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SERAP Sues Ministry of Health and NCDC Over Failure to Account for Public Funds on Covid-19

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SERAP Sues Ministry of Health and NCDC Over Failure to Account for Public Funds on Covid-19

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

The lawsuit came after SERAP made a Freedom of Information (FoI) request on 27 March 2020 to the Minister of Health and the NCDC, expressing “concern 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.”

According to the suit, SERAP wants the Health Ministry and the NCDC to reveal details received from the private sector, state and federal governments, and also reveal how the funds have been used in the fight against the Covid-19 disease in Nigeria.

Publishing details of the lawsuit on it’s website, SERAP with suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/616/2020 filed last week at the Federal High Court, Abuja, SERAP seeks:

1.“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.”

2.  “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.”

According to SERAP’s lawsuit: “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.”
 “Nigerians have the right to know the details of spending of COVID-19 money, as this is essential to the fight against corruption, and will foster the development of democratic institutions and the rule of law in Nigeria.”

 “Millions of Nigerians continue to lack access to an improved water source and to proper sanitation, thereby making them vulnerable to COVID-19 and other illnesses. Yet, the Ministry of Health and the NCDC have failed and/or refused to disclose whether there is any collaborative work with the Ministry of Water Resources to provide vulnerable Nigerians with safe water, sanitation, and hygienic conditions.” SERAP continued in the lawsuit by its lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare, Atinuke Adejuyigbe, and Opeyemi Owolabi

According to SERAP, some politicians have been taking multiple tests as NCDC has been prioritizing home testing the high and mighty while leaving the most vulneable without tests..

According to SERAP,  there have been reports of lack of transparency in use of Covid relief funds so the government has no justifiable reason to deny SERAP the information it’s requesting.

“The information SERAP is seeking to access is permitted under the Freedom of Information Act 2011 and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to which Nigeria is a state party.”

“The Federal Government has a legal duty to ensure that information on the spending of COVID-19 money and resources is released to SERAP and widely published. It is not too much to ask for details of measures to protect health workers and procedures put in place to ensure that COVID-19 money is not diverted, mismanaged or stolen.”

“The Federal Government has no legally justifiable reason for refusing to provide SERAP with the information requested, and therefore, this court ought to grant SERAP the order directing and compelling the Federal Government to publish details of spending of COVID-19 money.”

“There are reports of lack of transparency in the use of the funds and resources being mobilised to combat coronavirus, and 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.”

“The suit is in the public interest, as it bothers on issues of national interest, public welfare and interest, social justice, good governance, transparency and accountability. Obedience to the rule of law particularly by those who publicly took oath of office to protect and preserve the constitution is a desideratum to good governance and respect for the rule of law.”

“Nigerians are entitled to know how the commonwealth is being utilized, managed and administered in a democratic setting, as this positively influences the feeling of belonging in the society. This right to know will no doubt help in promoting a transparent democracy, good governance and public accountability.”

According to SERAP’s official Twitter account, the organization  is seeking the following reliefs:
An order granting leave to the Applicant to apply for judicial review and seek an order of mandamus directing and compelling the Respondents to provide and disclose the following information to the Applicant:
A. 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;

B. Details of spending and planned spending of any such funds, other resources and donations to combat the spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria;

C. 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;

D. 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;

E. 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;

F. 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

 

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Coronavirus

COVID-19 Quarantine: 18% in-bound passengers not traceable — Sanwo-Olu

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By Gistflash News

July 12, 2021

Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, says 18 per cent of passengers that arrived Lagos through Murtala Mohammed Airport cannot be traced for COVID-19 quarantine.

Sanwo-Olu made this known on Sunday in the update of the coronavirus pandemic situation in Lagos State.

He said that between May 8, 2021 and July 7, 2021, a total of 50,322 passengers of interest arrived in Lagos via the Murtala Mohammed Airport.

”Of the 50,322 passengers, 18 per cent could not be reached by EKOTELEMED because of the provision of either wrong numbers or wrong Nigerian contact details to be reached on,” the Chief Incident Commander said.

He said that it was the responsibility of passengers to ensure they provided the right details for them to be reached for proper monitoring.

”Going forward, passengers that do not provide the right details, including a phone number they can be reached for monitoring and an address for isolation, will face serious sanctions, including fines and imprisonment according to our Lagos State Coronavirus Law of 2021.

”As dictated by the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 (PSC), passengers from red-listed countries (India, South Africa, Brazil and Turkey) are required to observe mandatory isolation.

”So far, we have successfully isolated 2,386 passengers in Lagos State. Of this number, 15 per cent have absconded,” Sanwo-Olu said.

He said that sanctions were being recommended and had already been meted out to defaulters.

The governor said that the sanctions for foreigners were revocation of their Permanent Residency and deportation; while for Nigerians were prosecution to the full extent of the Lagos State COVID-19 Law.

He also said that greater vigilance was required at this time in the churches and mosques and other places of religious worship.

