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Court Orders Coscharis to Release Document on Oduahgate

An end is not in sight to the controversy over the purchase of bullet-proof cars by the Ministry of Aviation under former minister, Mrs Stella Oduah.

Acceding to the request of a pressure group, the Enough-is-Enough, a Federal High Court in Lagos has ordered the company from which the vehicles were bought, Coscharis Motors Limited, to release information on the transaction, contracted through the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) sometime in 2013.

Justice Mohammed Yunusa on Tuesday gave the order in an application for mandamus by the organisation.

The group had, through its counsel, Mr. Ayodeji Acquah, sought an order to compel the car dealer company to release to it documents on the two cars with numbers WBAHP41050DW68032 and WBAHP41010DW68044 allegedly purchased on the order of the minister for about N256m.

The Enough-is-Enough claimed to have resorted to the court action following the alleged refusal of the company to honour its request via a letter dated October 28, 2013.

The group urged the court to compel the Attorney General of the Federation to commence criminal proceedings against the company for alleged wrongful denial of access to information in contravention of Section 7(5) of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011.

But Coscharis, in opposition to the plaintiff’s prayers, argued that the FOI Act was not binding on it since it is a private limited liability company with no government investment.

Its counsel, Mr. Ndubuisi Chito, maintained that his client, which was not being funded by tax payer’s money and did not enjoy any type of government subvention, could not be regarded as a public service outfit, which might be subject to sections 1(1) and 4(a) that the applicant relied upon.

Chito urged Yunusa to dismiss the suit for want of jurisdiction.

However, Yunusa, in his judgment, assumed jurisdiction and held that the provisions of the FOI Act was binding on Coscharis. The judge subsequently ordered the automobile company to furnish group with information and documents on the cars.

The court did not, however, compel the Attorney General of the Federal to commence criminal proceedings against the company as prayed by the plaintiff.

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