COVID donations: Court okays suit against CBN

The Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday granted leave to the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project and Human and Environmental Development Agenda Resource Centre to sue the Central Bank of Nigeria for failure to disclose detailed information on COVID-19 donations requested from it in July this year.

Justice Inyang Ekwo granted the order following an ex parte application moved by the two applicants’ counsel, Joel Ekong, on Monday.

In his ruling, the judge ordered the applicants to file their substantive suit within seven days and serve it on the CBN within seven days after the filing.

He also directed the CBN to file its response to the suit within 30 days of being served by the applicants.

The applicants noted in their ex parte application filed on November 3, 2020 that it was reported that “about N15bn in monetary contributions, is currently in the account set up under the Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) and domiciled with the respondent”.

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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 benefited 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 requested, among other things, a comprehensive breakdown of financial donations received towards responding to the emergence of COVID-19 till date.

They also asked the apex bank to provide the dates of every donation received by the CBN.

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Their affidavit added, “That this suit is brought by the applicants on major public concerns as it borders on issues 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 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 rights under the Freedom of Information Act and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.

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