Sanwo-Olu said that the state was pleased that religious houses were now open for worship, after the lengthy closures of 2020, however, worshippers must not be carried away by the illusion that all was now back to normal.

”This is especially critical, as Sallah approaches, in a little over a week from now.

”The festivities will no doubt bring people together in large numbers and create conditions that can sadly cause the spread of the coronavirus. We must not allow this to happen.

”For this reason, we are mandating full compliance with all protective protocols.

”There must be compulsory use of masks in all public places, social distancing, temperature checks, provisions for hand-washing and sanitisers, and a maximum of 50 per cent occupancy in enclosed spaces,” he said.

NAN

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Coronavirus

COVID-19 taskforce uncovers Delta variant in Oyo State

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By Gistflash News

July 12, 2021

The Oyo State Coronavirus Task Force says it has uncovered  the Delta variant of the virus  in the state.
A statement by Mr Taiwo Adisa, the Chief Press Secretary to Gov. Seyi Makinde, issued on behalf of the taskforce on Sunday in Ibadan, said the general public should be informed of the Delta variant of the virus in the state.
Adisa said the State’s Incident Manager and coordinator of the Emergency Operations Centre, Dr Olabode Ladipo, has confirmed the  development.
He  said the general public should take extra caution and consistently apply all precautionary measures earlier released by the task force.
The statement read: “This strain has been associated with high transmission, increase severity of infection and outcomes.
“As such, this is to warn that the virus is still very much within the society.”
“All in-bound travellers should always isolate for seven days and submit themselves for tests.
“The ‘Own Your Action’ (OYA) initiative of the state government should be seriously considered by adhering to the guidelines of wearing nose masks in public gatherings, washing of hands with soap and water and use of hand sanitisers, among others.
“The State COVID-19 TaskForce hereby appeals to the good people of Oyo State to comply with these and other advisories as they apply to individuals and organisations.
“It would be appreciated if all in-bound travellers from abroad maintain the mandatory seven-day isolation and subsequent testing before mingling with the populace.
“In addition, residents are enjoined to seek medical care and cease the opportunity of free testing whenever they feel unwell.
“Vigilance on the parts of both the Government and the people will surely go a long way in stemming the transmission of this disease within the state”.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control on July 8 confirmed the index case of the deadly Delta variant in Nigeria.

NAN

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Coronavirus

NCDC confirms deadly Delta variant of COVID-19 in Nigeria

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By Gistflash News

July 9, 2021

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control has  detected a confirmed case of the SARS-CoV-2, known as the Delta variant in Nigeria.

The NCDC Director-General, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu disclosed this in an interview with News Agency of Nigeria(NAN) in Abuja.

NAN reports that the deadly Delta variant is recognised by the World Health Organisation as a variant of concern.

The WHO said that the Delta variant was ‘dangerous’ and continued to evolve and mutate, and thus requiring constant evaluation and careful adjustment of the public health response.

Ihekweazu said the variant was detected in a traveller to Nigeria, following the routine travel test required of all international travelers and genomic sequencing at the NCDC National Reference Laboratory, Abuja.

“As part of Nigeria’s COVID-19 response, NCDC has been working with the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) African Centre for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID) and other laboratories within the national network to carry out genomic sequencing.

”This is to enable the detection of variants of concern and initiate response activities.

“All data on variants from Nigeria have been published on GISAID, a global mechanism for sharing sequencing data.

”Given the global risk of spread of the Delta variant, positive samples from international travelers to Nigeria are sequenced regularly.

“The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19  has initiated several measures  to reduce the risk of spread of COVID-19.

”This includes the introduction of travel restrictions for countries where there is a surge in cases associated with widespread prevalence of variants of concern.

“The national travel protocol which includes compulsory seven-day self-isolation and repeat test on the seventh day after arrival, are in place to reduce the risk of spread of the virus.

”It is very important that this is strictly adhered to, to prevent a surge in COVID-19 cases in Nigeria,” he explained.

Given the high transmissibility of the Delta variant and following its detection in Nigeria, the NCDC boss urged all Nigerians to ensure strict adherence to public health and social measures in place.

“Proven public health and social measures such as physical distancing, frequent hand washing and proper use of face masks prevent infections and save lives.

”The COVID- 19 vaccine is safe and effective and offers protection against the disease,” he advised.

Additionally, he urged states to ensure sample collection and testing for COVID-19 was accessible to Nigerians.

“Public settings such as schools with accommodation facilities, workplaces and camps should utilise the approved Antigen-based Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) for rapid testing of their population,” he added.

He said although Nigeria had seen a low number of COVID-19 cases in Nigeria in the last eight weeks, it is incredibly important that we do not forget to be careful.

“Please protect yourselves and the people you love by adhering to the known public health and social measures, getting vaccinated if you are eligible and getting tested if you have symptoms.”

The NCDC boss said the recommended control measures to limit the spread of the new variant was continued testing, following the existing public health guidance and abiding by the current travel and public restrictions.

NAN

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