In a groundbreaking decision, a Federal High Court in Lagos has ruled that Ms. Sadia Umar-Farouk, the former Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disasters Management and Social Development, must provide comprehensive information regarding the N729 billion disbursed to 24.3 million impoverished Nigerians over six months.

The court’s judgment, delivered by Justice Deinde Isaac Dipeolu, came in response to a Freedom of Information suit filed by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), seeking transparency in utilizing these funds.

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Under the court’s order, the former minister must furnish a detailed list and relevant particulars of the beneficiaries who received the payments, along with the number of states covered and the amount allocated to each state.

Furthermore, she must clarify the reasoning behind the decision to allocate N5,000 to each of the 24.3 million poor Nigerians, which amounts to five percent of Nigeria’s 2021 budget.

The court dismissed the minister’s objections, including her claim that the suit was time-barred, ruling that SERAP had adhered to the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act by filing the suit within 30 days of their request being denied.

This judgment is a significant triumph for transparency and accountability in the management of public funds. Kolawole Oluwadare, the deputy director of SERAP, hailed it as a groundbreaking decision that will pave the way for more public interest litigation in Nigeria.

The organization urges President Bola Tinubu’s administration to implement the court’s ruling by instructing the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and other relevant authorities to disclose the spending details of the N729 billion.

This landmark judgment is expected to establish a precedent for greater transparency in government expenditure and may spur an increase in public interest litigation throughout the country.