The federal high court sitting at Asaba, Delta state, presided by Justice T.B. Adegoke, has struck out two suits filed by the Anti-Corruption Integrity Forum against the accountant general of the state and the state tender’s board seeking to compel the duo to provide information regarding contracts awarded by the state ministry of works in pursuance of the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011.
The court struck out the suits on Thursday, October 27, 2017, after hearing argument from both the counsel of the plaintiff and the defendants.
The Anti-Corruption Integrity Forum had filed two separate suits FHC/ASB/CS/62/2017 and FHC/ASB/CS/79/2017 praying the federal high court to compel the accountant general of Delta state and the state tenders’ board respectively to give information in respect of some contracts awarded by the state ministry of works. The plaintiff also sought an order directing the attorney-general of Delta state to prosecute the accountant general for failure to release the requested information.
The court entertained argument from both counsel to the plaintiff and the defendant as to whether the federal high court had jurisdiction to entertain the matter.
The counsel to the plaintiff, K.O. Enakpoya Esq. holding the brief of P.O. Edjor Esq argued that the court has jurisdiction to entertain the suits going by the provision of section 251(1) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) as well as section 31 of the FOI Act which gives the state high hourt and the federal high court the jurisdiction to entertain matters under the act.
N.W. Ogbogo Esq , a Director in the ministry of justice leading M.O. Agwere Esq, chief state counsel while urging the court to strike out the suit for want of jurisdiction, argued that the federal high court was a court of limited jurisdiction.
He maintained that the jurisdiction of the court was limited to the specific subject matter enumerated under section 251(1) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).
He further argued that for the court to have jurisdiction in these matters, the party in the suit must be the federal government of Nigeria or any of its agencies.
The director further submitted that in the instant suit, neither the plaintiff nor the defendant was the federal government of Nigeria nor any of its agencies, adding that the defendant, the accountant general is an agent of the Delta state government.
He averred that the subject matter of the suit does not fall within any of the subject under section 251(1) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).
Honourable Justice T.B. Adegoke in his ruling, agreed with the submission of the learned counsel for the defendant, N.W. Ogbogo Esq. and struck out the suit accordingly.