A Federal High Court in Abuja has granted leave to two groups to apply for judicial review and order of mandamus to compel the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to among others, provide details of financial donations received by the country in relation to the coronavirus pandemic.
Justice Inyang Ekwo, in a ruling on Monday, also granted them permission to seek an order for the court to declare that the failure of the CBN to provide the plaintiff information on the sources of the donations, how they are being applied, among others, amounted to a violation of the plaintiff’s rights under the Freedom of Information Act and the African Chatter on Human and People’s Rights.
The ruling was on an ex-parte motion filed by the Registered Trustees of Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and HEDA Resource Centre, in a suit, marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1456/2020, with the CBN Governor listed as sole respondent.
Justice Ekwo ordered the plaintiff to file, within seven days, a formal application for the orders sought, which it must serve on the respondent within seven days.
The judge ordered the respondent to, upon being served, files its response within 30 days.
The reliefs the applicants seeks to apply for includes an order compelling the CBN Governor to “disclose and make a comprehensive breakdown of financial donations received towards responding to the emergence of COVID 19 tilt date.”
They also seeks to compel the respondent “to release 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,” and “provide the dates of every donation received by the Central Bank of Nigeria.”
The applicants equally intend to 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 til date; 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, as well as the dates 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 and Peoples’ Rights.
SERAP and Heda, in a supporting affidavit, stated that its recourse to the court was informed by the CBN Governor’s failure to provide the information as sought in their letters of July 29 and September 30, 2020.
The applicants added that “it is widely reported that about N15 billion in monetary contributions, is currently in the account set up under the Private Sector Coalition Against COVID19 (CACOVID) and domiciled with the respondent.”
The groups said they are “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 interest of the public in granting access to the information requested is far greater than any other interest the respondent may be trying to preserve.”