A non-governmental organisation, Centre for Social Justice, has dragged Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala before the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, over her alleged refusal to grant access to details of salaries and emoluments that political office holders receive from the federal budget annually.
The NGO, through its lawyer, Nnajiaka Kingsley, is praying the court to issue an order of mandamus, compelling the minister to disclose the details of salaries and emoluments of civil servants as distinct from that of political office holders.
In the suit filed pursuant to section 1, 20 & 21 of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011, and section 48(1) & 51 of the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2007, the plaintiff further prayed the court to declare that the action of the Minister in denying it access to the information, by ignoring an application that was made to her since February 3, 2014, without explanation as to why such details could not be made public, amounted to an infringement of the applicant’s right guaranteed and protected by section 1(1) of the FOI Act, 2011.
The plaintiff further argued that the conduct of the respondent was in violation of section 4 of the FOI Act, 2011, and section 48 of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007.
It also urged the court to award N500, 000 as damages against the Finance Minister over her continued refusal to disclose the information sought from her office.
Nigerians have been keen about knowing what their elected officers earn for years, but most of the information available have been unverifiable. With the country’s economy now threatened by falling oil prices, austerity measures have been introduced by the federal government to cut spending. Many however believe that salaries are allowances of political office holders if cut, would alone shore whatever deficits in the country’s 2015 budget, as oil sells at about $10 below Nigeria’s benchmark. The suit is therefore expected to catch the attention of everyone eager to know how much their elected officers earn.
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