In a suit filed by Legal Defense and Assistance Project (LEDAP), Justice B.B Aliyu gave the ruling on Monday.
LEDAP had last year written to the National Assembly management to furnish it with the details of payments made to lawmakers. The NGO made the request on July 6, 2011, citing the Freedom of Information Act which was signed into law in May that year.
Unfortunately the National Assembly refused to respond to the group’s request.
LEDAP filed in its suit last year September, seeking two reliefs which were: an order declaring that the refusal of NASS management to provide the required information was illegal; and an order mandating the NASS management to release the required information within 14 days.
The National Assembly through its counsel, Yusuf Usman, argued that legislators earnings were beyond the purview of the FOI, and that LEDAP had no locus standi to institute the suit.
In giving his ruling, Justice Aliyu disagreed with Mr Usman saying that the payments are of public interest since they were made from public funds.
Justice Aliyu’s ruling is a clear distinction from that made by Yetunde Idowu of a Lagos High Court.
Justice Idowu had ruled that salaries and allowances of lawmakers were personal information, and not covered under the FOI act; in a suit filed by an NGO against the Lagos State House of Assembly.
Counsel to LEDAP Chino Obiagwu, said his client would not relent until all the illegal allowances collected by lawmakers between 2007 and 2011 were returned.
Mr. Chino Obiagwu further added, Legislators are those who made the law on how much each public officer should be paid in salary and allowances, “They are liable to refund any excess money collected beyond approved sum, and we will pursue this issue in the courts until all unlawful over payments to the legislators of the 6th Assembly are repaid to public coffers.”