The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has granted leave to the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and the Human and Environmental Development Agenda Resource Centre to sue the Central Bank of Nigeria for failing to disclose detailed information on COVID donations requested from it in July this year.
Justice Inyang Ekwo granted the order following an ex parte application moved on Monday by the two applicants’ counsel, Joel Ekong.
The judge also ordered the applicants to file their substantive suit within seven days and serve same on the CBN within seven days after the filing.
He directed the CBN to file their response to the suit within 30 days of being served by the applicants.
In their exparte application, the applicants noted that it was reported that “about N15bn in monetary contributions, is currently in the account set up under the Private Sector Coalition Against COVID19 (CACOVID) and domiciled with the respondent”.
They, however, stated that they were “seriously concerned” that despite the donations, “the larger proportion of Nigerians, including the poorest and the most vulnerable people, have not benefitted, up till now, from the Federal Government and private sectors announced palliatives, donations, cash payments, cash transfers and other benefits”.
The applicants stated that they had, in line with the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011, requested information on the COVID donations via their letter dated July 29, 2020 and delivered to the CBN on August 8, 2020, as well as their reminder letter dated September 30, 2020 and delivered to the apex bank on October 2, 2020, all to no avail.
The applicants stated that they had quested, among other things, a comprehensive breakdown of financial donations received towards responding to the emergence of COVID 19 till date.
They also asked for dtailed list of the names of the donors – individual, corporate and international organisations, sources of the donations and the amount contributed by each of the individuals and corporate bodies.
They also asked the apex bank to provides the dates of every donation received by the CBN.
Their affidavit added, “That since the receipt of the two letters by the respondent and up till the time of filing of this suit, the respondent have so far failed, refused to grant the Applicants’ requests for information.
‘That this application, in accordance with the law and the rules of this honourable court, is seeking the leave of court to compel the respondent to urgently provide information sought by the applicants via its letter.
“That this suit is brought by the Applicants on major public concerns as it bothers on issue of national interest, public welfare, public interest, human rights, social justice, good governance, probity, transparency and accountability.”
The court in its ruling granted leave to the applicants to apply for judicial review and to seek an order declaring that the failure of the respondent to publish and provide comprehensive details of financial donations received towards responding to the emergence of COVID-19 till date, among others, was a breach of their right under the Freedom.of Information Act and African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.
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