Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has dragged the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, and Director General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, to court over their failure to account for public funds and other resources so far spent and used to combat the spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria.

The suit followed SERAP’s Freedom of Information (FoI) requests dated March 27, 2020 to the Minister of Health and the NCDC, expressing concerns that lack of transparency in the use of the funds and resources to combat COVID-19 would lead to diversion or mismanagement of funds and resources, unnecessarily cost lives, and result in serious damage to public health in the country.

In the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/616/2020 filed last week at the Federal High Court, Abuja, SERAP is seeking: “an order for leave to apply for judicial review and an order of mandamus to direct and compel the Minister of Health and the NCDC to publish details of the funds and resources from federal and state governments, and the private sector, as well as details of how the funds and resources have so far been spent and used to combat COVID-19″

SERAP is also seeking: “an order of mandamus to direct and compel the Federal Government to disclose information on the exact number of tests that have been carried out for high-ranking public officials and politicians, the number of any such high-ranking public officials and politicians now in self-isolation or quarantine, as well as the exact number of tests that have been carried out for the country’s poorest and most vulnerable people.

The organisation is seeking six reliefs form the court.

It asked the court to direct the defendants to provide “details of exact funds and other resources allocated by the Nigerian authorities and private sector donations to the Respondents to improve Nigeria’s health facilities to combat the spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria; details of spending and planned spending of any such funds, other resources and donations to combat the spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria; details of efforts made by the Second Respondent to make NCDC’s website functional and accessible and to publish weekly spending on initiatives by the NCDC, including on NCDC’s website.”

The relief sought also include: “details of processes and procedures put in place to ensure that the funds, other resources and donations allocated to combat COVID-19 are not diverted, mismanaged or stolen; details of measures to protect health workers and to encourage the country’s poorest and most vulnerable people to come forward for testing and to escalate testing for this group and the exact number of tests that have been carried out for high-ranking public officials and politicians, the number of any such high-ranking public officials and politicians now in self-isolation or quarantine, as well as the exact number of tests that have been carried out for the country’s poorest and most vulnerable people.”

SERAP is argued that transparency in the use of COVID-19 money would help to reduce the risk of corruption or opportunism, build trust and engage Nigerians in the fight against coronavirus as well as safe lives. Transparency and accountability are important to implementing an effective response to COVID-19 and slowing the spread of the virus in the country.”