Campaign groups secure court order compelling CBN to publish Covid-19 palliatives

CAMPAIGN groups the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (Serap) and the Human and Environmental Development Agenda Resource Centre have won a court ruling compelling the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to reveal details of Covid-19 donations.


When Nigeria went into lockdown in March, the federal government tasked the CBN with receiving donations from corporate bodies and wealthy Nigerians to provide palliatives for members of the public. However, so far, the CBN is yet to publish details of how much it received and his this money was spent.


In July, the two human eights bodies asked the CBN to publish details of how much money it received and give accounts of those funds. However, this has still not been done, so they decided to take the CBN to court and yesterday, an Abuja federal high court ordered the bank to provide the details.


Justice Inyang Ekwo granted the order following an ex parte application moved by the two applicants’ counsel, Joel Ekong. 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. Both applicants noted in their ex parte application filed on November 3, 2020 that it was reported that about N15bn ($39.16m) in monetary contributions, is currently in the account set up under the Private Sector Coalition Against Covid-19 (Cacovid) and domiciled with the respondent.


They stated that they were seriously concerned that despite the donations, most 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. In line with the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 2011, they requested information on the donations in a letter dated July 29 and delivered to the CBN on August 8, 2020, sending a reminder on September 30, which was delivered on October 2.


They 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 CBN to provide the dates of every donation it has received so far.


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.”


In its ruling, the court 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.