The Federal High Court in Abuja ruled on Tuesday that information about the amount of taxpayer fund suspected to have been expended on President Muhammadu Buhari’s treatment in London last year, could not be released under the Freedom of Information Act without the President’s consent.
Delivering judgment in the suit filed by a civil society group, Advocacy for Societal Rights Advancement and Development Initiative, Justice John Tsoho held that the information sought related to personal information of an elected person like Buhari and which was exempted by Section 14(1)(b) of the FoI Act, 2011.
The judge also ruled that the Central Bank of Nigeria and its Governor, Godwin Emefiele, could not be held liable for not disclosing the information, having transferred the group’s October 19, 2017 request to the Office of the Chief of Staff to the President.
The judge held that the plaintiff ought to have followed up on the information with the Office of the Chief of Staff, but refused to take advantage of it, thereby depriving itself of an definite answer from the government.
President spent 103 days in London receiving treatment for an undisclosed ailment in 2017.
The judge also struck out the name of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, as the third defendant on the grounds that “no reasonable cause of action” was disclosed against him.
He also struck out the plaintiff’s request for damages.
He struck out the suit, which he ruled was “bound to fail.”
Alleging that the President’s overseas medical expenses were paid from the Nigerian treasury, a civil society group, Advocacy for Societal Rights Advancement and Development Initiative, had written a letter dated October 19, 2017 to the CBN requesting on the strength of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011, the details of the spending.
The group had also requested information on what it cost the country to keep the presidential aircraft and crew for 103 days at the Stansted Airport in the United Kingdom while President Buhari’s medical treatment lasted.
When the CBN bank failed to yield to its demands, the group filed a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1142/2017 before the Federal High Court in Abuja, praying for an order compelling the apex bank to release the information sought.