The Federal High Court in Lagos has mandated former Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Development, Sadiya Umar-Farouq, to provide a detailed account of the N729 billion disbursed to 24.3 million impoverished Nigerians over a six-month period.

The court also instructed the former minister to supply a list of beneficiaries, the number of states covered, and the payments allocated per state.

The ruling, delivered by Justice Deinde Isaac Dipeolu in June, followed a Freedom of Information (FOI) lawsuit (FHC/L/CS/853/2021) initiated by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).

A certified true copy of the judgment was obtained by SERAP 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.” He further ordered Umar-Farouq to detail the selection process of the beneficiaries and the payment mechanisms used.

The judge also demanded an explanation for the rationale behind the N5,000 payments to each of the 24.3 million poor Nigerians, which represents five percent of Nigeria’s 2021 budget of N13.6 trillion.

He criticized the former minister for failing to provide any justification for withholding the requested details from SERAP.

Justice Dipeolu dismissed objections from the minister’s counsel and upheld SERAP’s arguments, ultimately ruling in favor of SERAP.

In response to the judgment, SERAP’s Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, praised the ruling as a victory for transparency and accountability in public fund management.

He stated, “This ground-breaking judgment is a victory for transparency and accountability in the spending of public funds.

Justice Dipeolu’s judgment underscores the urgent need for the Tinubu government to address systemic corruption allegations in the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Development, as well as 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.”

In a letter dated July 6, 2024, addressed to President Bola Tinubu and signed by Oluwadare, SERAP called on the President to instruct the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Development, along with the Attorney General’s office, to comply with the court ruling and release the spending details of the N729 billion.

The letter reads, “We urge you to demonstrate your expressed commitment to the rule of law by immediately obeying and respecting the judgment of the court.

We urge you to direct the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Development and the office of the Attorney General of the Federation to immediately compile and release the spending details of the N729 billion as ordered by 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.”