Activists ask court to stop NDDC 2015 budget

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala

Some Niger Delta activists, civil rights lawyers and others made up of 25 persons and led by one Aigbokhan President have sued the Federal Government and the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) before the Federal High Court, Benin City, asking the court to restrain the NDDC from accessing the 2015 budget appropriation.

Joined in the suit are President of the Senate, Speaker of the House of Representatives and Minister of Finance. In the case cited as Aigbokhan President, 25 Others vs NDDC, National Assembly and Ministry of Finance and which came up for hearing last Thursday, the applicants urged the court presided over by Justice A. M. Liman, to stop NDDC from accessing the 2015 Appropriation until it releases the certified copies of how it spent N309 billion appropriated to it last year.

They contended that the NDDC’s refusal to respond to their request for the said information on January 6, 2015, violates their fundamental right to information guaranteed by Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)2011.

Counsel to the applicants, Aigbokhan President argued that even though the NDDC sends audit report to the President, the audit report is not immune from being challenged by the applicants.

He urged the court to grant the relief seeking for the appointment of an auditor to audit the NDDC account. He noted that the traditional approach to accountability is the presentation of account openly before a legislative body, but with the advent of FOIA, the budgetary appropriation can be scrutinized by the people.

He said the expenditure of 50 per cent of monies due to member States of the Commission from Ecological Fund; 15 per cent of the total monthly statutory allocations due to member States from the Federation Account;‎ three percent of the total annual budget of any oil producing company operating, both on shore and off shore in Niger Delta area and all other monies due to member States of the Commission, ought to be made public to the applicants on their request, as sustained by the Freedom of Information Act 2011.

Counsel to NDDC and Ministry of Finance, Emeka Akwuruoha and P. I. Ogbu, respectively, argued that a request for information cannot be brought under Fundamental Human Right Procedure Rules 2009. Justice Liman, adjourned the case to June 12 , 2015, for judgement.

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