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Court orders NPC to provide report on suspended 2023 census

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Court orders NPC to provide report on suspended 2023 census

Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered the National Population Commission (NPC) to release records of spending on the aborted 2023 Population Census to an Abuja-based lawyer, Opatola Victor within seven days.

Justice Ekwo gave the directive while delivering judgment in a suit instituted against the population commission.

The judge declared that the refusal by the NPC to release the information or records of spending on the aborted census as requested by the lawyer on March 30, 2023 was wrongful, illegal and unconstitutional.

While invoking Section 4 of the Freedom of Information Act, Justice Ekwo held that the refusal of the commission to provide the plaintiff with information on the companies that provided due diligence report on the technology to be deployed for the ill-fated census was a gross violation of the right of the plaintiff as enshrined in Section 4 of the FOI Act.

The court, however, refused to grant N500,000 in favour of the plaintiff as he requested in the suit.

In the judgment, the judge granted an order of mandamus compelling the NPC, its servants, agents privies and officials to furnish the lawyer with comprehensive and detailed information concerning the Quality Test Assurance Report on the devices and technology to be deployed for the postponed 2023 population census.

Justice Ekwo rejected the claim by the defendant that bureaucracy and the absence of its executive chairman at the time was responsible for the refusal to make the requested records available to the plaintiff adding that the claim was untenable.

The Judge also dismissed the claim by the NPC that some of the requested information was classified which prompted the refusal to make the records available to the plaintiff, adding that from the definition of classified information, there was nothing secret on the issue of population census.

Justice Ekwo also said that the position of the commission that the record sought by the plaintiff was already in the public domain was not tenable because the request of the plaintiff was on record at the disposal of the NPC and not the one in the public domain.

The lawyer had prayed the court for an order that the refusal of the population commission to make the record of spending on the aborted population census among others, available to him was a breech of his rights under Section 4 of the FOI Act 2012.

He has prayed the court for an order of mandamus compelling the population commission to make the requested records of the aborted 2023 population census available to him in line with the provisions of the FOI Act.

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