$90m loan: Lagos to challenge suit by civil group

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BY INNOCENT ANABA

LAGOS—GOVERNOR  Babatunde Fashola of Lagos,  yesterday, told a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, that he intended to file a preliminary objection challenging the suit by a civil society group, seeking to compel him to release information relating to how government spent the $90 million loan obtained for improving public schools in the state.

Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Ade Ipaye, at the resumed hearing in the matter, before Justice Saliu Saidu, hinted of the state government’s intention to challenge the suit, in addition to a counter-affidavit he earlier filed in opposition to the suit.

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP instituted the suit against Fashola, and Ipaye, had prayed the court to compel the governor to disclose how the loan allegedly obtained from the World Bank for education in the state was spent.

SERAP had argued that it resorted to suing the governor and the Attorney-General after the government refused to honour its letter dated December 1, 2013, requesting for the information brought in pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act 2011.

But Ipaye had, in a counter-affidavit, opposed the suit, arguing that the FoI Act was not applicable to Lagos State because the law was a federal legislation.

At the hearing,  he asked for an adjournment to enable him to file the objection within seven days.

SERAP’s counsel, Mr. Adetokunbo Mumuni, did not oppose the application for an adjournment.

The trial judge adjourned the matter till June 4 and ordered that the court would hear both the preliminary objection and the substantive application together at its next sitting.

Ipaye, who is the second defendant in the suit, argued in the defendants’ counter-affidavit that since the FoI Act was a federal legislation, it was only applicable in relation to public records of government of the federation and not of the states.

The state government argued that the power to make laws on public records had been concurrently shared between the National Assembly and the states Houses of Assembly in their respective sphere of jurisdiction, adding that the FoI Act was not applicable to the records of states in the federation in so far the states had not enacted same as laws through their respective Houses of Assembly.

SERAP is however, asking the court to compel the Lagos State Government to release to it is information relating to how the government spent the $90m loan it allegedly obtained from the World Bank to improve education in the state’s public secondary schools.

It is also seeking for an order of mandamus, compelling Governor Fashola “to rescind the suspension of anyone, including principals of any of the schools for blowing the whistle or allowing journalists to cover the decayed infrastructure across primary and secondary schools in Lagos State.”

 

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