March 29, 2020

SERAP seeks weekly publication of spending details on COVID-19

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked the Federal Government to publish weekly details of the exact funds and other resources allocated by the authorities.

It also requested for the ones received from the private sector.

Kolawole Oludare, SERAP’s Deputy Director, in a statement issued on Sunday also urged the government to publish details of used and planned use of any such funds and resources, to combat the spread of Coronavirus in Nigeria.

READ ALSOCOVID-19: Nigeria missed opportunity for early containment—Tomori

 According to Oludare, SERAP is also asking the federal government to disclose information on the exact number of tests that have been carried out for high-ranking public officials and politicians.

He said that the number of 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 should be disclosed.

According to him, the request was made in two Freedom of Information requests sent to Dr Osagie Ehanire, the Minister of Health, and Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, the Director-General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

”We are concerned about the lack of transparency in the use of the funds and resources being mobilised to combat the Coronavirus.

“This is amid problems accessing the NCDC’s website, and reports that authorities are prioritising home testing of politicians, with some reportedly taking multiple tests.

“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 the COVID-19 would lead to diversion or mismanagement of resources, unnecessarily cost lives and result in serious damage to public health in the country,” he said.

Oludare added that SERAP urged the government to disclose the level of enforcement for home quarantine system for high-ranking public officials, politicians and the wealthy.

He noted that SERAP woukd also want to know if the Ministry of Health and NCDC were carrying out spot checks to ensure strict compliance by these people.

According to him, the group believe that transparency and openness in the use of funds and operations of the Ministry of Health and NCDC will go a long way to reduce the risk of corruption or opportunism.

He said that it would also build trust and engage Nigerians in the fight against the pandemic as well as save lives.

Oludare added that transparency and accountability were important to implementing an effective response to the COVID-19 and slowing the spread of the virus in the country.

“Given the importance of good hygiene like hand washing to any response to COVID-19, SERAP would like you to disclose details of measures being put in place.

“This is by  the Ministry of Health, the NCDC and any collaborative work with the Ministry of Water Resources to provide vulnerable Nigerians with safe water, sanitation and hygienic conditions.

”We are concerned that millions of Nigerians lack access to an improved water source and to proper sanitation, thereby making them vulnerable to COVID-19 and other illnesses.

“Handwashing and social distancing will be very difficult to implement for the poorest and most vulnerable people in a country, where water shortages are routine and millions continue to drink contaminated water,” he stated.

Oludare said that limited availability of water in several public hospitals across the country would also make it difficult for medical workers and health professionals to wash their hands, therefore making it difficult for them to properly respond to COVID-19 and save lives.

He said that according to the group’s information, the Nigerian government has approved a N10 billion grant to fight the spread of the virus in the country.

According to him, government also reportedly released N5 billion  special intervention fund to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

He added that 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 the disease.

Oludare said that the FOI request also included making the NCDC’s website functional and accessible and that weekly spending on initiatives such as procurement, testing, early detection, isolation and isolation of confirmed cases should be published on the website

He said that there was need to disclose processes and procedures put in place to ensure that funds were not diverted and the measures put in place to protect health workers and encourage the poor to come for testing.

Oludare said that under Dection 1 of the FoI Act  2011, SERAP was entitled to request for or gain access to information.

This, he said, included information on the exact amount of funds and resources meant to combat the spread of the Coronavirus in the country.

 He said that going by Sections 2 (3) (d) (V) & (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 the disease in Nigeria were widely disseminated.

Oludare further stated that the information sought, apart from not being exempted from disclosure under the FoI Act, bothered on an issue of national interest.

He noted that it also bothered on public concern, public health, interest of human rights, social justice, good governance, transparency and accountability.