Lagos judge blocks release of ex-Minister Stella Oduah’s BMW car purchase details

A Federal High Court in Lagos on Monday struck out a suit filed by the trustees of Media Rights Agenda against the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, seeking details of the contract for the purchase of two BMW cars by a former Aviation Minister, Stella Oduah.

Ms. Oduah was fired in February after compelling the NCAA to purchase at least two armoured cars for her use.

Lawmakers who investigated the controversial deal said its cost was about double the market price.

They also established that the purchase was not provided in the budget and was not advertised, revelations that sparked public outrage.

The Media Rights Agenda had filed a Freedom of Information, FOI, suit alongside incorporated trustees of Public and Private Development, seeking an order compelling the NCAA to disclose information on the procurement of the BMW cars.

The NCAA and the Attorney General of the Federation are listed as first and second respondents respectively.

But Justice Ibrahim Buba, in his ruling, said the information sought by the applicant was outside the contemplation of the FOI.

He held that the information was a published material which fell under the exceptions provided in Section 26 (a) of the Freedom of Information Act.

The judge noted that the budgetary allocation for the said procurement process was contained in the 2013 budget of the Federal Government.

The applicants through their counsel, Ayodeji Acquah, had sought a declaration that the failure of the respondents to disclose the information amounted to a violation of their rights as enshrined in the FOI.

In their letter dated Oct. 21, 2013, the applicants had requested for the first respondent’s annual budget and the public procurement record for the purchase of two BMW 760 LI vehicles.

They had also requested evidence of advertisement, a list of bids tendered, copies of bid evaluation meetings, pro forma invoice of the documents, as well as documents showing delivery of the procured vehicles.

The applicant’s averred that the information requested did not come within the purview of the types of information exempted from disclosure by the provisions of the FOI.

They insisted that the first respondent had no reason to deny them access to the information sought, adding that the information bothered on issues of national interest, public concern, social justice, good governance, transparency and accountability.

The defence counsel, Emeka Okpoko, had in a preliminary objection, argued that the applicants did not meet up with the condition precedent before instituting the action against the respondents.

He also argued that the applications failed to issue the 30 days notice required by Section 24(2) of the Civil Aviation Act 2006.

Mr. Okpoko described the suit as incompetent, adding that the court had no jurisdiction to entertain the suit.

He prayed the court to strike out the suit for lack of jurisdiction.

Justice Buba agreed with the submissions of defence counsel, and accordingly, dismissed the suit.

The judge, however, did not award any cost against the applicants. (NAN)

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