SERAP Urges Tinubu to Obey Judgement on N729 Suit against Umar-Farouk

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President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has been urged by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) to implement the judgement given by Hon. Justice Deinde Isaac Dipeolu of the Federal High Court, Lagos, ordering the Federal Government to release the spending details of the sum of N729 billion by the former Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disasters Management and Social Development, Sadia Umar-Farouk.

In the letter made available to journalists on Sunday, the organisation noted that the judgement had compelled the former minister to make available the details of how the money was spent during her time in office to any person including SERAP, going by the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.

The letter signed by SERAP’s Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, which also copied the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, reads in part:

“Re: Request to obey the judgment by Hon. Justice Deinde Isaac Dipeolu on spending details of N729 billion by former Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disasters Management and Social Development”

“The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) is writing to request you to use your good offices and leadership position to immediately enforce the judgment by Hon. Justice Deinde Isaac Dipeolu of the Federal High Court, Lagos, ordering your government to release the spending details of N729 billion by Mrs Sadia Umar-Farouk, the former Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disasters Management and Social Development.

“The judgment was delivered last month by Hon. Justice Deinde Isaac Dipeolu following a Freedom of Information suit number: FHC/L/CS/853/2021, brought by the SERAP. The certified true copy of the judgment was obtained last Friday.

“In his judgment, Justice Dipeolu held that 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 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 translate to five percent of Nigeria’s budget of N13.6 trillion for 2021.’

“Justice Dipeolu also stated 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.’

“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 urges you to direct the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disasters 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.

“Transparency in the spending of the N729 billion meant for poor Nigerians is good for everyone, as this would help to increase the effectiveness, legitimacy, and contribution of the recovered loot to the development of public goods and services, and the general public interests.

“Democracy cannot flourish if governments operate in secrecy. The citizens are entitled to know how the commonwealth including Abacha loot, is being utilized, managed and administered in a democratic setting.

“Immediately implementing the judgment will restore trust and confidence in the independence of Nigeria’s judiciary.

“SERAP urges you to make a clean break with the past and take clear and decisive steps that demonstrate your commitment to the rule of law, transparency and accountability in the governance processes.

“SERAP trusts that you will see compliance with this judgment as a central aspect of the rule of law; an essential stepping stone to constructing a basic institutional framework for legality and constitutionality. We therefore look forward to your positive response and action on the judgment.”

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