Court docket orders Buhari’s minister to account for N729 billion



The embattled Minister of Humanitarian Affairs in former President Buhari’s administration, Sadia Umar-Farouk

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The Federal Excessive Court docket sitting in Lagos, in a landmark judgment, has ordered Ms Sadia Umar-Farouk, former Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disasters Administration and Social Growth to account for funds of N729bn to 24.3 million poor Nigerians for six months.

The courtroom additionally ordered the previous minister to supply the record and particulars of the beneficiaries who acquired the funds, the variety of states lined and the funds per state.

The judgment was delivered final month by Hon. Justice Deinde Isaac Dipeolu following a Freedom of Data go well with quantity: FHC/L/CS/853/2021, introduced by the Socio-{Economic} Rights and Accountability Challenge (SERAP). The licensed true copy of the judgment was obtained final Friday.

In his judgment, Justice Dipeolu held that “The previous minister is compelled by the provisions of the Freedom of Data Act to provide info to any individual together with SERAP. I due to this fact grant an order of mandamus directing and compelling the minister to supply the spending particulars of N729 billion to 24.3 million poor Nigerians in 2021.”

Justice Dipeolu ordered the minister to “present SERAP with particulars of how the beneficiaries have been chosen and the mechanisms for the funds to the beneficiaries.”

Justice Dipeolu additionally ordered the minister to “clarify the rationale for paying N5,000 to 24.3 million poor Nigerians, which interprets to 5 p.c of Nigeria’s finances of N13.6 trillion for 2021.”

Justice Dipeolu additionally said that “The minister didn’t give any purpose for the refusal to reveal the main points sought by SERAP. SERAP has reeled out the related sections of the Freedom of Data Act 2011 that the minister contravened and has in keeping with sections 20 and 25(1) of the Act prayed this Court docket for an order of mandamus to direct and compel the minister to supply the data sought.”

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

Justice Dipeolu’s judgment, dated 27 June 2024, learn partly: “The place a statute clearly supplies for a selected act to be performed or carried out in a selected manner, failure to carry out the act as supplied won’t solely be interpreted as a delinquent conduct however can be interpreted as not complying with the statutory provision.

“The minister filed a preliminary objection to this go well with dated the 4th of October 2022 and a counter-affidavit to SERAP’s movement on discover. I’ll first take care of the minister’s preliminary objection as a result of it bothers on the jurisdiction of this Court docket to entertain this go well with.

“The grounds upon which the preliminary objection was filed are: whether or not this go well with isn’t incompetent having not been commenced inside 30 days after SERAP’s request for info was deemed to have been denied.

“Having not complied with the supply of part 20 of the Freedom of Data, whether or not this Court docket can assume jurisdiction to entertain SERAP’s utility.

“As arguments on each points, the minister’s counsel submitted that by the supply of part 4,7(4) and 20 of the Freedom of Data Act, topic to lawful exceptions inside the Act, a public establishment has 7 days to grant a request for info, failure of which might be deemed denial.

“SERAP’s request was deemed denied on sixth July, which is the expiration of seven days. Due to this fact, SERAP has 30 days pursuant to part 20 of the Act to use to this Court docket.

“SERAP’s 30 days inside which to carry this go well with expired on fifth of August 2021, while the movement on discover was filed on the ninth of November 2021, outdoors the 30 days stipulated by the Act. Consequently, this go well with is statute barred.

“In response, SERAP’s counsel argued that this go well with was not commenced by way of the movement of discover dated eighth November 2021. This go well with was initiated by a movement exparte dated thirteenth July 2021 however filed on the fifteenth of July 2021, after the expiration of the 7 days interval required of the minister to answer the FOI request by SERAP.

“That is in compliance with part 20 of the Freedom of Data Act and Order 34 Rule 3(1) of the Federal Excessive Court docket (Civil Process) Guidelines 2019.

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“The above are the submissions of counsel as regards the preliminary objection by the minister. I agree with SERAP’s counsel that the minister didn’t perform a correct search of the case file earlier than submitting the preliminary objection.

“It’s apparent that SERAP commenced this go well with by way of a movement exparte dated thirteenth of July 2021 however filed fifteenth of July 2021, which is nicely inside the time to file this motion after the denial of the data requested from the minister.

“SERAP complied with part 20 of the Freedom of Data Act in submitting this go well with. Due to this fact, this go well with isn’t statute barred and I dismiss the minister’s preliminary objection. I so maintain.”

SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare mentioned: “This ground-breaking judgment is a victory for transparency and accountability within the spending of public funds.”

“Justice Dipeolu’s judgment reveals the pressing want for the Tinubu authorities to genuinely tackle the systemic allegations of corruption within the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disasters Administration and Social Growth and different ministries, departments and companies, as documented by the Auditor-Normal of the Federation.

“We commend Justice Dipeolu for her braveness and knowledge, and urge President Bola Tinubu to right away obey the courtroom orders.”

Femi Falana, SAN mentioned on the judgment: “SERAP deserves the commendation of all well-meaning those who have agonised over studies of systemic corruption within the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disasters Administration and Social Growth and in different MDAs.

“This is likely one of the most patriotic public curiosity litigation ever undertaken in Nigeria. We name on the Tinubu authorities to make use of the judgment as the premise for comprehensively addressing circumstances of corruption within the ministry and bringing to justice these suspected to be accountable in addition to recovering proceeds of corruption.”

Within the letter dated 6 July 2024 despatched to President Bola Tinubu on the judgment, and signed by SERAP deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the group mentioned, “We urge you to reveal your expressed dedication to the rule of regulation by instantly obeying and respecting the judgment of the Court docket.”

SERAP’s letter learn partly: “We urge you to direct the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disasters Administration and Social Growth and the workplace of the Legal professional Normal of the Federation to right away compile and launch the spending particulars of the N729 billion as ordered by the courtroom.

“The speedy enforcement and implementation of the judgment by your authorities can be a victory for the rule of regulation, transparency and accountability within the governance processes and administration of public sources together with the N729 billion.

“By instantly complying with the judgment, your authorities can be demonstrating to Nigerians that it’s completely different from the Buhari authorities, which persistently and openly defied the nation’s judiciary, and sending a robust message to politicians and others that there can be no impunity for grand corruption.

“Instantly implementing the judgment will restore belief and confidence within the independence of Nigeria’s judiciary. SERAP urges you to make a clear break with the previous and take clear and decisive steps that reveal your dedication to the rule of regulation, transparency and accountability within the governance processes.

“SERAP trusts that you will note compliance with this judgment as a central facet of the rule of regulation; a vital stepping stone to developing a fundamental institutional framework for legality and constitutionality. We due to this fact look ahead to your constructive response and motion on the judgment.”

The go well with was filed in opposition to the previous Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disasters Administration and Social Growth.

The go well with adopted the minister’s resolution in January 2021 to “pay about 24.3 million poor Nigerians N5,000 every for a interval of six months to supply assist to these impoverished by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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