Court Orders Former Minister to Account for N729 Billion Paid to 24.3 Million Nigerians

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A Federal High Court in Lagos has ordered Ms. Sadia Umar-Farouk, former Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Development, to provide detailed accounts of the N729 billion payments made to 24.3 million poor Nigerians over six months.

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The court directed the former minister to supply the list and details of the beneficiaries, the states covered, and the payment amounts per state.

This judgment was delivered by Hon. Justice Deinde Isaac Dipeolu last month, following a Freedom of Information suit filed by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP). SERAP obtained the certified true copy of the judgment last Friday.

Justice Dipeolu stated that the former minister is compelled by the Freedom of Information Act to provide requested information. He granted an order of mandamus directing the minister to disclose the spending details of N729 billion to the 24.3 million beneficiaries in 2021.

The court also mandated the former minister to explain the rationale for the N5,000 payments to the beneficiaries, which amounted to five percent of Nigeria’s N13.6 trillion budget for 2021.

Justice Dipeolu noted that the minister did not provide any reason for refusing to disclose the details sought by SERAP. Consequently, the court upheld SERAP’s request for an order of mandamus.

The judgment, dated June 27, 2024, stated: “The minister filed a preliminary objection, arguing that the suit was not commenced within 30 days after SERAP’s request for information was deemed denied. However, SERAP’s counsel successfully argued that the suit was initiated within the appropriate timeframe, and the court dismissed the minister’s preliminary objection.”

SERAP’s deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, hailed the judgment as a victory for transparency and accountability in public fund spending.

Femi Falana, SAN, commended SERAP, stating, “This is one of the most patriotic public interest litigations ever undertaken in Nigeria. We call on the Tinubu government to use the judgment to address corruption in the ministry and bring those responsible to justice.”

In a letter to President Bola Tinubu, SERAP urged the government to comply with the court’s judgment. The letter read, in part: “We urge you to direct the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and the office of the Attorney General to immediately compile and release the spending details of the N729 billion as ordered by the court. Immediate enforcement of the judgment will be a victory for the rule of law, transparency, and accountability in governance.”

Adeniyi Ogunfowoke, The Naija247news
Adeniyi Ogunfowoke, The Naija247newshttps://naija247news.com/
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