The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit against Osagie Ehanire, Minister of Health and Chikwe Ihekweazu, Director General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
They were sued over alleged failure to account for the public funds and other resources so far spent and used to combat the spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria.
The suit FHC/ABJ/CS/616/2020 was filed at the Federal High Court, Abuja on Friday.
SERAP is seeking an order to compel the duo to publish details of the funds from federal, state governments and the private sector.
It also wants an order to compel the federal government to disclose the exact number of tests carried out for high-ranking public officials, the number of such persons in self-isolation or quarantine, as well as the number of tests carried out for the country’s poorest.
SERAP noted that Nigerians have the right to know the details of spending of COVID-19 money, as this is essential towards the fight against corruption, and will foster the development of democratic institutions and the rule of law in Nigeria.
The suit followed SERAP’s Freedom of Information (FoI) requests dated 27 March 2020 to the Minister of Health and the NCDC.
The body lamented that millions of Nigerians lack access to an improved water source and to proper sanitation, thereby making them vulnerable to COVID-19 and other illnesses.
“Yet, 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 filed by SERAP lawyers, Kolawole Oluwadare, Atinuke Adejuyigbe, and Opeyemi Owolabi, relied the Freedom of Information Act 2011 and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to which Nigeria is a state party.
The body said the government has no legally justifiable reason for refusing to provide SERAP with the information requested.
It referred to reports of lack of transparency in the use of the funds and resources being mobilised to combat coronavirus, and that authorities are prioritising home testing of politicians, with some reportedly taking multiple tests.
“The suit is in the public interest, as it bothers on issues of national interest, public welfare and interest, social justice, good governance, transparency and accountability”, SERAP added.