See the Billions of Naira Court Orders Ex-Minister Umar-Farouk to Account for

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See the Billions of Naira Court Orders Ex-Minister Umar-Farouk to Account for

Umar Farouk

Justice Deinde Dipeolu of the Federal High Court in Lagos has mandated former Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Development, Sadiya Umar-Farouk, to publicly disclose how N729 billion was distributed to 24.3 million poor Nigerians over six months.

 

This order was issued following a Freedom of Information suit filed by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP). The suit sought to compel Umar-Farouk to provide a detailed list of beneficiaries, the number of states covered, and the payment amounts per state.

 

Justice Dipeolu directed Umar-Farouk to reveal the selection process for the beneficiaries and the payment mechanisms used. The court also ordered the former minister to explain the rationale behind distributing N5,000 each to 24.3 million poor Nigerians, which equates to five percent of Nigeria’s N13.6 trillion budget for 2021.

 

In his ruling, Justice Dipeolu noted that Umar-Farouk failed to provide any valid reasons for withholding the requested information. The court dismissed the objections raised by Umar-Farouk’s counsel and upheld SERAP’s arguments.

 

The judge emphasized that failure to perform an act as stipulated by statute would be interpreted as non-compliance with the statutory provision. He stated, “The minister filed a preliminary objection to this suit dated October 4, 2022, and a counter-affidavit to SERAP’s motion on notice. I will first address the minister’s preliminary objection as it pertains to the jurisdiction of this Court to entertain this suit.”

 

The preliminary objection questioned the suit’s competence, arguing that it was not initiated within 30 days after SERAP’s information request was deemed denied. According to the minister’s counsel, the Freedom of Information Act requires public institutions to grant information requests within seven days, failing which the request is deemed denied. SERAP’s request was deemed denied on July 6, 2021, and the 30-day period to bring the suit expired on August 5, 2021. However, the motion on notice was filed on November 9, 2021, outside the 30-day limit, making the suit statute-barred.

 

In response, SERAP’s counsel argued that the suit was initiated by a motion ex parte dated July 13, 2021, and filed on July 15, 2021, in compliance with the Freedom of Information Act and Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2019.

 

Justice Dipeolu agreed with SERAP’s counsel, noting that the minister did not properly search the case file before filing the preliminary objection.


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