Covid-19 Fund: Court compels Gov. Sanwo-Olu to give account of N10bn donation

A Lagos Federal High Court, has made an order of mandamus, compelling Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and the Lagos State Government to immediately provide, furnish and make information on breakdown of expenses and expenditures on the N10 billion, released to it by the the Federal government as COVID-19 intervention Funds.

The court presided over by Justice Tijjani Ringim also made an order of mandamus compelling Governor Sanwo-Olu and the Lagos State government, to perform their official and statutory duty, by providing information and publication of the breakdown of expenses and expenditures on the N10 billion Covid-19 Intervention Funds released to them by the Federal Government of Nigeria, pursuant to the request of a human rights lawyer, Ogungbeje’s application dated July 17, 2020 and acknowledged by them on July 21, 2020.

The court also declared that the refusal of the governor and the Lagos State government, to furnish the applicant with the information on the breakdown of expenses and expenditures on the N10 billion COVID-19 Intervention Funds released to them by the Federal Government of Nigeria and other sundry donations within without written notice to the applicant, is a flagrant violation of the provisions of the Freedom of information Act 2011.

The judge also gave an order convicting Governor Sanwo-Olu and the State government, as defaulting officers to pay the fine of N10 million, for wrongful denial of access informaton to the lawyer forthwith

Justice Ringim made above orders while delivering ruling in an Exparte motion with a verifying Affidavit in Support deposed to by Olukoya Ogungbeje, an Executive Director of Coalition for Good Governance in Nigeria but argued by and moved by Michael Ogunjobi.

The judge however ordered the applicant, Olukoya Ogungbeje to file a written undertaking as to cost in the event that it turns out that the orders granted above ought not to have been granted.

Ogungbeje had asked for the above granted orders in a suit marked FHC/CS/L/1082/2020, which he told the court are pursuant to Sections 1, 2, 3, 4, 7(4)(5) and 20 of the Freedom of Information Act 2011; Order 34 Rules 1, 2, 3, 4 of Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rules and under the Inherent jurisdisction of the court, as imbued by Section 6 (6)(B) of the Constitution.

Ogungbeje who also described himself as Executive Director of Coalition for Good Governance in Nigeria, in a verifying affidavit in support of the application, stated that sometimes between December 2019 and February 2020, Corona Virus otherwise known as COVID-19 engulfed and plagued several countries including Nigeria, and that concerted and commendable efforts were made by Governments of countries including the Federal Government of Nigeria to stem the tide of the COVID-19 killer virus.

He stated that on account of the above, sometimes in March 2020, the Federal Government of Nigeria released the huge sum of N10 billion Naira to the first and second respondents in a bid to provide palliatives and to fight the Corona virus pandemic in Lagos State. And that Sundry Donations were made by Corporate Organizations and well meaning individuals to the first and second respondents in a bid to provide palliative for residents of Lagos State as part of the measures to fight the COVID-19 pandemic in Lagos State.

Ogungbeje stated that on July 13 2020, Doctors in Lagos State under the auspices of Medical Guild embarked on a warning strike action based on issues ranging from non-payment of allowances, welfare packages and other sundry issues in connection with services rendered in relation to the COVID-19 incidence. And that during the action strike action embarked upon by the Doctors in Lagos State, a number of Nigerian Citizens resident in Lagos including himself found it difficult to access the Government-owned Hospitals in Lagos State.

He also stated that palliatives distributed by the first and second respondents to residents of Lagos State were grossly insufficient and inadequate to justify the huge intervention funds released to the first and second respondents by the Federal Government of Nigeria and Corporate Organizations.

He further stated stated that as a result of the above, he wrote a request application dated July 17, 2020 to the first and second respondents, requesting for Information on the breakdown on the spending of the N10 billion COVID-19 Intervention funds released by the Federal Government of Nigeria and other Sundry Donations received.

The human rights lawyer stated further that the respondents bluntly refused and failed to furnish him with information on the breakdown of expenses and expenditures on the COVID-19 intervention funds released to them by the Federal Government of Nigeria and corporate Organizations.

He averred that since the July 27, 2020 till date the respondents have failed to comply with our demand application WITHIN SEVEN (7) days as provided in the Freedom of Information Act, and they have willfully breached and flouted the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act. Adding that they have also refused and neglected to carry out their official and statutory responsibilities in the spirit of accountability and transparency on the matter despite our request application to this effect.

The applicant stated that all efforts to have the respondents cause a prompt information, publication and release of the breakdown of expenses and expenditures on the N10 billion COVID-19 Intervention funds and other Sundry Donations proved futile despite our request application to the Respondents.

He stated that the respondents being public officials in position of public trust are under an obligation under the law to oblige the him with the Information as requested and give a written reason for denial if any.

He also stated that he filed the application to seek legal redress on account of the respondents refusal and fallure to oblige and provide Information on the expenses, expenditures and or spending on the COVID-19 intervantion funds received by the first and second respondents from the Federal Government of Nigeria and Corporate Organizations.

The lawyer stated that he approached the Court to seek redress on the wrongful act and illegal action of the respondents in the spirit of accountability, transparency and good governance and that it will serve the interest of justice to grant this application.

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