Court orders Buhari’s minister to account for N729bn

Court orders Buhari’s minister to account for N729bn

A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has ordered Sadiya Umar Farouq, former Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, to give detailed explanation for the payment of N729bn she approved to 24.3 million Nigerians for the period of six months.

Farouq was one of the ministers in the cabinet of ex-President Muhammadu Buhari.

In the judgement, which was delivered in June by Justice Deinde Isaac Dipeolu following a freedom of information suit number: FHC/L/CS/853/2021, filed by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), the court compelled the former Minister to provide SERAP with the list and details of the beneficiaries of the intervention, the number of states covered and the payment each state had received.

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.”

He further asked Farouq to provide SERAP with details of the criteria used is selecting the beneficiaries across the states and the mechanisms for the payments, further ordering her to “explain the rationale for paying N5,000 to 24.3 million poor Nigerians, which translates to five per cent of Nigeria’s budget of N13.6 trillion for 2021.”

Dismissing the objections raised by the counsel of the former Minister and upholding SERAP’s argument, Dipeolu ruled that “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.”

Commenting on the outcome of the judgement which went against the former minister, Kolawole Oluwadare, the Deputy Director of SERAP, said the ruling represents a significant step forth for transparency and accountability in the spending of public funds, adding that the judgement shows urgent need for President Tinubu to address corruption allegations in the ministry.

He 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.”