The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit at the Federal High Court, Abuja, against the Buhari administration and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
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It wants publication of names of Nigerians who have so far benefited from cash payments, food distribution and other reliefs and palliatives during the lockdown in Abuja, Lagos and Ogun States because of COVID-19.
In the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/657/2020, SERAP is seeking an order to compel Sadiya Umar Farouq, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Godwin Emefiele, CBN Governor, to publish spending details of public funds and private sector donations to provide socio-economic benefits to the country’s poorest and most vulnerable people.
The body is also seeking an order to direct Farouq and Emefiele to publish up-to-date list of donations and names of those who have made payments as per their publicly announced donations, spending details of the N500 billion COVID-19 intervention fund, and the names of beneficiaries.
The suit was filed on behalf of SERAP by Kolawole Oluwadare and Joke Fekumo.
It said any perception that the reliefs, funds and donations are not reaching intended beneficiaries would undermine public trust and the integrity of the entire processes and modes of distribution of reliefs/benefits to these Nigerians.
SERAP noted that Farouq and Emefiele have a legal duty to ensure that information on the details of those who have so far benefited from COVID-19 funds and donations is released.
The group stated that Nigerians have a legitimate interest in ascertaining and scrutinizing the veracity of the claims of how the COVID-19 funds and donations have been spent.
It insisted that emocracy cannot flourish in the absence of citizens’ access to information, no matter how much open discussion and debate is allowed.
SERAP submitted that the principle of disclosure of information in overriding public interest has been internationally reaffirmed, including in the Joint Declaration adopted by the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media and the OAS Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression.
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.