Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has rejected an FoI request on the grounds that the federal law was not binding on state authorities.
Mr. Sanwo-Olu’s claim to rights lawyer Inibehe Effiong came two years after the Akure Division of the Court of Appeal ruled that the 2011 transparency statute was applicable to all states of the country — rather than only the federal government as critics claimed.
Mr. Effiong has asked for a copy of the legal instrument adopted by Mr. Sanwo-Olu to create the judicial panel on police brutality in Lagos.
The lawyer also asked Lagos authorities to release security camera rolls on October 20 when soldiers intervened in a protest at Lekki Toll Gate, killing many.
“The laws of Lagos do not include the Freedom of Information Act which is a federal law that is not applicable to the state, as such your request cannot be granted,” Deyemi Bamgbose, a legal officer in the Lagos attorney-general’s office, said in the state’s November 6 response to Mr. Effiong’s letter.
The official cited a 2018 ruling of the Benin Division of the Court of Appeal, which classified the FoI as a federal law.
But Mr. Effiong said the state was being dishonest when it failed to cite the ruling of the Akure Division of the Court of Appeal that reached a different conclusion in a March 27, 2018 ruling.
The court ruled that FoI was applicable to all states and warned state authorities to stop fighting a law that seeks to impose transparency in public services. A journalist, Martins Alo, instituted the case against Ondo House of Assembly, which had failed to act on his FoI request for state expenditure.
The FoI was enacted to facilitate citizens’ access to information. It was in line with Section 39 of the Constitution, which addresses fundamental rights.
Mr. Effiong said the panel of inquiry can only be created by an instrument, and there was no evidence to suggest that Mr. Sanwo-Olu has issued such instruments.
“The issue is the governor’s questionable commitment to a credible investigation by the Panel of Inquiry,” Mr. Effiong said. “If the governor is sincere, why has he refused to release these Instruments if they actually exist?”
The lawyer said he would continue to pursue the matter until the state demonstrates a strong legal footing to constitute the ongoing inquiry.
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