Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit against Dr. Osagie Ehanire, Minister of Health and Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, Director General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), over “their failure to account for the public funds and other resources so far spent and used to combat the spread of COVID-19.”
In the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/616/2020 filed at the Federal High Court, Abuja, SERAP is seeking “an order for leave to apply for judicial review and an order of mandamus to direct and compel the Minister of Health and NCDC to publish details of the funds and resources from federal, state governments and private sector, as well as details of how the funds and resources have so far been spent and used to combat COVID-19.”
SERAP is also seeking: “an order of mandamus to direct and compel the Federal Government to disclose information on the exact number of tests that have been carried out for high-ranking public officials and politicians, number of any such high-ranking public officials and politicians now in self-isolation or quarantine, as well as the exact number of tests that have been carried out for the country’s poorest and most vulnerable people.”
The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare, Atinuke Adejuyigbe, and Opeyemi Owolabi, said the information the agency is seeking to access is permitted under the Freedom of Information Act 2011 and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to which Nigeria is a state party.
“Transparency in the use of COVID-19 money would help to reduce the risk of corruption or opportunism, build trust and engage Nigerians in the fight against coronavirus as well as safe lives.
Transparency and accountability are important to implementing an effective response to COVID-19 and slowing the spread of the virus in the country. Nigerians have the right to know the details of spending of COVID-19 money, as this is essential to the fight against corruption, and will foster the development of democratic institutions and the rule of law in Nigeria,” SERAP said.
The suit followed SERAP’s Freedom of Information (FoI) requests dated March 27,2020 to the Minister of Health and NCDC, expressing concern that lack of transparency in the use of the funds and resources to combat COVID-19 would lead to diversion or mismanagement of funds and resources, unnecessarily cost lives, and result in serious damage to public health in the country.