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SERAP wins first leg of suit against CBN Governor Emefiele

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The Federal High Court, Abuja, on Monday, approved a suit filed by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and Heda Resource Centre against Godwin Emefiele.

The suit by SERAP and HRC seek judicial review and order of mandamus to compel the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Goodwin Emefiele, to provide details of financial donations received by the country in relation to the coronavirus pandemic.

The group, in an ex-parte motion, marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1456/2020, listed the CBN governor as the sole respondent.

Mandamus is a judicial remedy in the form of an order from a court to any government, subordinate court, corporation, or public authority, to do some specific act which that body is obliged under law to do, and which is in the nature of public duty.

However, Justice Inyang Ekwo also granted their plea to seek an order declaring that the failure of the CBN to provide the plaintiff with information on the sources of the donations, how they are being applied, among others, amounted to a violation of the applicant’s rights under the Freedom of Information Act and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.

He ordered the applicant to file, within seven days, a formal application for the orders sought, which must be served on the respondent within seven days.

The judge also ordered the respondent to, upon being served, file its response within 30 days.

The applicants, in a supporting affidavit, said they sought “an order declaring that the failure of the respondent to publish and provide comprehensive details of financial donations received towards responding to the emergence of COVID-19 til date; a detailed list of the names of the donors (individual, corporate and international organisations), sources of the donations and the amount contributed by each of the individuals and corporate bodies, as well as the dates each donation were received by the CBN constitutes a breach of the applicants’ rights under the Freedom of Information Act, 2011 and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.”

They stated that its recourse to the court was informed by the CBN governor’s failure to provide the information as sought in its letters dated July 29 and Sept. 30.

“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 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.

“The interest of the public in granting access to the information requested is far greater than any other interest the respondent may be trying to preserve,” they said.

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