Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit against Dr Osagie Ehanire, Minister of Health and Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, Director General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), over their alleged failure to account for the public funds and other resources 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, as well as details of how the funds and resources have so far been used to combat COVID-19.
SERAP is also seeking an order of mandamus to direct and 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 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.
SERAP said that 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 save lives.
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.
SERAP said millions of Nigerians lack access to improved water source and to proper sanitation, thereby making them vulnerable to COVID-19 and other illnesses, adding that 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.
BY HANYTA OGBE