Court orders Buhari’s minister to account for N729bn

The Federal High Court, Lagos, in a landmark judgment, ordered Ms Sadia Umar-Farouk, former Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disasters Management and Social Development, Ms Sadia Umar-Farouk, to account for payments of N729 billion to 24.3 million poor Nigerians for six months.

The court also ordered the former minister to provide the list and details of the beneficiaries who received the payments, the number of states covered and the payments per state.

The judgment was delivered last month by Justice Deinde Isaac Dipeolu, following a Freedom of Information suit number: FHC/L/CS/853/2021, brought by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP). The certified true copy of the judgment was obtained last Friday.

In his judgment, Justice Dipeolu said: “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.”

Justice Dipeolu ordered the minister to “provide SERAP with details of how the beneficiaries have been selected and the mechanisms for the payments to the beneficiaries.”

Justice Dipeolu also ordered the minister to “explain the rationale for paying N5,000 to 24.3 million poor Nigerians, which translates to five percent of Nigeria’s budget of N13.6 trillion for 2021.”

Justice Dipeolu said: “The minister did not give any reason for the refusal to disclose the details sought by SERAP. 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.”

Justice Dipeolu dismissed the objections raised by the minister’s counsel and upheld SERAP’s arguments. Consequently, the court entered judgment in favour of SERAP against the minister.

SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare said: “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, as documented by the Auditor-General of the Federation.

“We commend Justice Dipeolu for her courage and wisdom, and urge President Bola Tinubu to immediately obey the court orders.”

Femi Falana, SAN said: “SERAP deserves the commendation of all well-meaning people that have agonised over reports of systemic corruption in the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disasters Management and Social Development and in other MDAs.

“This is one of the most patriotic public interest litigation ever undertaken in Nigeria. We call on the Tinubu government to use the judgment as the basis for comprehensively addressing cases of corruption in the ministry and bringing to justice those suspected to be responsible as well as recovering proceeds of corruption.”

In the letter dated 6 July 2024 sent to President Bola Tinubu on the judgment, and signed by SERAP deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said, “We urge you to demonstrate your expressed commitment to the rule of law by immediately obeying and respecting the judgment of the Court.”

The post Court orders Buhari’s minister to account for N729bn appeared first on The Sun Nigeria.

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