privacy of the individual for the injury that the disclosure will cause.”

The judge held that the application was without merit and proceeded to strike it out.