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Disclose details of expenses on aborted census within 7 days, Court orders NPC

The National Population Commission (NPC) has been ordered to disclose expenditure details related to the suspended 2023 Population Census within seven days.

 

A Federal High Court in Abuja ordered on Thursday.

The NPC, had, in June 2023, stated that a total of N200 billion was expended on its preparation for the conduct of the postponed 2023 Population and Housing Census.

An Abuja-based lawyer, Opatola Victor, had dragged the commission to court after the NPC refused to provide the details of the money spent on the suspended exercise through a Freedom of Information Act filed by him.

In the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/ 503/2023, Victor stated that the refusal of the commission to make the record of spending on the suspended population census among others, available to him was a breach of his rights under Section 4 of the FOI Act 2012.

He then asked the court for an order of mandamus compelling the population commission to make the requested records of the suspended 2023 population census available to him in line with the provisions of the FOI Act.

He also requested a compensation of N500,000 for the breach of his rights by NPC.

In his judgment on the matter, Justice Inyang Ekwo dismissed the defendant’s claim that bureaucracy and the executive chairman’s absence were to blame for withholding the requested records from the plaintiff.

The judge rejected the NPC’s argument that certain requested information was classified.

He stated that based on the definition of classified information, there was no secrecy involved in the matter of the population census.

The judge held that the NPC’s refusal to release the information or records of spending on the aborted census as requested by the lawyer on March 30, 2023, was wrongful, illegal, and unconstitutional.

Ekwo said, “The refusal of the commission to provide the plaintiff with information on the companies that provided due diligence report on the technology to be deployed for the ill-fated census was a gross violation of the right of the plaintiff as enshrined in Section 4 of the FOI Act.

“An order compelling the NPC, its servants, agents privies, and officials to furnish the plaintiff with comprehensive and detailed information concerning the Quality Test Assurance Report on the devices and technology to be deployed for the postponed 2023 population census is hereby granted. ”

He, however, declined to award the requested N500,000 in favour of the plaintiff as stated in the lawsuit.

Recall, the census was initially scheduled to be held in 2022 but was later postponed to 2023.

The exercise was, however, suspended indefinitely by former President Muhammadu Buhari a few days before leaving office, saying that he would allow President Bola Tinubu to announce new dates for the headcount.

The census is now slated for November 2024.

 

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