Court directs Coscharis Motors to disclose information on purchase of bullet-proof cars
A Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos has issued a directive to Coscharis Motors Limited to ensure it discloses to a non-governmental group; Enough is Enough (EIE) Nigeria, information about the 2013 purchase of two bullet-proof cars for Former Aviation Minister, Stella Oduah.
Justice Mohammed Yunusa while delivering judgment in a suit filed by the Media Rights Agenda (MRA), on behalf of the NGO against Coscharis, declared that the FOI Act is applicable to Coscharis Motors.
The judge equally threw out the argument of Coscharis Motors that the court is bereft of jurisdiction to entertain the action initiated by EIE, having exceeded 30 days after it was deemed to have been denied access and that the period was not extended by the court as provided for under the FOI Act.
The court further described as lacking in merit the argument that EIE applied through a Motion Exparte dated January 9, 2014 for leave of court and extension of time within which to file the process, which the court granted on February 27, 2014.
The court however did not grant any order asking the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), to commence criminal proceedings against Coscharis Motors for wrongful denial of access to information.
The non-governmental organisation specifically prayed Justice Yunusa to issue, “a declaration that the failure and/or refusal by Coscharis Motors to disclose or make available to EIE the information requested in the organisation’s letter to the company dated October 28, 2013, is a violation of EIE’s right of access to information guaranteed by Section 1(1) and Section 4(a) of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011.
“A declaration that the failure and/or refusal by Coscharis Motors to give EIE a written notice that access to all or part of the information requested would not be granted and stating reasons for the denial and the section of the FOI Act upon which the company relied to deny EIE access to the information it requested amounts to a flagrant violation of the Act and is therefore wrongful.
“An order of mandamus compelling Coscharis Motors to disclose the information requested in EIE’s letter dated October 28, 2013, namely the invoice(s) and landing documents for the two BMW vehicles acquired by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) with chassis numbers WBAHP41050DW68032 and WBAHP41010DW68044; and details of the payment for the vehicles, including whether they were paid for in full or hire purchased as reported by the media.
“An order compelling the Attorney-General of the Federation to initiate criminal proceedings against Coscharis Motors for wrongful denial of access to information to EIE under Section 7(5) of the FOI Act.”
But in its argument against the suit, Coscharis Motors stated through its Company Secretary and Legal Adviser, NdubuisiChito that it is a fully indigenous private limited liability company with no government investment in its equity, adding that it is not funded by tax payer’s money or any other type of government subvention.
Coscharis Motors also posited that it was not engaged in any type of public service. While contending that the FOI Act cannot be made applicable to it, the firm stated that it was not opened to disclose to EIE the information requested by the group.
But counsel to the EIE, Ayodeji Acquah, insisted that regardless of the position of Coscharis Motors as a private company, and since it had benefited from the import duty waiver and consequently used public funds in the purchase of the said bullet proof cars, the firm falls within the purview of Sections 2(7) and 31 of the FOI Act.