The Human and Environmental Rights Agenda has accused the Central Bank
of Nigeria, headed by Godwin Emefiele, of trying to hide the details
of its agreement with telecommunication giant, MTN, relating to the
payment of $8 billion fine imposed on the firm.

With the "outright refusal" of the CBN to release the requested
information to the civil society group, an action, in accordance with
the F0I provisions, was filed by the organisation against the bank
before the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court.

The CBN was last given seven days, as provided under the FoI Act, 2011
to produce the details of the deal or face legal actions.

HEDA had in January this year requested for details of the resolution
between Central Bank of Nigeria and MTN Nigeria on the improper
repatriation of fund allegations against MTN.

HEDA had invoked the Freedom of Information Act 2011 demanding for the
release of details of the CBN agreement with MTN amidst wide
speculations that the deal was dotted with questionable clauses.

HEDA in a letter signed by its Chairman, Mr. Olanrewaju Suraju, in
January made the request in line with the Freedom of Information Act
2011 which in Section 4 states that within 7 days of the receipt of a
Freedom of Information request, the desired information requested for
be supplied.

"We are interested in the details of the agreement. It is in the
interest of Nigerians to know. The CBN is owned by the Nigerian
people. MTN performs functions that impact on millions of Nigerians.
The agreement between the CBN and MTN should not be a secret document.
It has to be made public. This is the HEDA position," Suraju said made
available to SaharaReporters on Sunday.

The Nigerian authorities had asked mobile telecommunications firm,
MTN, to pay $8.1 billion as the CBN accused the South African giant of
illegally moving the funds in contravention of foreign exchange
regulations.

The CBN asked the company to return the $8.1 billion "to the coffers
of the CBN".

MTN had denied any wrongdoing after which it went to court challenging
the fine. This led to an out-of-court settlement with the MTN paying
about $53 million which the group said had ended the four-month-old
row.

In its series of follow-up letters, HEDA asked the CBN to come up with
details of the agreement with the communication giant.

In a string of terse acknowledgments, the CBN consistently hinged its
refusal to reply to a lingering court case at the Abuja Division of
the Federal High Court, (FHC).

In its latest letter, the CBN had stated: "In line with the provision
of paragraph 12.3.1 of the revised Guidelines on the implementation of
the Freedom of Information Act 2011 refer to suit FHC/CS/1475/2018 at
the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court where MTN had earlier
instituted a legal action and the national dailies at the National
Library to obtain the information are the public."

The statement was signed by the Director of Corporate Secretariat, Mr.
C.O Olonta.

HEDA fired back in another letter in April rejecting the CBN position.

In another letter, HEDA said: "Consequent upon the above, we have yet
to receive the promised information two months down the line. We
therefore humbly urge you to oblige us with the details of our request
in our letter dated  7 January 2019 in line with the provisions of
Section 4 of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011."

"First and foremost, the section being referred to in Paragraph
12.3.1, Section 26 of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011 states that
"the Act does not apply to- (a)  published material or material
available for purchase by the public; (b)  library or museum material
made or acquired and preserved solely for public reference or
exhibition purposes; or (c) material placed in the National Library,
National Museum or non- public section of the National Archives of the
Federal Republic of Nigeria on behalf of any person or organization
other than a government or public institution."

It stated "We most humbly state that paragraph 12.3.1 does not deal
with the information being requested, as it relates to the definition
of Section 26 of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011"

HEDA noted further, "Also, it is worthy of note that chapter 12,
particularly, paragraph 12.3 of the Guidelines which states that
'There is only one question to be considered when dealing with Section
26. Is the material listed under this section? If it is, then the
material is exempt from the Act. If the information is not listed in
the section, then the public institution should deal with the
application in accordance with the Act'."

The group added, "It is on the above basis that we are making this
request, as we believe that the records and details of the said
resolution made available will aid the investigations of our
Organisation. Thus, this application is brought pursuant to the
provisions of Section 2, 3, and 4 of the Freedom of Information Act,
2011."

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