Edo State government has been ordered by a Benin High Court to render account of its stewardship to a senior member of the Amnesty International, Patrick Eholor on the cost of the Benin Storm Water Project.
Eholor, founder of One Love Foundation, had sometime last year, dragged the state government to court for its refusal to cooperate with him when he invoked the Freedom of Information Act to request for information on the project embarked upon to address the problem of flooding in the state capital.
Delivering judgment in the matter with suit number B/84/OS/019, presiding Judge, Justice Daniel Iyobosa Okungbowa said having chosen to adopt the unanimous judgment of an Akure Division of the Court of Appeal in the case between Alo versus Speaker, Ondo State House of Assembly, which expressly stated that the Information Act applies to Edo State, the Claimant was entitled to information applied for under the 2011 Act.
Justice Okungbowa declared that Eholor was entitled to the reliefs sought which were only declarative. He explained that the Court was not a charitable institution and cannot make any order or grant a relief not sought.
He awarded N50,000 cost to the claimants against the defendants.
Amongst the declarations by the judge were that outside making available the cost of the Benin Storm Water project, the defendants should also show areas covered by the project through a copy of the master plan and all such drawings relating to the it.
The government shall also disclose the exact dates the contracts were awarded and to whom in a formal document, as well as how much had been expended on the project. Also to be made available are a detailed financial record, the extent of work done, sources of funding, loans, grants, and terms as well as any variation in the contracts .
The Court also compelled the Edo State Government to furnish the Claimants with information about the time the project is expected to be completed, the state of work as at 2019, whether still ongoing, suspended or abandoned, as well as any other information incidental to the demands .
Commenting on the outcome of the case, counsel to the claimants , Austine Akahomen of M. N Namuna Chambers said the Judiciary, despite all odds against it in Nigeria, has once again proven that it is indeed the last hope of the common man.
Akahomen said the judgment would not only encourage others to participate in governance as information about government activities would be readily made available under better enforcement of the Freedom of Information Act, but would also compell government of the day to do what is appropriate in terms of open and transparent governance,.
On his part, the plaintiff told journalists that he was the happiest man on earth at the outcome of the case against the state government.
Eholor, who had few years ago mobilized a one million-man-march that compelled the Federal Government to address gross injustice in the South-south of Nigeria, said for the nation’s democracy to work, the constituents must be allowed to participate through adequate information and active interrogation of the system.
Meanwhile, Eholor, who is also a social crusader and activist, has threatened to mobilize no fewer than one million Nigerians on a mass protest over the recent demolition of part of the country’s High Commission Building in Ghana
Although the Ghanaian authorities have not only tendered an apology over the demolition and had given an undertaken to rebuild the demolished structures, Eholor condemmed what he termed the prolonged silence of President Mohammadu Buhari on the issue.
He said the action of the Ghanaian non-state actor amounted to trampling on Nigeria’s soverieghty in that country. Eholor made his position known in Benin City in a media chat.
Eholor also expressed fear over possible annexation of the country by other neighnouring countries if the federal government refused to checkmate the ugly trend. He demanded the immediate recall of the Nigerian Ambassador to Ghana
“It is sad that as of today, President Mohammadu Buhari has not addressed the issue. So, I m asking them to do something urgently because when the government refuses to speak for its citizens, as a responsible citizen, I would have no choice than to mobilize one million people to the gate of Ghana’s embassy”.
Eholor was also disturbed by the decision of the federal government to expunge history as a subject from curriculum of educational institutions, saying he would be left with no option but to approach a court of law should the government refuse to reinstate the subject.
On the disqualification of Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki by the All Progressives Congress, APC by the screening committee over issues surrounding his certificates, Eholor, relying on provision of the Freedom Of Information(FOI) Act, urged the Vice Chancellor and Chief Registrar, University of Ibadan(UI) to go into the archives to produce the academic quaification of the governor as of when he gained admission into the institution in order to put the controversy to rest.