The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Monday, November 30, 2020, okayed a suit seeking to compel the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, to release a comprehensive breakdown of all financial donations the country received to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.
The court, in a ruling that was delivered by Justice Inyang Ekwo, granted leave to two Non-Governmental Organizations, NGOs- The Registered Trustees of Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, and Heda Resource Center- to apply for an order of mandamus against the CBN.
Specifically, the court, following an ex-parte motion the two NGO’s brought through their lawyer, Adelanke Aremo, granted leave for the Applicants to apply for judicial review and to seek an order of mandamus directing the CBN, “to disclose and make a comprehensive breakdown of financial donations received towards responding to the emergence of COVID 19 till date.
“To release a detailed list of the names of the donors (individual, corporate and international organizations), sources of the donations and the amount contributed by each of the individuals and corporate bodies.
“Provide the dates of every donation received by the Central Bank of Nigeria”.
The court further granted the Applicants leave to apply for judicial review and also seek an order, “declaring that the failure of the Respondent (CBN) to publish and provide comprehensive details of financial donations received towards responding to the emergency of COVID-19, till date; a detailed list of names of the donors (individuals, corporate and international organizations), sources of the donations and the amount contributed by each of the individuals and corporate bodies, as well as the date each donation were received by the CBN, constitutes a breach of the Applicants’ rights under the Freedom of Information Act, 2011, and the African Charter on Human & Peoples’ Rights”.
Meanwhile, the court ordered the Applicants to file and serve the motion on notice on the CBN, within seven days.
“The Respondent shall have 30 days upon being served to file their process”, Justice Ekwo held. In a 12-paragraphed affidavit that was deposed to by one Joel Ekong, the applicants told the court that CBN failed to respond to two separate letters they wrote to it, requesting for details of all the donations that were received.
They told the court that rather than furnishing them with the information, the apex bank, in a letter dated August 27, said the request was being processed, without giving a definite time as to when the details would be made available.
“That having waited for close to a month without hearing from the Respondent, the Applicants wrote another letter dated September 30, 2020, and delivered on October 2, 2020.
“That since the receipt of the two letters by the Respondent up till the time of filing of this suit, the Respondent has so far failed, refused to grant the Applicants’ request for information”.
The Applicants maintained that the suit was of “major public concern”, adding that “it borders on the issue of national interest, public welfare, public interest, human rights, social justice, good governance, probity, transparency, and accountability”.
According to the Applicants, “It was widely reported that about N15 billion in monetary contributions is currently in the account set up under the private sector Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) and domiciled with the Respondent.
“That the Applicant is seriously concerned that 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 NGOs added.