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Court orders ex-minister to account for N729bn payments to poor Nigerians

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Court orders ex-minister to account for N729bn payments to poor Nigerians

The Federal High Court in Lagos has mandated Sadiya Umar-Farouq, the former Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disasters Management and Social Development, to account for the disbursement of N729 billion to 24.3 million poor Nigerians over six months.

Justice Deinde Isaac Dipeolu delivered the ruling in June following a Freedom of Information (FOI) suit (No. FHC/L/CS/853/2021) brought by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP). A certified true copy of the judgment was obtained by the organisation last Friday.

Justice Dipeolu stated, “The former minister is compelled by the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act to give information to any person, including SERAP. I therefore grant an order of mandamus directing and compelling the minister to provide the spending details of N729 billion to 24.3 million poor Nigerians in 2021.”

The court further directed Umar-Farouq to furnish the list and details of beneficiaries, the number of states covered, and the payments per state. Additionally, she must explain the rationale behind paying N5,000 to 24.3 million poor Nigerians, amounting to five percent of Nigeria’s 2021 budget of N13.6 trillion.

“The minister did not give any reason for the refusal to disclose the details sought by SERAP,” the judge noted. “SERAP has reeled out the relevant sections of the Freedom of Information Act 2011 that the minister contravened and has, in line with sections 20 and 25(1) of the Act, prayed this Court for an order of mandamus to direct and compel the minister to provide the information sought.”

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Justice Dipeolu dismissed the objections raised by the minister’s counsel and ruled in favor of SERAP.

Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP’s Deputy Director, hailed the judgment as a victory for transparency and accountability in the use of public funds. “This ground-breaking judgment is a victory for transparency and accountability in the spending of public funds. Justice Dipeolu’s judgment shows the urgent need for the Tinubu government to genuinely address the systemic allegations of corruption in the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disasters Management and Social Development and other ministries, departments, and agencies,” he said.

In a letter dated July 6, 2024, SERAP urged President Bola Tinubu to comply with the court’s judgment and direct the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disasters Management and Social Development, and the office of the Attorney General of the Federation to release the spending details of the N729 billion as ordered by the court.

“We urge you to demonstrate your expressed commitment to the rule of law by immediately obeying and respecting the judgment of the court. The immediate enforcement and implementation of the judgment by your government will be a victory for the rule of law, transparency, and accountability in the governance processes and management of public resources, including the N729 billion,” the letter reads.

Proofreading, editing by Sakinat Musa Abubakar and Jamila Yunusa Suleiman, Editor and Sub- editor at Neptune Prime

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