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SERAP gets leave to sue CBN for failure to disclose COVID-19 donations

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The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and Human & Environmental Development Agenda Resource Centre (HEDA) are now at liberty to sue the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for refusal to reveal detailed information about COVID-19 donations requested from the regulator in July.

Justice Inyang Ekwo of an Abuja-based Federal High Court granted the prayer of the two organisations after an ex parte application made by Joel Ekong, their lawyer, on Monday.

The judge directed SERAP and HEDA to file their substantive suit within a week and serve it on the apex bank within seven days of filing.

Justice Ekwo ordered the CBN to react to the suit through filing within 30 days after it had been served by the applicants.

SERAP and HEDA in their 3rd November filing disclosed there was a report of around N15 billion donation in the account opened under the Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19, which was domiciled with the CBN.

Both of them worried “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,” in spite of the monetary contributions.

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SERAP and HEDA said, based on the provisions of the Freedom and Information Act 2011, they had approached the CBN for information regarding the COVID-19 donations in a letter dated 29th July 2020, which was handed to the apex bank on 8th August.

They thereafter issued a reminder letter dated 30th September 2020, which was delivered on 2nd October.

The applicants’ demand included a detailed breakdown of monetary contributions received as fund for response to COVID-19 till date and the dates the CBN received each donation.

“This suit is brought by the applicants on major public concerns as it borders on issues of national interest, public welfare, public interest, human rights, social justice, good governance, probity, transparency and accountability,” the affidavit stated.

Justice Ekwo granted SERAP and HEDA liberty to seek judicial review and an order stating that CBN’s refusal to publish and supply the information on the financial contributions made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to date, was a violation of their rights under the Freedom of Information Act as well as under the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.

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