By Okoi Obono-Obla
A Makurdi High Court sitting in Makurdi, Benue State presided over by Honourable Justice S.O Itodo has given the Special Adviser to the Governor of Benue State on Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs 14 days from the 9th October, 2014 to furnished the Plaintiff-Major General India Garba (rtd), a comprehensive and detailed information concerning the allocation of revenue from the Federation Accounts to the Vandeikya Local Government Area Council from January 2010 till the 9th October, 2014.
The Plaintiff instituted the case in the Makurdi High Court in Suit No. MHC/2565M/2012 in 2012 against the Special Adviser for Local Government and Chieftaincy, Benue State, after his request dated the 30th July, 2012 for details of revenue allocation to Vandeikya Area Council from January 2010 to July 30th 2012 was denied.
However, delivering judgment in the case on Thursday the 9th October, 2014, Justice Itodo, declared that the refusal, failure and or neglect by the Defendant to release the information requested by the Plaintiff concerning the allocation of revenue to the Vandeikya Local Government Area Council of Benue State of Nigeria from the Federation Accounts and expenditure of the same amounts, to a violation of Sections 4 (a) and 7 (1) of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011.
The Court further declared that by Section 4 (a) of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011, the defendant (as a Public Institution) by virtue of Sections 7 (1) and 31 of the Act is obligated to furnish the request of the Plaintiff information concerning the allocation of revenue to the Vandeikya Local Government Area Council of Benue State of Nigeria from the Federation Accounts and expenditure of the same.
However, Justice Itodo refused to grant the claim of the Plaintiff concerning award of a fine of N500, 000.00 against the defendant for wrongful denial of the right of access to information sought by him. The Court also refused the claim of the Plaintiff for general damages of N5 Million against the Defendant.
The Counsel to the Plaintiff, Chief Okoi Obono-Obla gave an indication that the Plaintiff will appeal against the refusal of the Court to award a fine of N500, 000.00 and general damages of N5 Million against the defendant.
In an interview after the judgment, the Plaintiff, General Garba (rtd.) explained that the essence of his legal campaign using the Freedom of Information Act is to promote the virtues of good governance, transparency, accountability and exposure of corruption and waste in the local government system in Benue State, as a good citizen.
General Garba said that Vandeikya Local Council Area has become stagnant despite the huge amount of revenue allocated to it from the Federation Accounts in recent times.
He said that he has two other cases that are pending in Makurdi High Court against the Accountant General of Benue State and Commissioner of Finance concerning their failure to grant his request for detailed information of allocation from the Federation accounts to Vandeikya Local Government Area Council from January 2010 to July 2012.