Court Orders NPC to Disclose Spending Details of Aborted Census

Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja, Nigeria, has mandated the National Population Commission (NPC) to divulge information regarding spending on the aborted 2023 Population Census to Abuja-based lawyer, Opatola Victor, within seven days.

Delivering judgment in response to a suit filed against the population commission, Justice Ekwo asserted that the NPC’s refusal to release the requested information, as sought by the lawyer on March 30, 2023, constituted a wrongful, illegal, and unconstitutional act.

Citing Section 4 of the Freedom of Information Act, Justice Ekwo rebuked the commission’s failure to provide the plaintiff with details regarding the companies responsible for conducting due diligence on the technology intended for the ill-fated census, deeming it a flagrant violation of the plaintiff’s rights.

While the court declined to grant the requested N500,000 in favour of the plaintiff, it issued an order of mandamus compelling the NPC to furnish the lawyer with comprehensive information regarding the Quality Test Assurance Report on the devices and technology slated for deployment in the postponed 2023 population census.

Dismissing the NPC’s claims of bureaucratic hurdles and the absence of its executive chairman as excuses for withholding the records, Justice Ekwo emphasized the untenability of such arguments.

He also rejected the commission’s assertion that some information was classified, asserting that nothing regarding the population census should be deemed secret.

Furthermore, Justice Ekwo refuted the NPC’s contention that the requested records were already in the public domain, clarifying that the plaintiff’s specific request was within the NPC’s purview, not publicly available information.

Opatola Victor, the lawyer, had sought redress under Section 4 of the FOI Act 2012, urging the court to compel the population commission to disclose the spending details on the aborted census, among other pertinent records.

His petition underscores the crucial role of transparency and accountability in governance, signalling a significant victory for citizens’ rights to access information.