The Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire and Director General Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Chikwe Ihekweazu have been sued over “their failure to account for the public funds so far spent to combat the spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria.
In the suit filed last week 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 the NCDC to publish details of the funds and resources from federal and state governments, and the private sector.
The group also wants them to publish 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 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.
The group demand information on the 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.
“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,” SERAP argues.
“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.”
The suit followed SERAP’s Freedom of Information (FoI) requests dated 27 March 2020 to the Minister of Health and the 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.”
“Millions of Nigerians continue to lack access to an improved water source and to proper sanitation, thereby making them vulnerable to COVID-19 and other illnesses.
“Yet, the Ministry of Health and the NCDC have failed and/or refused to disclose whether there is any collaborative work with the Ministry of Water Resources to provide vulnerable Nigerians with safe water, sanitation, and hygienic conditions.”
The suit was filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare, Atinuke Adejuyigbe, and Opeyemi Owolabi.