A FEDERAL High Court in Abuja on Wednesday ordered the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to pay Media Rights Agenda (MRA) one million naira as damages for wrongful denial of access to information and directed the apex bank to also make available to the organisation all the information it requested in its May 22, 2020 letter regarding the bank’s data protection policies and practices.
Delivering judgment in a suit instituted by MRA against the CBN, the CBN Governor and the Attorney General of the Federation, Justice Donatus Uwaezuoke Okorowo, held that the failure of the CBN to disclose or make available to MRA the information requested by the organisation in the letter amounts to a violation of its right of access to information established and guaranteed by Sections 1(1) and 4 of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011 and also constituted a wrongful denial of access to information under section 7(5) of the Act.
MRA filed the suit on June 15, 2020, through its lawyer, Mr. Darlington Onyekwere, challenging the CBN’s refusal to disclose the information it applied for and asking the court to compel the CBN and its governor to make available the information it requested in its May 22, 2020 letter to the bank in which it asked, among other things, for copies of all the CBN’s data protection policies issued in conformity with the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation (NDPR), 2019; the name and contact details of the CBN’s data protection officer, designated in accordance with the NDPR and its relevant data privacy instruments and data protection directives.
MRA had also asked for details of all capacity-building training or other capacity-building activities undertaken for the data protection officer and other CBN personnel involved in any form of data processing since the issuance of the NDPR; the number of persons or individuals whose personal data it processes on an annual basis; and a report from a detailed audit it conducted of its privacy and data protection practices in accordance with the NDPR;
In his judgment, Justice Okorowo agreed with MRA that the failure of the CBN to give a written notice to the organisation that access to all or part of the information requested would not be granted as well as its failure to state the reasons for its denial of access and the section of the Act under which the denial was made amounted to a violation of section 4(b) of the Act.
He accordingly issued an order compelling the CBN to make all the information requested by MRA available to it.
The judge also ruled that MRA was entitled to damages for the unlawful violation of its right of access to information and granted the organisation’s claim of one million naira as damages.
He however refused MRA’s request for an order directing the Attorney-General of the Federation to initiate criminal proceedings against the CBN for the offence of wrongful denial of access to information under Section 7(5) of the FOI Act.