Court okays suit asking CBN to account for COVID-19 donations
A federal high court in Abuja has granted leave to two groups seeking to compel the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to disclose how donations received by Nigeria for sustainability during the COVID-19 pandemic were spent.
The verdict was given by Inyang Ekwo, the presiding judge on Monday in an ex parte application brought by the registered trustees of Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and Human and Environmental Development Agenda resource centre (HEDA).
Ekwo granted leave for the applicants to apply for judicial review and to seek an order of mandamus directing the CBN “to disclose and make comprehensive breakdown of financial donations received in responding to the emergence of COVID-19 till date.”
The plaintiffs also want the CBN “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 judge also granted leave for the applicants to seek an order declaring that the failure of the respondent to publish and provide comprehensive details of the information sought, “constitutes a breach of the applicants’ rights under the Freedom of Information Act, 2011 and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.”
The judge however ordered the plaintiff to file a formal application for the orders sought and serve on the respondent within seven days.
He also ordered the respondent to, upon being served, file its response within 30 days.
In the ex parte motion marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1456/2020, Godwin Emefiele, CBN governor, is the sole respondent.
According to the applicants, CBN had failed to provide the information sought despite two separate letters addressed to it on July 29 and September 30, 2020.
They said although the apex bank, in a letter dated August 27 said the request was being processed, there was no definite time as to when the details would be made available.
“It is 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,” the applicants stated in an affidavit.
“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.”