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SERAP sues FG, CBN, demands details of COVID-19 palliatives spending

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THE Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit against the Federal Government and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) asking them to publicly identify and name Nigerians who have so far benefited from any cash payments, cash transfers, food distribution and other reliefs and palliatives during the lockdown in Abuja, Lagos and Ogun states because of COVID-19.

In the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/657/2020 filed last week at a Federal High Court, Abuja SERAP is seeking for “an order for leave to apply for judicial review and an order of mandamus to compel  Sadia Umar-Farouk, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disasters Management and Social Development, and  Godwin Emefiele, CBN governor, to publish spending details of public funds and private sector donations to provide socio-economic benefits to the country’s poorest and most vulnerable people.”

The social accountability group is also seeking “an order to direct and compel the Minister and the CBN Governor  to publish up-to-date list of donations and names of those who have made payments as per their publicly announced donations; spending details of the N500 billion COVID-19 intervention fund, and the names of beneficiaries, and whether such beneficiaries include people living with disabilities (PWDs).”

The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its counsel, Kolawole Oluwadare and Joke Fekumo is coming after SERAP had already requested through Freedom of Information (FoI) dated  April 4, 2020, expressing concern over non even distribution of the palliatives to the poor in the country.

“Millions of the country’s poorest and most vulnerable people have not benefited from the announced palliatives, donations, reported cash payments, cash transfers and other reliefs,” SERAP said.

SERAP is also seeking a declaration that the failure of the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disasters Management and Social Development, and the CBN governor to provide SERAP with the requested information on spending details of public money and private donations and to publish names of beneficiaries amount to a fundamental violation of the FoI Act and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

“Any perception that the reliefs, funds and donations are not reaching intended beneficiaries would undermine public trust and the integrity of the entire processes and modes of distribution of reliefs/benefits to these Nigerians,” a part of the suit reads.

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SERAP added that the general public have a legitimate interest in ascertaining and scrutinizing the veracity of the claims of how the COVID-19 funds and donations have been spent, and to know that the intended beneficiaries actually received any benefits.

Samad Uthman is a multimedia journalist with the International Centre for Investigative Reporting. He tweets @sarmerdk2 and can be shot through [email protected]

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