The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sued the Director-General, National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Brigadier-General Sule Kazaure and the NYSC over failure to publish specific documents and information on Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun’s application for NYSC exemption, and seeking to compel them to explain if she obtained any Exemption Certificate from the corps.
In the suit number FHC/L/CS/1369/18 filed on Tuesday at the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos, SERAP is seeking an order for leave to apply for judicial review and an order of mandamus directing and/or compelling General Kazaure and the NYSC to urgently provide specific documents and information on Adeosun’s application to the NYSC for Exemption and to publish widely including on a dedicated and on the NYSC website, any such information.”
The suit followed SERAP’s Freedom of Information request dated 2 August 2018 to General Kazaure, giving him seven days to provide “information on specific details and documents on the Exemption Certificate applied for and obtained by Mrs Adeosun; clarify whether the NYSC actually granted her the Exemption Certificate and if it did, the circumstances and the provisions of the NYSC Act under which the Exemption Certificate was granted.”
The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its counsel, Ms. Bamisope Adeyanju read in part: “Suspicions of obtaining unauthorised certificate involving a senior member of the government if not urgently and satisfactorily addressed would weaken public trust in the government’s oft-expressed commitment to transparency and accountability.
“By the combined provisions of section 104(1) of the Evidence Act, 2011 and sections 14(2)(b) 14(3) and 19(2) of the Freedom of Information Act, the NYSC, being the public institution in charge of issuing exemption certificates from the compulsory NYSC Programme, and having publicly declared that Mrs. Adeosun applied for exemption, has a duty to provide SERAP with details and documents containing the application for exemption and the exemption certificate itself, if it was granted.
“Mandamus lies to secure the performance of a public duty in the performance which SERAP has a sufficient legal interest. SERAP has shown that it has demanded the performance of the duty by the NYSC in this case, and that performance has been refused by the Director-General of the NYSC obliged to discharge it.
“The right of access to information should be subject to a narrow, carefully tailored system of exceptions. Exceptions should apply only where there is a risk of substantial harm to the protected interest and where that harm is greater than the overriding public interest in having access to the information.
“SERAP requested the NYSC to provide the information within 7 days of the receipt and/or publication of the letter. But since the receipt of the letter by the NYSC and up till the filing of this suit, the NYSC has failed, refused and/or neglected to respond to or grant SERAP’s request.
“This matter is of utmost national importance and public interest, because it borders on allegations of circumvention of the law, brought against a high public officer of Nigeria, who has sworn on oath to uphold the laws of the nation; including the NYSC Act. The grant of this application will help reveal the truth about the authenticity of the Exemption Certificate granted to Mrs Adeosun.
“By the combined provisions of Sections 1; 2; 3(4); 4; 7(1)&(5); 9; 14(2)(b)&3; 19(2); and 20 of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011, the right of access to information is guaranteed and there is a statutory obligation on the NYSC being a public institution, to proactively keep, organize and maintain all information or records about their operations, personnel, activities and other relevant or related information or records in a manner that facilitates public access to such information or record.
“The NYSC has no reason whatsoever not to comply with the demands by SERAP. There is compelling public interest in the disclosure of the information sought by SERAP, which concerns whether a high-ranking Minister had circumvented or disobeyed the law. The public interest in this case outweighs any private interest that the NYSC may be protecting. By the provision of Section 20 of the Freedom of Information Act, SERAP is entitled to apply to this Court for a review of the action of the NYSC.
“Unless the reliefs sought by SERAP are granted, the NYSC will not provide SERAP with the documents and information requested and will continue to be in breach of the Freedom of Information Act.
“SERAP is entitled as of right to request for or gain access to information, including information on the Exemption allegedly applied for by Mrs Adeosun.”
The suit is seeking a declaration that the failure of the respondents to provide the applicant with specific documents and information on Adeosun’s application to it for NYSC Exemption was unlawful and amounts to a breach of the respondents’ responsibility/obligation under the Freedom of Information Act 2011.
It also sought an order of Mandamus directing and/or compelling the respondents to urgently provide the applicant with specific documents and information on Adeosun’s application to it for National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Exemption and to publish widely including on a dedicated and on the NYSC website, any such information.
SERAP is seeking a declaration whether an authorized official of the NYSC actually issued an Exemption Certificate to Adeosun and that if NYSC did issue the NYSC Exemption Certificate, the circumstances and the provisions of the NYSC Act under which the Exemption Certificate was granted; and to publish widely including on a dedicated website and on the NYSC website, any such information, is unlawful and amounts to a breach of the Respondent’s obligation under the Freedom of Information Act 2011.
The group also sought an order of Mandamus directing and/or compelling the respondents to urgently provide the applicant with specific documents and information on the procedure under the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 to “apply” for NYSC Exemption.
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.