Court gives final adjournment in FOI suits against UNIPORT, UPTH

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Justice Kolawole Omotosho of a federal high court in Port Harcourt has adjourned for the last time in two separate FOI suits brought by Mr Mark Lenu (Plaintiff) against the University of Port Harcourt and the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital over an alleged breach of his right to information as contained in the Freedom of Information Act, 2011.

The judge who graciously granted the applications for time extension brought by UNIPORT and UPTH said he did that in the interest of justice and adjourned respectively the matters till the 27th and 29th of October, 2019 for definite hearing.

In his attempt to seek justice in court over alleged violation of his right to information by the duo institutions, the plaintiff is praying the court for: “A declaration entitling him to receive the information he applied for from the defendants.

“A declaration that the failure and or refusal of the defendants to give written notice to the plaintiff stating the reason for the denial of the information sought and requested by Exhibit ‘A’ is wrongful, unlawful and constitute a gross violation of section 4 (b) of the FOI Act 2011.

“An order of this Honourable Court on the defendants to make available to the plaintiff a hard copy of the information requested per Exhibit ‘A’ within seven days of the judgment of the court.

“And the sum of one million naira only as exemplary and aggravated damages for the unlawful violation of the plaintiff’s right of access to information as established and guaranteed by section 1 (1) and 4 of the FOI Act 2011,” among others.

Addressing the press, counsel to the plaintiff, Barr Kingdom Chukwuezie said: “The matter came up and the university was represented in court but the counsel to the attorney general of the federation was absent. Giving the fact that this was when the matter came up after judges’ annual vacation, the court graciously granted an adjournment and required a hearing notice be served on the attorney general of the federation to enable him to appear the next date for the matter to be heard.

“The matter was actually slated for hearing and adoption of the originating suit. The court eventually adjourned the matter to the 27th day of Oct 2019 for definite hearing.

“Concerning UPTH, the counsel to the hospital informed the court that they needed time to regularize their process and that the court should grant their extension of time application to enable them to do what they could have done properly.

“We have observed with very kin contention that they are not diligent. The last time the matter came up, they stalled the hearing on the same account that they wanted to file a process. We objected to the application for adjournment and informed the court that they have not been diligent in the prosecution of the matter.

“We urged the court to allow the plaintiff to go ahead and argue the originating summons in alternative and that the court should award the sum of N100, 000 against UPTH in favour of the plaintiff for the inconvenience.

“The court observed that it would have ordinarily granted our prayers. But in the interest of justice and giving to the fact that the head of the legal firm representing the hospital had just passed on, that we should indulge them which we found apparent. So, the court had now adjourned the matter for definite hearing on the 29th day of October 2019.

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