Court grants Media Rights Agenda leave to sue Reps over records of committee investigation

A Federal High Court in Abuja has granted Media Rights Agenda (MRA) leave to apply for an order to compel the House of Representatives of the National Assembly to furnish it with transcripts of the proceedings of the House Committee on Aviation at the hearing of the Committee on the procurement of two bulletproof BMW cars by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) through Messrs Coscharis Motors Limited.

Justice Evoh Chukwu granted MRA leave following a motion exparte brought by its lawyer, Mr. Godwin Chigbu, seeking leave of the court to apply for:

· A declaration that the failure of the House of Representatives and the Clerk of the House to furnish MRA with certified true copies of the documents sought by the organization by its letter dated July 24, 2014 amounts to wrongful denial of information under the Freedom of Information Act, 2011; and

· An order by the court compelling the House and the Clerk, jointly and severally, to within seven days of judgment in the suit furnish MRA with the certified true copies of the documents, namely: the transcripts of the proceedings of the House Committee on Aviation at the hearing held by the Committee on the procurement of two bulletproof BMW cars by the NCAA through Messrs Coscharis Motors Limited and the transcript of the proceedings of the Committee held on October 30, 2013.

Setting out the facts relied upon in the case, MRA stated that in 2013, the NCAA purchased two BMW armoured cars for the use of the then Minister of Aviation, Ms Stella Oduah, at the cost of N255 million from Coscharis Motors and that due to alleged irregularities and failure to follow due process of law as well as other controversies surrounding the purchase of the cars, the House of Representatives, in exercise of its oversight functions, instituted an investigation into the purchase of the vehicles through its Committee on Aviation.

MRA said the Committee conducted hearings on the matter on several days, including on October 30, 2013 and that on July 24, 2014, MRA wrote to the House of Representatives, requesting certified true copies of record of proceedings and that despite receiving the letter of request, the House and its Clerk have refused or neglected to furnish it with copies of the documents requested.

After hearing the submissions of Mr. Chigbu, who argued the motion exparte, Justice Chukwu granted MRA leave to apply for the reliefs sought and adjourned hearing in the substantive suit till April 16, 2015.

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