The Socio Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, has tasked the Federal Government of Nigeria to give weekly spending details in Nigeria’s war on COVID-19.
SERAP also requested 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 group, in two Freedom of Information, FOI requests sent to Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, and Director General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, SERAP said: “We are concerned about the lack of transparency in the use of the funds and resources being mobilised to combat Coronavirus, amid problems accessing the NCDC’s website, and reports that authorities are prioritising home testing of politicians, with some reportedly taking multiple tests.”
According to SERAP, in the FoI requests dated 27 March 2020, signed by SERAP Deputy Director, Mr Kolawole Oluwadare, “Politicians engaging in multiple tests for Coronavirus have in turn slowed the number of tests for the country’s poorest and most vulnerable people. “We are concerned that lack of transparency in the use of the funds and resources to combat COVID-19 would lead to diversion or mismanagement of resources, unnecessarily cost lives, and result in serious damage to public health in the country.”
SERAP said: “We urge you to disclose the level of enforcement for home quarantine system for high-ranking public officials, politicians and the wealthy, and whether the Ministry of Health and NCDC are carrying out spot checks to ensure strict compliance by these people.” “We would be grateful if the requested information is provided to us within 7 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions under the Freedom of Information Act to compel you to comply with our request.” “Any failure or refusal to provide the information requested will also be clearly inconsistent with the letter and spirit of the Freedom of Information Act.”
“According to our information, the Nigerian government has approved an N10 billion (Naira) grant (about $27 million) to fight the spread of Coronavirus in the country. “The government has also reportedly released N5 billion (Naira) (about $13 million) special intervention fund to the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC).” “Also, banks, wealthy members of the private sector and foundations have also donated billions of Naira to help fund medical centres and provide essential materials necessary to curtail the spread of Coronavirus in the country.”
“By Section 1 (1) of the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act 2011, SERAP is entitled as of right to request for or gain access to information, including information on the exact amount of funds and resources meant to combat the spread of Coronavirus in Nigeria.” “By Sections 2(3)(d)(V) and (4) of the FOI Act, there is a binding legal duty to ensure that documents containing information relating to the spending and operations to combat the spread of Coronavirus in Nigeria are widely disseminated and made readily available to members of the public through various means.”
*** Amechi Idumuebor