The Federal High Court in Abuja has ruled in favor of Media Rights Agenda (MRA) in a lawsuit against the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), ordering the bank to pay N1 million in damages for wrongfully denying access to information. The court also directed the CBN to provide MRA with all the requested information regarding the bank’s data protection policies and practices.
Delivering the judgment today, Justice Donatus Uwaezuoke Okorowo determined that the CBN’s failure to disclose the requested information in MRA’s May 22, 2020 letter violated the organization’s right of access to information as established by the Freedom of Information Act, 2011. Justice Okorowo emphasized that the denial of access to information under section 7(5) of the Act constituted a wrongful act.
MRA had initiated the lawsuit on June 15, 2020, through its legal representative, Mr. Darlington Onyekwere, challenging the CBN’s refusal to provide the requested information. The organization sought the court’s intervention to compel the CBN and its Governor to disclose the information specified in their letter, including the bank’s data protection policies in accordance with the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation (NDPR), 2019. MRA also requested details regarding the CBN’s Data Protection Officer, capacity-building activities related to data processing, annual number of individuals’ personal data processed, and the results of an audit of privacy and data protection practices.
Justice Okorowo agreed with MRA’s arguments, highlighting that the CBN’s failure to provide a written notice explaining the denial of access and the legal basis for the denial constituted a violation of section 4(b) of the Act. Consequently, the court issued an order compelling the CBN to make all the requested information available to MRA.
Furthermore, the judge ruled that MRA was entitled to damages for the unlawful violation of its right of access to information and awarded the organization N1 million in damages. However, the court declined MRA’s request for an order to initiate criminal proceedings against the CBN’s Governor under Section 7(5) of the FOI Act.